West Chester-born drag queen Aquaria will be serving looks on the finale of this season’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, which could send her home with a $100,000 grand prize, should she win the competition.
Considering Aquaria is a fan favorite this season, she stands a good chance at taking home the win for season 10. A “looks queen” with a focus on lavish outfits, Aquaria was already a semi-celebrity prior to her appearance on Drag Race, thanks to an Instagram following of about 100,000. Now, after appearing on the show, Aquaria has some 690,000 followers.
As W Magazine points out, Aquaria also could be the first winner to come out of New York City’s drag club scene, much like RuPaul herself. Promoter Susanne Bartsch was reportedly an early supporter of both performers, which for some fans is too serendipitous to ignore.
Offstage, Aquaria is known as Giovanni Palandrani, 22. A West Chester native, Palandrini became interested in dance at a young age, and eventually trained professionally for four years, LGBTQ magazine Them reports. During that time, he became interested in YouTube makeup tutorials from internet personalities like Gigi Gorgeous, and eventually began exploring drag in high school.
“Through trial and error, I just kind of taught myself,” Aquaria told Them this year of her early experience with drag.
While Aquaria is a crowd favorite this season, Philadelphia hasn’t had much luck producing winning Drag Race queens in the past. Across 10 seasons, just two other performers from the Philadelphia area have been featured on the show, neither of which won the competition.
Mimi Imfurst was the first area drag queen to appear on the show on season three back in 2011, but was the third person sent home that season, and placed in 11th in the competition overall as a result. Currently, Imfurst, known offstage as Braden Chapman, is starring in a revival of Hedwig & the Angry Inch at Northern Liberties’ Ruba Club. Chapman has recently faced allegations of sexual harassment. In May, Philadelphia magazine published statements by two male drag artists that Chapman had engaged in unwanted sexual conversation with them on Facebook Messenger, and that they had felt pressured to participate because of his position of power in the drag and gay communities in Philadelphia. Chapman then published an apology, stating that “I have made great mistakes that I am truly sorry for and humbled by.”
Willem Belli, meanwhile, appeared on season four of Drag Race in 2012, but was controversially disqualified from the show after meeting with his husband at a hotel during the course of filming, which was considered a contract violation. Belli famously vomited on the runway before dramatically exiting the show, and has since claimed in a series of tweets to SNL’s Leslie Jones that Drag Race created a toxic environment for participants.
This season, Aquaria will face off against fellow queens Eureka O’Hara, Asia O’Hara, and Kameron Michaels. The show’s season finale airs June 28 on VH1.