the chop shop

Aura Mayari talks pasties, the time she nearly quit drag, and thirsty fan DMs

After rocking her way to a Maxi Challenge win as a hardcore granny, Drag Race‘s Aura Mayari couldn’t withstand the “Daytona Wind” and was sent packing, joining a rarefied group of queens to sashay the week after claiming the top spot.

Sort of iconic, no?

It’s a distinction Aura accepts with pride as she ends her memorable run on Drag Race Season 15, during which she served up some fierce dance moves, sickening runway fashion, and enough “boy Aura” photos to earn the (self-proclaimed) moniker of the “horniest queen of the season.”

Fresh from the chop, we were delighted to chat up Aura Mayari in the latest installment of The Chop Shop. The stunning queen opened up about everything from her last-minute lip-sync plans to the club that revived her (nearly) dead drag career, and even gives us a peek into her DMs. (Unsurprisingly, they’re pretty wild!)

First of all, we heard you had a flight delay earlier today—how are you holding up? Are you alive? Do you need a nap?

Oh my god, I was in Boston last night, and the show started at 1am. Boston was lit—amazing show, amazing people—but I had to go to the airport right after the show. So I didn’t sleep.

And then the flight got delayed two hours. So I was like, “Oh my gosh, I could have stayed at the hotel for two more hours to take a nap???” I can never sleep on the plane—it’s not the anxiety, I’m just not comfortable!

So I did get home, and I made sure to take a nap before the interviews today because I do have a show tonight. But I’m alive, I’m thankful to be traveling, and I’m thankful to be meeting a lot of fans all over the country.

Well, we’re sad to see you go, but you do at least sashay away from the competition in rare company: You’re one of only a few queens to be sent home the week after they won a Maxi Challenge. Kind of iconic!

Exactly, yeah—I mean, I hope so. [Laughs.]

After that win, honestly, I was like, “Well, I’m good for another week,” but then after doing the challenge, I just knew I was in trouble. And then, after we heard the runway was going to be puffer, I was like, “Oh, I might actually have a chance if they took my outfit into consideration!” But… nope!

And that outfit was incredible, even if you had to ditch the kimono for the lip sync! Wait—question about that—are you just ready with pasties on at all times, or—

During Untucked, I had gloves that were laying around my station, and I knew I was going to lip sync but I couldn’t do it [in that look.] I was like, “It’s heavy, I can’t move in it—I have to take it off.” But I didn’t have anything under it, I didn’t plan anything, and so I just cut out hearts from the gloves and glued them on before I went on stage.

So, on the way out the door, do you mop anything good from the Werk Room?

I didn’t get to, no, but Robin Fierce did take two mannequin heads—the gold ones—and she gave me one of them. And here was some there was some fabric backstage—this was before I even left the show, and I was going to use it to make something in the hotel. They let me cut them, so I took them home too. It’s cute fabric!

Shifting gears, I know you’re coming to the competition from Nashville, but is that where you started doing drag?

No, I started doing drag in Chicago. That’s where I grew up, that’s where I became a woman. [Laughs.] But during the pandemic, I moved to Nashville with my boyfriend—we just wanted something different. And also, during that time, everything was closed in Chicago, we didn’t even see any of our friends, we couldn’t even go anywhere. So we thought that it was the right time to make a move.

Also during that time, when we were moving to Nashville, I had already quit drag—this was almost two years ago. But then Play Nashville, the dance bar, they found out that I moved and they booked me one night. And, right away, they wanted to have a conversation and wanted to hire me. It took me three months to kind of figure that out because I was also working a 9-to-5 job.

It was a whole conversation with me and my boyfriend for three months. Like, “Is this worth it?” But then I though, “You know what? You only live life once; you’re not promised tomorrow!” I want to be able to look back when I’m old and say I did everything that I wanted to do in life. Performing is my life, and if I’m given this opportunity to do something that I want to do for a living, then absolutely!

So I said yes and then, four months later, I auditioned for the show. And here I am! It just took one risk, but the stars aligned.

Oh, wow! So, setting aside the fact that you temporarily left drag, do you feel like Aura Mayari was already full formed by the time you moved to Nashville? Or did the new city help you explore your drag on a new level?

No, even before I started doing drug, I wanted to make sure that I already had an idea of who I am as a drag queen. I wanted to obviously represent my Filipino culture in my drag, and—you might remember—my name, Aura, is gay lingo in the Philippines for someone who’s “overacting.” And the Mayari is the Filipino moon goddess, and that’s why I wear a lot of gray hair because Mayari is a moon goddess with platinum gray hair.

And I’m also told I can be very aggressive and high energy on stage. And a lot of my drag is dominatrix inspired, very edgy, and very warrior-like. So that’s where my drag came from!

But then I moved here, and Nashville is very showgirl-y, you know? Sequins, fringe—so I had to kind of play around with that. Because we do six numbers a night, so I had to dabble into something that Nashville would like here and there. So I had two outfits done with fringes. [Laughs.]

And I love to dance, I love doing my Beyoncé, but I’m not really that sparkly queen. But you know what? It’s okay! It’s okay to experiment and fit out what you like and what you don’t like.

In an alternate universe where you don’t dive back into drag after moving to Nashville, what do you think you’d be doing now instead?

After college, I was doing a lot of sales, I was doing a lot of business development, and I became a recruiter for the creative industry. And then I dabbled into account management, too. So, what I wanted to do was be part of a creative team, working with brands, doing marketing and advertising. I think that’s what I was going for.

But I kind of lost the interest during the pandemic when we were all working from home. Because that job was very people-facing—you know, “client facing.” And, when you start only working on a computer, you kind lost touch with that aspect of the job, and I got really bored. I’m a people person! So, yeah, when the drag opportunity came, I said, “let’s take it!”

Since the cast announcement last year, I think it’s fair to say you’ve been getting just as much attention for your out-of-drag photos as your drag, right? So I wondered what that part of the experience has been like for you—I mean, are people blowing up the DMs?

[Laughs.] It has been blowing up, yeah—here and there. When I would post on Twitter, like, “Hey, I’m gonna be in this city, blah, blah, blah…,” people would just get so nasty; it’s so funny. Like, “Oh, I can’t wait for you to spit on my face!” [Laughs.]

And I was just in Boston where lot of the gay guys in line for the Meet & Greet where thirsty. But, yeah, it’s been incredible. I mean, I’ll take it—it’s fine. [Laughs.] It’s been a great experience.