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The Queerty Interview

‘Drag Race’ Winner Sutan Amrull, a.k.a. Raja, Wants You To Have Sex In Heels

Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race has come to a close, and Sutan Amrull, a.k.a. Raja, now reigns as “America’s Next Drag Superstar.” All hail the queen!

RuPaul has moved on—casting for Season 4 has already begun—but we still have some unanswered questions from the show. Amrull talked about going to Indonesia—is that where he’s from? In a drag queen competition with contestants wearing prosthetic breast plates, why did he usually compete flat-chested without even stuffing his bra? And what on earth is a “lifetime supply of Kryolan cosmetics”?

Queerty’s Dan Renzi grabbed Amrull’s attention between stops on his now-frenetic public appearances schedule to get some answers.

QT:  Who the hell are you?

AMRULL: Who the hell am I? Well…my name is Sutan, I’m also known as Raja, and I’m a glitter hippie, artist, performer, model, muse…(pause)

You didn’t say ‘drag queen.’

I guess drag queen somewhere in there. I’m a performer, and artist, so it’s sort of all-encompassing.

We’ll get back to this. I have a more important question. This is supposed to be the search for “America’s Next Drag Superstar.” Are you American?

(laughs) I am American.

Where were you born?

I was born in Baldwin Park, California, which is outside of Los Angeles. My father is from Indonesia, and when I was about six, my parents moved us over there. We lived in Bali for four years, and then we moved to Jakarta for two. Then we moved back to Baldwin Park, which is the ‘hood, really. I went to junior high and high school in that area.

Why did your parents decide to move to Bali?

I really don’t know what the exact story is. But my father just decided he wanted to, and the entire family moved out there, and it was one of the best things my parents could have done. It allowed me to embrace that culture. I eat the food, I speak the language—I’m more Asian than Manila Luzon is, actually.

I find it hard to believe anyone is more Asian than Manila Luzon. Female impersonators are a big part of some Asian cultures, like in Thailand. Is it common in Indonesia?

Indonesia is primarily an Islamic country, so they’re not down for embracing any trannies. But there’s a huge gay culture in Bali. That’s where a lot of Indonesians escape. That’s their New York or San Francisco. That island celebrates the arts—as soon as kids are pushed out of the womb, they are taught a craft, either dancing, or painting, or sculpting. Everybody does something with their hands, or everybody’s moving, everybody’s playing an instrument. I grew up a hippie.

What was your art?

I am an illustrator and painter. It’s what I went to school for—I went to university for 2 ½ years before I decided it was bullshit, and decided to follow my own artistic path.

Were you an effeminate kid?

Oh, completely. In Indonesia there is a word, “banci” (bon-kee), and that word really means “faggot.” Growing up there, before I knew what the word “faggot” was, I knew what “banci” meant. I heard that as a kid constantly. And I never thought I was that different. I was just having a great time, playing around in bed sheets and towels, making costumes and wrapping them on my head. I made elaborate costumes out of whatever I could find around the house.

I think this is a stage of development for gay boys.  I used to wear pajama bottoms on my head like it was my long hair, and pretend I was Cher.

My mother had a Wonder Woman beach towel, and I learned how to fasten it onto my head with a safety pin, and I made Wonder Woman bracelets out of Styrofoam cups.  I would cut the bottoms out of them and make slits on the sides, and I had Wonder Woman bracelets. And I would run around the yard, with a fuckin’ towel around my head and Styrofoam cups around my wrists, and tell everyone I was Wonder Woman.

When you’re dressed as a woman, do you feel like you have a different identity?

At one point in my life I felt like that—putting on women’s clothes made me feel like a woman. But now, evolving and becoming more comfortable in my own skin, it’s becoming the same thing. I don’t feel separate from it, I don’t think my personality changes that much, I think it’s still the same person in a different outfit.

Are you in a relationship right now?

No, not really.

Have you ever had a relationship with a man who enjoyed it when you were dressed in drag?

Oh God, yes. I was in a relationship with a man for six years, a Russian artist who I met at a tranny bar, 7969 in West Hollywood, otherwise known as Peanuts. He met me as Raja, we found we had a lot of things in common, but he preferred me to be in drag. He really wanted me to be a woman. So I kind of lived this life, this duality, and it was a really great relationship–but at the same time it was a very dangerous one.

How?

I started to lose myself. My hair was kept a certain way, and I made sure my nails were done, and my brows were tweezed. But I don’t really need all that. I’m comfortable with who I am, I don’t need that sort of relationship anymore. It served its purpose, and I learned a lot from it.

What did you learn?

He was one of those dangerous types of guys–y’know, tattoos, and he sounded like Dracula, he had that thick Russian accent, and he was sexy, and we did tons of drugs and drank Jack Daniels…but now it’s done. I can’t do all that. I need a normal, quote/unquote, relationship.

You said it served its purpose. What purpose did it serve?

It forced me to really figure out who I am as a person. Am I woman? Do I really identify to this femininity in this way? I really didn’t, so I was able to find myself more through the relationship.

And this really explains why your drag is so androgynous.

Right.

Did he prefer having sex with you as a woman?

Totally. A lot of drag queens have such strange hangups about it. But of course I had sex with him in drag. I look great in drag, why wouldn’t anybody want to fuck me? I loved it. It felt like role-playing. I loved putting on heels and corsets and having sex that way. It was fantastic. Everyone should try it.

Wow.

But it does become exhausting. Sometimes you just want to boy it down and do it that way. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t the way I needed to live my life. For some people it works, but it wasn’t the path I needed.

Let’s talk about the show. How long were the days?

One episode takes two days. We would tape three or four episodes in a row, and then get a day off. It’s really hard. Every two days you have to learn a new song in case you have to lip sync for your life.

What did you do on your days off?

We mostly stayed at our hotel. We were sequestered, so we couldn’t do very much. There was a chaperone there, so once in a while they would take groups of us to the pool to get a little sunshine, or they would walk us to get a meal. We couldn’t just walk around freely and call our families or anything, they were really on us.

What would be the problem with calling your family?

They want you to be separated. What I think it is, from working on “Top Model,”*  I knew there was the whole sensory deprivation idea, where they basically take away all your communication so you are forced to interact with each other.

What is a lifetime supply of Krylon Kryolan cosmetics?**

I have no idea. I haven’t gotten any of it yet. I don’t know what I’m going to do with a lifetime supply of Kryolan. I think a lot of people are getting Kryolan for Christmas.

What is Kyolan?

Kryolan is a theatrical or professional makeup. It’s not something you can get at the beauty counter.

Who’s a bigger megalomaniac: Tyra Banks or RuPaul?

(pause) No comment.

It’s like they’re the same person! Everything comes back to them.

But at least Ru is funny about it.

*Prior to competing on “Drag Race,” Amrull worked for six seasons as a makeup artist on “America’s Next Top Model.”

**Part of the prize package of winning “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is a “lifetime supply” of cosmetics from Kryolan, a sponsor of the program.

Editor’s note: As commenter Brandon H correctly points out, an earlier version of this article misspelled Kryolan.

By:           Dan Renzi
On:           May 12, 2011
Tagged: , , , ,
  • 32 Comments
    • j
      j

      I love him already. Love love love.

      May 12, 2011 at 6:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brandon H
      Brandon H

      Its Kryolon, not Krylon. Krylon is a brand of spray paint.

      May 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ousslander
      ousslander

      yikes, can’t wait for next season to wipe away any memories of him.

      May 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • m
      m

      @Brandon H Whats your drag name?

      May 12, 2011 at 7:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      He was interesting and very cool, I would have been fine with either he or Manilla winning.

      But what was the deal with asking him if he is American? Was Sara Palin conducting the interview??

      May 12, 2011 at 7:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Johnny
      Johnny

      Great interview Dan!

      May 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • rf
      rf

      You don’t have to be born in America to be American unless you’re running for President. Although it was supposed to be funny, it seems a little xenophobic to question his nationality and then ask where he was born. I have to admit I am hooked on the show.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:56 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • pooch
      pooch

      Great choice of photo in heels! Such a compelling, authentic person. Asking “Are you American” was funny. And smart. It elicited probably the two most important facets of Sutan’s life, to date undiscussed. First, his experienced and complex world view and moreover, the life journey of a gay man. The “treacherous” journey he referenced in his “why you” answer on the show. It’s too bad that Raja’s military PSA was dismissed as “not charismatic enough” because aside from looking cute, the content was important and timely. Following Sutan Amrull’s interviews is compelling – he usually reveals something new, interesting and thought provoking along the way.

      May 13, 2011 at 7:27 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shannon1981
      Shannon1981

      Raja is gorgeous. Glad she won.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bob
      Bob

      He is cute as a guy with that stubble….yummy!!!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:40 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • kara
      kara

      it’s kryolan, for fk’s sake.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:59 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rck
      Rck

      The man behind Raja, Sutan Amrull…I certainly gained a deeper understanding of her from this interview. (Very good job, by the way!) It’s nice to hear her talk more about her childhood. I am so glad she won.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rck
      Rck

      Also, sorry to comment again about this thing…It is “Kryolan”, not Kyolan.. Here is their site: http://www.kryolan.com
      I hope that clears things up. :-)

      May 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rachel
      Rachel

      Yesss! Sutan is right- I do and would want to f*ck him. Smart, creative, articulate, AND hot.. sexy combination. Love him.

      May 13, 2011 at 5:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jeffree
      Jeffree

      Great interview with a fascinating person! More stuff like this, please Queerty people.

      And I hope Daniel V.’s minute by minute recaps of Drag Race will continue, too.

      May 13, 2011 at 7:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Catherine
      Catherine

      Raja was seriously skilled in the show. I, too, am so glad she won. Good work on this interview – glad to know she agreed to it and is working the media post the big victory.

      May 14, 2011 at 2:04 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jason
      jason

      It seems the Russian guy had a tranny fetish. Such fetishes are not that uncommon.

      May 14, 2011 at 9:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Frederick
      Frederick

      Although I thought Raja was an extremely creative performer and definitely had the best eye for avante gard fashion, I always had the feeling that underneath his polished veneer, he was a somewhat bitter and mean-spirited person. Call me old-fashioned, but I do think the winner should have had a nice personality (which I just felt Raja lacked) in addition to outstanding drag skills.

      May 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • (*,*)
      (*,*)

      Sutan is DEEP!!!

      May 15, 2011 at 12:01 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ScaryRussianHeather
      ScaryRussianHeather

      @18 Frederick It’s a shame to bring the dialogue down to this level of “nice” versus “not nice”.

      You watched 13 Untucked episodes and walked away with “a feeling” that Raja is [whatever] “underneath”?

      As opposed to ACTUAL actions of the other queens? Just for starters, we had:

      – Manila being the first one to label her opponents Boogers and directly insulting and mocking Stacy to her face

      – Alexis Mateo being nasty from the moment Raja walked into the workroom until the very end

      – Yara, the spokesperson for “bitter” – joining Alexis in round the clock Raja bitchfests even extending to the reunion and her press interview

      – Disingenuous Shangela (the piece de resistance) with her posse including Mariah attacking Mimi Imfurst for merely existing, relentlessly picking fights every single episode, sucking all the energy out of the room repeatedly. Not to mention lying, since she was fully informed that Raja was a successful “entertainer” in real life while claiming she was “just fashion”. Oh and there were her repeated lies to RuPaul in the workroom “nobody is helping me”.

      You DID watch Untucked, didn’t you? Or are you one of those viewers who don’t watch it so their illusions aren’t disabused?

      What do you think of RuPaul, who took advantage of Shangela’s attack on Mimi every single week on TV promos for ratings and completely ignored her ACTUAL mean spirited actions on the show during the reunion? Not very ~nice in my opinion.

      May 15, 2011 at 3:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Frederick
      Frederick

      In answer to Scary Russian Heather’s question, yes, I did watch each episode of Season Three of Drag Race. Scary Russian Heather, unlike you, I felt Alexis Mateo was only giving Raja back what Raja put out there first. If you remember the Final Three episode where Ru Paul asked each of the three drag queens what they thought of the other two, Alexis did not put down Raja like Raja did Alexis. Also, Raja just talked shit behind poor Stacy Lane Matthews back constantly; at least Delta Work had the balls to badmouth sweet Stacy face-to-face. And Manila may have started the whole junior high school Heathers vs. Boogers thing, but Raja sure didn’t have a problem jumping onto the “Mean Girls” bandwagon. So, yes, you’re right about one thing, Scary Russian Heather… actions do speak louder than words, and Raja’s actions demonstrated a somewhat bitter and mean-spirited personality.

      May 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ScaryRussianHeather
      ScaryRussianHeather

      The question was did you watch UNTUCKED? Apparently not. Here’s some facts not “feelings”.

      You can’t cite a single time Raja “put it out there first” because she wasn’t even featured saying anything the least bit negative during Episode 1 Xmas episode or Episode 1 Untucked, wherein Alexis was FEATURED continuously dishing ALL the other queens in a “mean spirited” way.

      You can’t even cite ONE SINGLE TIME Raja said or did anything mean to or about Alexis and Yara during the whole season! Because it never happened. Other than the Heather v Booger jokes .

      On Untucked, you would have seen Alexis not only threw shade FIRST from the first moment Episode 1 when Raja walked into the workroom on the episode (and so did Mariah) but also was the primary mean person in Untucked.

      Alexis bitterly complained about Shamgela being back, told Manila her outfit was busted, bitched about Carmen including accusing her of being pumped, accused Mariah of having plastic surgery, said Mimi was annoying. SHE created the first clique when she encouraged the debate and picked a fight with Phoenix, announcing to Stacy “I got your back” “it doesn’t matter what you think I got her back” when Phoenix kept saying “there’s no back to have, I only answered the question if I saw her as competition”. Even Mariah said “I feel the fumes coming from over there” and pointed to Alexis during that exchange.

      They also dog piled onto Venus inciting an argument over “who copied who” AS DID RUPAUL ON THE SHOW. Whereas RAJA gave Venus a PEP TALK about LSFYL, not getting involved in the shade.

      THAT clique extended to include Shamgela then Mariah on the next episode, BEFORE we even saw anything happen with Raja saying a single thing until Phoenix was up for elimination and she stated she thought Stacy deserved to go home instead.

      She was so nasty that even India Ferrah was interviewing about her “not being nice, she wasn’t nice to Mariah and her attitude sucks” in the confessional on Untucked.

      Now this is just Episode ONE and not ALL of the shade! (NOTHING from Raja so far).

      All Raja even SAID the whole time besides the Venus pep talk was that she would have covered the lampshade when Shamgela was complaining about her critique. In the confessional she said Shamgela pieced together an outfit but didn’t bring it to fruition. She’s all laughs but can she really bring it. Is THAT “mean”? Manila was bashing Shamgela in her confessional too.

      Alexis was also part of the dog pile against Mimi Imfurst Episode Two Queens in Space. Nice? Really?

      As the one supposedly who “had the back” of Stacy, we see in the Third Episode, Leotarded, SHE was ignoring all of Stacy’s ideas along with Shamgela even though they were right next to her and on the same team. Even though the show edited it as RAJA ignoring her when she was at the opposite end of the table.

      Rupaul asked for one pro and one con for other two queens during the finale. How is this was “mean”??

      She said “Alexis is a very very talented performer – Con- I don’t really think she thinks outside of the box, her rhinestones and maribu feels a bit stagnant to me”

      MEAN? Really?

      Funny you ignore all the bitterness of the previous episode during Top 4 focusing on Alexis and Yara trashing Manila and Raja relentlessly as “trash” and “favorites”.

      If you’re going to make a case for something try citing something with some substance not what you “felt” someone was “underneath”.

      Your narrative will not hold up against facts.

      May 16, 2011 at 10:24 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jon
      Jon

      I used to put pajama bottoms over my head and pretend I was Ariel from the little mermaid when I was real young, so this is interesting I thought that was just me lol.

      Best Raja interview I’ve read though. It was nice to find out about the show in detail aswell. I’ve always wondered if they really did a show after another, and they did! It must of been very mentally and physically draining in a way.

      Omg, Rajas comment about Kryolan haha xD

      May 16, 2011 at 10:51 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • AVANT
      AVANT

      Guys,am off topic but am not at my best since alaw is about to be past here that hangs gays,a year ago i lost all my business to angry mob that killed my partner JEFF,i escaped narrowly,but all my business and house were set ablaze,i now live 30km from my original home with an aunt who thinks being gay is a curse.
      Can anyone help me with info about how or where i can get money to get to my feet again,infact anyone willing to donate is highly welcomed.
      please txt me on no +256774998706, donot call because phones are tapped here.
      thank you

      May 16, 2011 at 10:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Frederick
      Frederick

      Jeez, Scary Russian Heather , lighten up. She’s a reality TV contestant, not the next messiah. Incidentally, I never claimed to be an attorney… all I did was express my “feeling” that Raja is a somewhat bitter and mean-spirited queen, and my “gut” tells me she is. Now before you go off on another tangent trying to make a case for Raja being the next Mother Teresa, instead of Cruella DeVille (whom, coincidentally, she does sort of resemble), apparently, word has it that Raja and the other Heathers may be planning some sort of touring drag show. Why don’t you book yourself a front-row seat in advance, so she can talk trash about you, like she did the Boogers.

      May 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • RCK
      RCK

      @ScaryRussianHeather: I agree with everything you wrote, Scary Russian Heather. You touched a lot of points and I see that they are on point (as far as a counter-argument goes)

      Top 4 was painful for me to watch. Manila and Raja were talking very nicely about the others (Yara and Alexis), and those other girls just kept talking trash about them, and not even in the funny way, it was definitely mean and jealous. Let us be honest here, those moneydresses Yara and Alexis wore…they don’t hold up to the ones Raja and Manila were wearing, and the moneydress was the biggest part of the main challenge. *sigh* The judges weren’t playing favorites here, Raja and Manila just did better in the challenge.

      I haven’t met Raja personally (yet!), but I know she is nice from what I see of her behind the scenes videos from ANTM, Glam Nation and some from performing in clubs. Also, there’s accounts of how nice she is in person from people who have met her *before* & after RPDR. I do stumble into blogs on tumblr/facebook that have posts about that. Here is one of my faves: http://bit.ly/lqL4sa

      Haters will think what they want though, so it wouldn’t matter to them. Ironic though, they are really active in looking for Raja posts/vids/blogs… it’s kind of funny.

      Anyway… *If*, (IF) they DID do a Heathers drag tour, I think it would sell well because (as someone who knows marketing), the BUZZ would be really good, people will go to the darn thing. But of course, I haven’t seen any proof of a TOUR (not one or two shows that they did before, but an actual TOUR). So it’s probably something someone made up…based on “feeling” again.

      (LOL he said you’re making Raja into the next…uhuh…I don’t think he understands that your reply is a counter argument based on the statements he provided earlier…*facepalm*)

      May 16, 2011 at 3:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Micky
      Micky

      AWESOME INTERVIEW!!!! Probably the most personal interview I’ve read about her. She is a really talented and amazing person. Frederick, I think a pageant-y kind of person would make a boring winner, in my opinion. “Nice” personality? Go watch another show, honey, this is RuPaul’s Drag Race not Miss America.

      Raja has charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent, she is the whole package. She can be nice (ex. with Delta during her last untucked when she was about to forfeit, goofing around w/ Manila, pep talking Venus to do the lip sync, defending Carmen against Shangela’s attacks) and she can also serve it when things need to be dealt with (like addressing Shangela being a user who takes advantage of people). Also, Raja is FIERCE. She killed that last lip sync, more than Manila did (And I LOVE Manila too… her lipsync was definitely a bit off that day).

      ScaryRussianHeather, that was a long read, but it was worth it and you have stated some facts that are correct, I definitely noticed these things. I agree with you!

      RCK, I love that link!!!! <3 Thank you for sharing that.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • LillyA
      LillyA

      Sutan is right… I wanna fuck him! And I’m a girl! Hes just so…. Bangable… haha
      Love you mama, WERK!

      May 6, 2012 at 3:19 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ebony
      Ebony

      This interview was very poorly conducted and Dan Renzi’s approach was extremely inappropriate, as well as offensive. If I were his employer, I’d fire his ass. Some of the questions were downright pompous, xenophobic, shady, and bigoted.

      May 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alana
      Alana

      Thank you scary russian! —>>> This whole show is a competition and I think Raja brought something beautiful and edgy to the competition and she stuck to her own goal. In that business, cattiness is part of their roles as entertainers because there is so much competition and you have to constantly base things of looks… and people doubt you all day so yeah, people defend themselves my telling others they’re trash or their not good enough… I didn’t see Raja do that but I saw it consistently throughout the other contestants…. how ugly. And the heather thing was completely misunderstood and over-exaggerated. I loved Raja as soon as she walked in. I didn’t doubt her one bit and she was the reason I wanted to watch the whole season in one day… because she kept bringing such entertaining looks to the table and she was so real and raw. I love that she wasn’t wearing fake boobs and padding her ass… she was comfortable and proud, as is. I’m a woman, not gay and not drag but I wasn’t always treated right for the way that I was and Raja has been the only drag girl that has given me a sense of pride within myself. Although I’m still jealous she’s prettier than me:P :) :* Team Raja all the way! <3

      Jun 5, 2012 at 10:12 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kevin
      Kevin

      I’d love to get to meet you one day Raja, you’re so awesome!!!! And please, I hope you pardon me saying this, but you’re soooooooo freaking handsome as a guy, omG!!! xD and as a woman, damn…. beautiful. xD

      Jul 14, 2012 at 12:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • darkorient
      darkorient

      I love Raja! Not because of his Indonesian roots, but because he didn’t misuse his Asian identity unlike the other Asian queens. In fact, I really loved it when he called out the fellow Asian queen who was abusing different elements into one offensive Asian stereotype. Thank you Raja for representing the brown-skinned Southeast Asians! Hopefully it will shed a light on your fellow Americans that not all of us are “almond-eyed” and “yellow-skinned” East Asians. BTW, Queerty, “banci” is pronounced as “bun-chee” not “bon-kee”.

      Feb 25, 2014 at 12:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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