By RODNEY HO/ email@example.com, originally filed Friday, May 29, 2015
Violet Chachki - the drag queen known for her shockingly tiny waist and sharply shady mouth - is in a strong position to be the first Atlantan to win Logo's "RuPaul's Drag Race" come Monday.
The season seven finale has already been taped but to throw leakers off, the producers shot scenarios where each of the three finalists had won the $100,000. ("Last Comic Standing" did the same thing last year when Villa Rica native Rod Man won.)
Chachki (real name Jason Dardo) was a clear front runner from the start, winning the first challenge and two more. She was never a threat to go home thanks to her top-notch fashion sense and knack for great silhouettes on the runway. While comedic acting, singing and dancing were not always her primary strengths, she stitched together a unique, fun character packed with panache.
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"I feel amazing," Chachki said in a phone interview earlier this week. "It's such an accomplishment to just get on the show, then to make the top three. It's like the Olympics for the drag world. It's surreal!"
She is also the first Atlanta drag queen to make the top three, proving that RuPaul is not picking favorites from the town where she built her drag queen street cred in the 1980s.
Chachki respects RuPaul's legendary chops, having watched many of her classic videos. Chachki also heard stories from Atlanta's premiere drag queen Charlie Brown about RuPauls' time in Atlanta. RuPaul during taping regaled Chachki about the 24-hour bacchanalian nightclub Backstreet and the pre-gentrified Midtown of yore.
Chachki (whose name is a deliberately twisted version of the word tchotchke), was born and raised in metro Atlanta, first in Stone Mountain, then Lilburn. She graduated St. Pius X Catholic High School.
She began thinking about drag at age 17 and started performing just three years ago. She worked at the now shuttered Asylum in East Atlanta, Jungle Atlanta, Mary's, Burkhart's and Lips, among other places.
Chachki considers herself a quick study, a sponge quickly absorbing drag queen technique and fashion from other queens and from online resources. "I think I hard a really really clear vision what I wanted my character to be," she said. "And I haven't stopped growing and evolving. I studied my craft. I worked with Charlie Brown, Nicole Paige Brooks, Lady Shabazz, some of the local legends. It's been trial and error and motivation to get to this point."
She said a year at SCAD helped her in fashion design. "Costuming and clothing plays a really important role in my drag," she said. "I love burlesque. I'm a decent aerialist. I think I set myself apart visually."
Chachki had auditioned for season six but thinks she may have been underage. (The show requires them to be 21.) The producers called her to ensure she was trying out for season seven, which she was. "I think it was just really meant to be," she said. "I really put a lot of effort into my audition."
Her goal going into the show was to make it as far as possible. "There are so many drag queens on 'Drag Race,' " she said. "In order to have a fulfilling career, you have to do well on the show. You have to make yourself stand out. I wanted this so bad. Going in, I might have been a little too headstrong. I wanted to break the Atlanta curse." (She was named most shady by the other queens during the show.)
She said what may have fed her aggressive style was the drag queen culture in Atlanta, which she said can be cutthroat and competitive. So she came in guns blazing. But as she got further into the competition, she relaxed a bit, especially once she got past the "Snatch Game" episode. "You get to grow with these girls, You get to learn people's personalities. I think people started to understand my personality on a different level, my sense of humor."
She admits to a bratty streak. But at the same time, the others saw how serious she took her drag. And she doesn't get bugged when people like Kennedy Davenport and Ginger Minj (the older drag queens in the final four) got on her case for being too young. "I totally have room to grow," Chachki acknowledged. "This opportunity has given that to me in spades. I grew so much from the filming a year ago. I represent a really young passionate form of drag." [Episodes were taped last summer and early fall except for the finale, which was taped earlier this month.]
One of Chachki's most notable traits is her crazy 19-inch waist. She does "waist training," which involves wearing a corset. "Your body makes adjustments," she said. "You just have to listen to your body when it's time to take a break. I don't feel there is any health risk if you do it the right way." And better yet, her young metabolism is still sky high so she said she eats normally and does not starve herself.
She said her confidence is from herself. She got sick of being told what the rules were. Around her sophomore year in high school, she started separating school life from her own real life. "I almost lived a double life," she said. And once high school was over, she was able to move forward with being herself.
Chachki said "it took some time for my parents to come around but I don't really care. They don't have a choice how I built my life. You can see it for what it is: beautiful and artistic and creative, really something you should be proud of. They realized I had to find my own happiness. They've been really accepting."
At this point, win or lose, she is going to be in demand on the drag front outside of Atlanta, but she still plans to keep an abode here. "I live in Old Fourth Ward," she said. "I really really love Atlanta. There are tons of amazing artists. I love to use local talent. I have a great support system and drag family. It's also affordable and comfortable. I will definitely stick around a year or two."
She has already traveled to Australia and is set to go to Dublin next month. Mexico and London are on her itinerary as well.
But in the near term, you'll be able to see her June 5 at the Heretic on Cheshire Bridge. (Details here.)
Violet's take on his two other finalists:
- Pearl. "She's my best friend on the show. We're in the same vein of drag. We are both inspired by similar things. We went through similar experiences as far as our drag development. I love her so much. I get inspired by her regularly."
- Ginger Minj. "An incredible actress. She's so brilliant. I have no idea when she's acting and when she's being real. She's that good. And she's an amazing singer. And she's a true comedienne. I never laughed so hard during the puppet show. There was so much stuff cut out that was almost too good to so who on TV!"
"RuPaul's Drag Race" season finale, 9 p.m. Monday, June 1, Logo