Hard Candy brings Ongina back to the Bluegrass and PLAY Louisville

by Sophia Lee

Daniel Cole’s Hard Candy presents yet another stunning RuPaul’s Drag Race star for its upcoming mini tour series with the one, the only, the Bald Queen herself, Ongina. Ongina is a Filipino-American drag performer who became the first queen to not wear a wig on the main stage, and the first to come out as HIV-positive on Drag Race.

“I consider myself a fun, outgoing queen who loves fashion and shoes but if we’re being specific — I definitely love being a bald queen!” she said. “It started with my love for headpieces but lately I just love the way I look bald, clean canvas! I do wear wigs every now and again but I love the freedom of being bald!”

She is a season one queen and activist, who continues to break barriers in drag and make outstanding statements with her bold, yet refined looks and stunning headpieces. Because of this, she has been a strong influence for both drag and queer culture. 

“Drag Race is a huge platform that tells the stories of so many queer people that resonates so much with individuals beyond the LGBTQIA+ community…I believe I have [impacted drag and queer culture],” she said. “My coming out story of being an HIV-positive person of color has inspired people to live and celebrate their lives, get tested, discuss HIV, and help with ending the stigma associated with the virus, and be as fabulous as one can be without being apologetic of who they are!”

Ongina has worked with Hard Candy before, and has been looking forward to working with them again. She will be performing at Play Louisville on Sunday, November 13th from 9 PM to 12 AM. You can grab tickets here

The tour series started on November 11 in Huntington, West Virginia, and goes all the way to Richmond, Virginia as its final destination on November 15. Although Ongina has been to Louisville before, every experience is a new one for her, and she is excited to meet new performers and fans along the way. Ongina has been a drag performer since 2003 when she started taking the stage at an Asian restaurant called Lucky Cheng’s in New York City — this is also where she worked alongside (then-unknown) Laverne Cox. 

“I love drag because I get to express my feminine side and make it artistic and fun!  I’m proud of what drag has taught me – to be proud, bold and expressive. I started from being a little club kid wannabe in NYC, meeting some of the most amazing artists who inspired Ongina and I’m so happy I was able to experience that life!” she said. “I always said that NYC was my adult upbringing and helped shaped the person I am today! I think that’s what helps motivate me everyday — that my life is an educational adventure and each experience is special that helps shape the person I am.”

Ongina is 40-years-old and her stage presence, radiance, and energy will have you doing double takes. Being on the go all the time can make it difficult for queens to put forth bright and vigorous shows all the time. Between the constant travel and physically harsh performances, she has learned what is necessary for herself in order to avoid burnout. She highlighted the importance of hydration and NAPS in particular as being some of her go-tos for self-care.

“I’m constantly working but since after the pandemic I promised to take more time off and go on vacation,” Ogina said. “I also swore to see the places I visit when touring – except for this tour since it’s going to be a lot of driving – so I can partake in the culture and the surroundings! So I’ve been taking care of myself while balancing my life at home and my work! This is most important to me as I get older.”

As her career has advanced, she has continued carrying the influences that sparked her love of drag. This love comes from a deep passion for fashion and design as well as…well, being bald!

“My influences come from pop culture – top 40 artists,” she said. “I sometimes look back at runway shows for inspirations with my looks and my friend Chuck (chucka.khan) always helps — he’s so fab and has so much knowledge! With this tour though – I’ve decided to bring my go-to’s (Ariana, Jessie J) but since we’re doing a 90’s brunch I’m doing some new numbers and I can’t wait to perform them!!”

photo by David Martinez

With drag continuously growing and advancing amongst younger crowds, the Bald Queen feels constant pressure to maintain but advance her drag throughout the continuation of her career, including expectations to be bigger and better than before. But as she approaches her 20th year of drag, Ongina has absolutely no intentions of retiring anytime soon.

“Actually, yes. I regret not pursuing drag as a full time career faster and I wish I was smart enough back then to build a brand” she said. “If I had started an online presence early in my career, I would probably be able to retire by now. JK. I’m a workaholic. So despite those 2 things – I just wanna be able to do this until my knees give in – so I’m guessing 10 more years!”