'RuPaul's Drag Race': Raja on her controversial win, 'I don't mind the criticism'

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Who knew that our readers would be so divided over Season 3's winner of "RuPaul's Drag Race"? Admittedly, celebrity makeup artist,  Raja, made herself hard to ignore. She brought a new look and edge to the competition, might have rubbed a few girls the wrong way, and was the unofficial leader of the workroom mean girls, the "Heathers."

Zap2it had a chance to catch up with Raja the day after her crowning was televised and judging from your comments from our finale post, there was a lot to ask her about. 

Among other topics, Raja tackles the critics who didn't appreciate her brand of drag, explains her history with RuPaul before the show, and answers to the accusations that the "Heathers" acted like a bunch of bullies.

What was the most challenging part of the competition?
I think the most challenging part for me was just topping myself constantly. Every challenge, I had to compete with what was going on in my own head. I've been an artist all my life and I'm a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my own personal art and that's the hardest part for me was that I knew in my mind that I was putting out some really good visuals and doing my best.

Did you always feel it would come down to you and Manila?
I didn't, not initially. I really didn't know who it was going to be. I only knew that I wanted to be there and I was really glad that Manila was there with me, because I thought there were a lot of parallels in our thought process and our lives. We're both half Asian and we're both artists. Manila was a brilliant graphic designer and illustrator. So, we were able to relate on that level and I was just glad to have someone that I can treat not only as my fellow performer, but just as a colleague. I think she's amazing and I don't think there would be anyone else who I'd rather have there - other than Delta Work. I would have loved to have duked it out with Delta. She's my bestie, but that would have been fun to watch I think.

What was it like going to head-to-head with Manila in the final lip-sync?
At that moment, it felt like we were just having a good time. We were like this is the last one, let's just really enjoy it and be silly. How many people in their lives get to lip-sync for their lives as the final two in a competition in front of RuPaul? We just went with it and had a great time.

RuPaul has said that Season 3 takes the competition to a whole new level. And some have argued that you're the best winner so far. Do you think RuPaul had different standards going into this competition and you just fit the bill?
Absolutely. There were two really successful seasons and I think it might have been time for them to show the other sides of drag. It's not just about what has been seen in the past two seasons. I don't mind being that ambassador of gender-f**king craziness. That's kind of been my job my entire life, so I appreciate that he actually brought me on to it and I got to play that role for people. It's a good thing.

How do you respond to the people who don't appreciate your brand of drag? They feel it's more club kid than drag queen.
It is club kid and I definitely come from that generation of people who really enjoyed the early-nineties and being a club kid and it's always going to be a part of my life. I can definitely put on a beautiful gown and red carpet hair. I got all that stuff. It hangs out in my apartment. But really for me in this competition, it wasn't about showing that. It has been seen before and I really wanted to show the side of me that I've always embraced most of my life. I like being provocative and I like making people think and question what they define as being comfortable. I don't mind the criticism. I think I'm doing exactly what it is I need to do when people don't understand it. They'll understand it eventually.

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Do you have any regrets over being part of the "Heathers" vs. "Boogers" thing?
Not at all. I think we had a good time with it. And I think people who misunderstand it need to understand that it was tongue and cheek and it was done to be funny. The entire group, we're all boys who were picked on. We're all slightly nerdy. We've always been fascinated with movies like "Heathers" and "Mean Girls" and we were just kind of playing with it. It's not meant to be taken seriously. We're not evil people. We're not actual bullies. We don't pick on people in our daily lives. It was just within the competition and we were having a good time. Like RuPaul said, 'Reading is fundamental,' so it's just something you do as a drag queen. You have fun with it. It's not meant to be malicious or cool.

There's some controversy over your relationship to RuPaul before the competition. Can you explain that and whether it had anything to do with you winning?
I performed at one of the biggest tranny bars in L.A. called Peanuts and it was just me and a bunch of transsexuals running around on stage doing shows. And Ru would come to our shows all the time. That's how we became aware of each other. And I've been a makeup artist for a very long time and work with a lot of people in the industry. It's inevitable that we're going to cross paths. I'm not from some weird obscure town in Middle America. I've lived in Los Angeles and I've lived in New York and I work in a very close-knit industry. Of course, we're going to be aware of each other's presence. So, I've said it before, it's not like Ru and I were texting each other and talking about our boy problems. We just knew of each other and that's it really. 

Would you say the fact that RuPaul knew of you before became an advantage in the competition?
I wouldn't say it was an advantage, but it might have been a conscious decision to use someone like me on there, because Ru was aware of the brand of drag that I do. And maybe the producers and Ru thought it was time to introduce that into the competition. And I'm not going to apologize for being a present force within the entertainment community. That's just what I've always done. Why should anyone have to apologize for that?

How has your life changed? With the win, are you still doing makeup?
It has changed a little bit. My schedule has been really packed lately. I'm always out of town. I haven't had a chance to do a lot of makeup lately. Maybe I just kind of needed that break. As an artist, you just can't keep doing those things over and over again. You'll kind of lose your mind. So, this was definitely a really great distraction from the career that I had previously. It's about time I focus on the other side of me. I've always been an entertainer and I've loved it all my life. Now, I don't have to get other people ready for it. Now, it's my turn.

Zappers, are you Team Raja? Or do you think someone else should have taken the crown?
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