Many people doubted Giovanni Palandrani, better known as drag queen Aquaria, when she turned 21 and got onto the hit reality show RuPaul's Drag Race. Some fans of the show may have thought she was all beauty and no talent, but Aquaria, known for her Instagram popularity, gorgeous looks and skills as a makeup artist, proved the haters wrong, winning the season, and enjoying the many perks and jobs that have come from it.
"This is the 'Age of Aquaria' for crying out loud," said the high-energy drag queen.
Aquaria will tear up the Wells Fargo Main Stage in Cecil D. Andrus Park with other local drag artists from 4-5 p.m. on Saturday, June 15. Admission is free. The performance is sure to be lively and Aquaria says she'll "definitely be turning and twirling for the kids!"
Despite her immense success in the industry, Aquaria only began doing drag in 2014 at the age of 18. She trained as a dancer for four years and attended the Fashion Institute of Technology where she studied women's wear design before dropping out for two semesters.
Both her skills as a dancer and a designer have come in handy, particularly concerning her new line of work.
"Life has a way of just taking you other places," Aquaria said of not pursuing dance or design. "I think everyone should always follow their passions and what they love."
The New Yorker began to get into drag under the tutelage of two mentors: RuPaul's Drag Race season four-winner Sharon Needles, who became her drag mother, and Susanne Bartsch, an event producer whose monthly parties at the Copacabana in the late 1980s made her an icon of New York nightlife and who supported RuPaul when he was starting in drag as well. Aquaria even appeared in a Vogue Italia spread in January 2016 with Bartsch and other Drag Race alumnae.
Aquaria started to garner a large social media following and in early 2018, it was announced that she had been chosen as one of 14 contestants on the 10th season of RuPaul's Drag Race after auditioning for the first time. During her time on the show, she won three challenges, never ranked in the bottom two, and was the first queen in the show's history to win both the ball (as in "belle of") and the "Snatch Game" in the same season. She was also the youngest winner out of all 10 seasons.
Winning Drag Race has helped launch Aquaria's career into a previously unattainable orbit, creating the "Age of Aquaria," as she refers to it.
"The show gave me this amazing platform, which I'm forever grateful for," she said.
In late October, she signed to IMG Models and appeared solo in Vogue Italia, modeled for Moschino and H&M's November 2018 Capsule Collection, and was announced as entertainment editor for Dazed. This year she became one of the faces of MAC's Viva Glam campaign, owing to her bold, trend-setting makeup looks. This year she also attended the Met Gala as the first drag queen to walk the red carpet.
Aquaria is a born performer, with several musical accolades under her belt. As part of the final challenge of Drag Race season 10, Aquaria and the other top four contestants wrote and recorded their own verses for RuPaul's song "American." The song reached number 12 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Songs chart. Aquaria was also featured in the song "Looks" by Linux in 2016, and she released her debut single "Burn Rubber" in June 2018. A fan of pop singers like Madonna and Lady Gaga, Aquaria's Pride performance is sure not to disappoint.
"At this point, my whole life is a Pride celebration," she said.
When not performing at Pride, Aquaria added that you can be sure to find her "perched upon many a club couch or dancing on a bar."