Following centuries of rumours (most of which were fake, according to Michelle Visage), the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under premiered over the weekend and introduced 10 sickening Australian and Kiwi contestants to the ever-expanding franchise. Thanks to the mixture of – in the word(s) of Kandy Muse – cunty personalities, riveting lip-sync and special guest appearance from Thor director Taika Waititi, the premiere received acclaim from viewers and Drag Race alum on social media. Bar a dingo eating RuPaul’s makeup, it was a home run.
That sports reference does not apply for one queen, however. Although she made Mama Ru cackle the house down in the mini-challenge and received more airtime than most of her competitors, thanks to her unflinching pride in her Aboriginal background, Jojo Zaho sadly got the Pork(chop). Shortly after her elimination, we spoke with Jojo about her time on Down Under, who she planned to impersonate on Snatch Game and the “blunt” sense of humour in the Australasian drag scene.
Condragulations on making the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under! How does it feel to be a Ru Girl?
Absolutely insane! I’ve said it a few times quietly to myself. I’m like, ‘You’re a Ru Girl. Okay…’ I’m just trying to warm myself up to it because it’s one of those things where it all happens so quick. When we got home from filming, it was straight into Mardi Gras, then preparation for the screening and everything to launch. It’s nice now that my episode is done, because I can sit down and fully process it all!
Have you had a chance to properly reflect on your elimination?
I did that in New Zealand! I had my cry and my few days of, ‘Oh, you’re terrible. You suck. You’re shit.’ Then I got to the point where it was like, not everyone gets to go on the show. They pick queens they think have a chance of winning, so I look at the positives more than the negatives.
Anyway, isn’t it better to be the Porkchop than the queen who goes second?
Exactly. It’s always the top four and the first that people remember. There’s just something kind of punk about being the Porkchop of the first season. Always leave them wanting more, basically.
Personally, I was really shocked to see you go. Out of all the queens, I feel like we learned the most about you from episode one. Did you find your elimination shocking?
A little bit, yeah, only because I was getting a lot of eye looks. Ru was looking at me a lot, I was making her laugh. It seemed great. Then, Elektra pulled out the tricks and I was like, ‘Ahh, this is gonna kill me! But also, is it gonna be seen as a desperate act? I don’t know how it will be received.’ I was just in my mind like, ‘Not me, not me, not me.’ Then it was.
In the words of Sonique, it was like Mortal Kombat on that stage!
Literally! It was one of those things, it kinda threw me off what I was doing because I was pointing and then she jumped up. I was like, ‘Ahhh bugger! Alright, here come the tricks!’
I honestly thought it could’ve been a double shantay, as it was one of the most entertaining first lip-syncs ever?
Even though I was there and I know what happened, watching it, I found myself laughing when we’re walking in front of each other. We both had a good time doing it. At one point, she got in front of me and I lost balance, so I grabbed her and shifted her to the side so I could regain balance. It was a fun lip-sync. I enjoyed it with her. We both played off each other with the lyrics, as well.
Right out of the gate, you came into the werkroom and made it clear that you were going to provide some much-needed representation for Aboriginal Australians. Heading into the show, was this important for you to do?
Absolutely. Once I got over the initial shock that I was going to be on it, it was like, ‘Okay, what are we gonna do? I wanna do this, this and this.’ One of the things that hit me was, ‘This is much bigger than just you. You’ve been given such a unique and international platform where you have, not so much an obligation, but a responsibility to send a positive message and to share a culture that’s not quite well-known around the world.’ We know about America’s First Nations people and Canada’s First Nations people, but the world still doesn’t know quite a lot about Australia’s First Nations people. So for me, I was gonna do what I can do to at least spark conversation.
That’s the beauty of Drag Race, we get to learn so much about different cultures…
Exactly. You get to learn about each of the queens’ different struggles and some struggles can be quite similar, but unique. There’s also things certain members of the audience can also relate to.
Have you had much feedback from Indigenous Australians?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s all been beautiful and positive messages of feeling pride in their culture and seeing it represented. I’ve had a few messages from younger, queer Indigenous kids who were just happy to see representation of two aspects of who they are on screen, seeing themselves in me, which was absolutely beautiful.
What could we have expected from you if you advanced further in the competition?
Just as much cheek! A whole lot of fabulous costumes and storytelling through my costumes. There’s a few that I’m devastated that I couldn’t show on the stage, but I’m still going to post them. They had nice messages to them. Obviously, my culture is something I planned to show throughout, but it was important for me to get as much as I could in the first episode because you’re not guaranteed a second.
You definitely used the first episode to your advantage! As well as providing some insight into your culture, you gave us a fantastic lip-sync and the now-iconic quote: “I’d like to colonise their colons.” Not many queens get to do that in such a short space of time.
I definitely got lucky, because you got to see so many different aspects of me. Normally, you get a vague idea of the season’s Porkchop, but you still don’t quite know who they are. But, I feel like this episode gave you an in-depth view of who I am and scratched below the surface.
Also, can I just say that I love your merch? The “Grr, I’m so mad!” t-shirt has gone straight into my basket.
It’s my favourite. I enjoy it so much. As soon as it came out, I was initially mortified! Then, everyone seemed to love it so much so I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll slap it on a t-shirt!’
You were one week away from Snatch Game. One week! Who did you have planned?
I had Ernie Dingo planned for my Snatch Game, who is an Indigenous entertainer in TV and film. He’s hosted a bunch of travel shows around Australia and comedy shows. He’s like an all-round personality so there’s so much to pull from to create the character. So, I’m a little bit disappointed that I didn’t get to do it, but I’ll keep it in my basket in case they bring me back for another season!
A lot of fans noticed the biting sense of humour of the Down Under queens in the first episode. Is that what the drag scene is like in Australia?
Yes! Aussie queens, it’s very tongue in cheek. It’s very blunt and straightforward. You can say, ‘Girl, you look busted, but my god I love you anyway!’ There’s just as much love as there is cheek and shade-throwing. I gave Elektra hell! But, I have all the time in the world for that queen and we got along so great off camera. I absolutely adore her.
Who are you rooting for to win?
Honestly, I don’t know! There’s a few that I’d like to see go far, but that’s the thing about Drag Race – it’s the great equaliser. You can be as polished as you want to be or you can be six months into your drag, and still make it just as far. So, it’s anyone’s game. I’m curious to see how it’s going to develop, who’s gonna go and who’s gonna outlast everyone. As for who I think will go all the way, I have no idea. It could be anyone!
Are you close with the cast?
Absolutely. Six of us have worked together multiple times at the Broken Heel Festival in Broken Hill, which is a Priscilla, Queen of the Desert tribute festival. I’ve worked with Art [Simone] for about three years, I work with Etcetera [Etcetera] every couple of weeks or so. I’m in Sydney working at the club that she helps run. Anita [Wigl’it] and Kita [Mean], I adore them bitches. They’re so camp and charismatic. Karen [From Finance], I have all the time in the world for. One of my first performances at the Broken Heel Festival, a lot of the queens had drifted off and gone to bed because I was doing a late performance. She was front and centre watching me. She was starstruck, which threw me off a little bit! I forgot some lyrics because it’s Karen From Finance! We all get along so great and we have a shared experience to bond over.
Viewers didn’t get to see as much of you as they hoped, so how would you describe Jojo Zaho as a queen?
My aesthetic is whatever the hell I want it to be. Sometimes I feel like I want to live a housewife fantasy and sometimes I wanna live a hooker fantasy. It can vary depending on what kind of mood I’m in, what song I’m doing. My drag is also very tongue in cheek, it pushes the envelope a little bit but not too far, just enough to keep you like, ‘Oh my god, she said that?! I love it!’ Overall, just taking the piss mostly. At the end of the day, I’m a man in a dress. I play dress up for a living!
What is your go-to lip-sync song?
I’ve got one. It’s a parody by Jackie Beat of A Spoonful of Sugar by Mary Poppins. The parody is A Quick Sniff of Poppers. “A quick sniff of poppers helps the penis slide right in.” It is my favourite! I wear this cute little Mary Poppins-esque outfit, gorgeous skirt and suspenders and a cravat. It’s cute, whimsical and the lyrics are quite cheeky and raunchy. It encompasses my drag as a whole in just one song.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under airs every Sunday on BBC Three.