“I did three cartwheels and dropped into a split in my small living room!” laughs Eureka O’Hara. “I think I cried a little. It was happy tears.” The drag superstar, known for her multiple appearances across the Drag Race franchise, is in celebratory mode. Not only has her reality series We’re Here – which also stars Bob the Drag Queen and Shangela – been renewed for a second season at HBO, but it’s just earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program. “It’s exciting and it’s cool to be a part of the queer change in the media, in the serious realm of media too,” the star adds. “When the Academy recognises you it’s like, ‘Okay bitch. We’re doing a thing or two.’”
The series, which runs for six episodes, follows the three aforementioned drag icons as they travel to small – and often conservative – towns in the United States. There, they task reserved local residents with flaunting their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent for one-night only drag spectacles, while exploring the country’s modern attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people.
It’s exciting and it’s cool to be a part of the queer change in the media. When the Academy recognises you it’s like, ‘Okay bitch. We’re doing a thing or two.’
Eureka, who was raised in East Tennessee, says she jumped at the opportunity to star on We’re Here because she’s “been suppressed in a town” where she wasn’t accepted for her true identity. “I’ve been bullied. I’ve been the attention when I didn’t want to be the attention because of who I was or how I looked,” she explains. “I also lived in a town where I was only accepted in certain environments, and we had a select place where we could go and be ourselves. There’s magic in being able to be yourself.”
We’re Here has finally sashayed over to the UK on Sky One and NOW TV, so we linked up with Eureka over Zoom to discuss the show’s awards galore, why it was “intimidating” to work with professional hoes like Bob and Shangela, and how she’s evolved as an artist – and a person – since she first made headlines on Drag Race.
Condragulations on the Primetime Emmy nomination!
Yes, I know! It’s very iconic. It’s exciting and it’s cool to be a part of the queer change in the media, in the serious realm of media too. When the Academy recognises you it’s like, ‘Okay bitch. We’re doing a thing or two.’
How did you react?
I did three cartwheels and dropped into a split in my small living room! Honestly, it was exciting but emotional and I think I cried a little. It was happy tears. I was just very proud of it. We all worked really hard and the creators and the team are just so diverse and hard-working. A lot of the people in charge are queer. You know there’s three queer names on the ballot, which is really incredible. This is exciting for queer people. This is the dream. To do drag, make a difference, and get recognised in mainstream media… by the Academy is pretty incredible. RuPaul is one of the few drag queens who have been recognised like that. It’s exciting.
Also congrats on season two – how does it feel to have a show, with three queer performers, being renewed by a network like HBO?
It’s really amazing, and HBO are honestly some of the best people I’ve ever worked with. HBO is one of those channels where I always used to say, growing, ‘Them the movie channels,’ and you were cool if you had the movie channels. I just know my mom would be like, ‘Oh my god, HBO, how cool is that?’ I just know that she would love it. It’s interesting. It’s the big dogs! It’s very much an adult network too, I think, and normally very heteronormative. I could go on and on about it! Moral of the story, they are much better than I thought they would be to work with. Very accommodating.
People get emotional when they’re allowed to express themselves and be themselves.
What was it like doing this experience with Bob The Drag Queen and Shangela?
They are incredible. Honestly, it was so amazing… sometimes intimidating! They’re incredible professionals, great to work with but also, it was easy to be honest. They’re easy to work with and it’s nice when you work with people that just show up and do their job. Also, it was fun because of the dynamic of personalities. You have Bob, who’s like a big sister who kinds everything, but she’s also really funny and smart. She’s always factual, but also picks at you because she’s one of those people. Then you have Shangela, who’s just like… She has that diva personality of, ‘Girl, I’m done,’ but then she also doesn’t know a stranger. She enters a room and is immediately friends with everyone. She has such an energy about her which is fun and ready to get down and do whatever. The three of us are so different in those ways, but it just happens to create magic. It’s a little sisterhood we’ve got going on, but then also, we’re so independent that we don’t have to rely on each other, which allows us to work off of each other. We’re not really having to lift each other up but when it’s necessary, we’re there together, holding hands. They’re alright. They’re pretty cool.
Because it’s you, Bob and Shangela, I expected this series to be fierce, but the emotion…
It’s an emotional show! People don’t expect it to be at the level of seriousness that it is. I think people just assume, ‘Oh, it’s drag. It’s going to be campy,’ like the aesthetic of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The element is so different. This is a real life series with people in real situations that we’ve invited some queerness into, and really just a reason for them to express and appreciate themselves to the fullest, which a lot of people don’t get in those small towns. The magic and the dynamic that comes from it is really inspiring, but it’s also very true and raw. People get emotional when they’re allowed to express themselves and be themselves, and we were able to capture it.
You come from a small town in East Tennessee, so how did your experiences growing up there prepare you for the show?
I think that’s why I wanted to do it. I know what it’s like, and it just prepared me in the sense of… I am these daughters. I’ve been these people. I’ve been suppressed in a town where I’m not accepted for who I am. I’ve been bullied. I’ve been the attention when I didn’t want to be the attention because of who I was or how I looked. I also lived in a town where I was only accepted in certain environments, and we had a select place where we could go and be ourselves. There’s magic in being able to be yourself. It took a long time to learn and truly love myself, even after experiencing other things. It took time for me to truly find my self-worth. I grew up in an area where the morals and the ideas of who you’re supposed to be, what boys are and what girls are, were so strict. You learn how to navigate things differently once you figure out how to get past a lot of those roles.
What did you find out about modern attitudes towards queer people when you visited these small towns? There was one scene when the police got called on you, just because you were standing there in drag.
I mean, it wasn’t surprising. Because… Is it okay that I eat?
I’m 30-years-old and it took my 30 years to love myself, and I’m still learning everyday because it’s a constant fight.
Okay. I don’t want to be rude but this chicken over here… The thing about it is, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been in these situations before because of where I come from. But also, just as much as these negative moments, I was also shocked and surprised sometimes by the love and acceptance in some places. It’s weird because sometimes, it can be a store that looks like, ‘Oh girl this is the store for us henny! We’re going in there.’ The store specifically was a souvenir store, and it had a lot of custom Indian pieces in the window, it looks really creative and we were so excited to check it out. We hadn’t even gone inside, we were just standing outside, and the person came out like, ‘I called the cops. Y’all gotta go.’ We hadn’t even decided we were going in there yet! It just goes to show that we still have a long way to go. People forget. We get so trapped, especially because we live in bigger cities or more populated queer areas, where we forget that there’s a lot of areas out there where people are alone and going through pain. Then they wonder why we sometimes have negativity, or the struggle that people see online. A lot of these people online are living bi-curiously throughout our lives on social media, and through these shows that they’re watching, because they don’t get to live it in their lives – so they’re sassier and have more of an opinion. It’s because they’re not allowed to have one. Sometimes, it might not be the right opinion, but when you’re in those situations, you can be really hurt, angry and on the defence, and you don’t have a voice. So, when social media and the internet gives you a voice… I think that’s why we have social justice warriors online, and thank god for them, but also, there’s a lot of expression of pain. I mean, I could go on and on – I love to ramble!
You recently tweeted that you’re not the same person you were a few years ago. How would you say you’ve grown as a person and a drag queen since your double Drag Race stint?
A couple years ago, I was in a lot of pain. My mom was sick and I was losing the one person that I had… I’ve grown so much in the last couple years as a person, and I think it’s through experiences. Working is one of those. I have found my mark, to be honest. Through losing my mum, it put clarity in my heart when it came to mortality, but I feel her with me now more than ever. It’s nice that she’s not suffering, because she was sick for almost three years before she passed away. As strong as I thought I was, looking back on it, I realised I wasn’t. But when you’re raised in different areas, and with fame, there’s so many elements that can help you grow as a person. I’m just happier, more conscious and I see my self-worth more. I just love myself, and it took me a long time to love myself. Girl, I’m 30-years-old and it took my 30 years to love myself, and I’m still learning everyday because it’s a constant fight. It’s something that you have to wake up everyday and make a conscious decision to do, to accept yourself for who you are and love yourself fully. Whether it’s with family and friends, or anything in-between, if you’re not at your best, you’re truly not giving anyone else the best you can to help them. If your goal in life is to help other people, or your worth is depicted on what you’re able to provide others, then you have to have to provide your best self or you’re cutting them – and yourself – short.
All episodes of We’re Here are now available on Sky One and streaming service NOW TV.