Tell me a little bit about yourself and your drag history.
Well my boy name is Josh and I grew up in upstate New York. We moved around CONSTANTLY when I was growing up. In total I went to seventeen different schools and as of right now have lived in over thirty five different areas. When I was younger, I ALWAYS wanted to be an actor and was in all of my elementary school plays and even got to take acting classes. Eventually though moving around so much I eventually had to stop because I was never in a school long enough to continue acting, so eventually I gave it up and just tried to be a “normal” gay boy, which obviously didn’t work out too well for me. My drag story starts about four years ago, I was best friends with Anaol Fetale and was always a huge supporter of her drag. I took her to all of her drag shows in Boston and New Hampshire and we were literally glued together at the hip. Then one day she asked if she could put me in face, and I agreed and she shaved my legs. We went to Boston and got a cheap red wig and a cheap white cocktail dress from TJ Maxx and I let her paint me. On the way to the gig we were discussing drag names and I remembered the naked forgeign exchange student from ‘Not Another Teen Movie”s name was AreOla. I suggested that and Anaol said “No, it has to be a litle different, you’re Ari Ola” and we decided on that. After that night, I didn’t do drag for another year and a half. But when I moved to Providence, RI, I was literally alone all of the time. I hated my roommate’s dog and never wanted to be in the house so for Halloween, I decided to give drag another shot as a way to make friends in the area but I had an AWFUL night! I met two drag queens who were doing coke in the bathroom of the club and it kind of scared me so I didn’t think drag was for me. Then, two months later, while I was prowling around on Grindr I met another drag queen who took me under her wing and taught me the basics of makeup, and the rest is history.
Describe the average Ari Ola performance for those who’ve never seen you.
The “average” Ari Ola performance depends on my mood. I really like to dance, I’ve been dancing since I was six years old. If music was on, I was dancing. My mom used to take me to work with her when I was a kid and I would go in the back room and just dance and all of her coworkers thought I was the cutest (and probably gayest) thing ever. So if I can dance in a number, I one hundred percent will. However, I do wear like twelve pairs of tights, my hip pads weigh five pounds each and sometimes my heels don’t cooperate so sometimes dancing is either really, really challenging and I end up stumbling during my number, or I just do a non-dance number. But I really like pop numbers, they’re easy to dance to. I also really, really love lip syncing in Korean, but depending on the venue, the audience is NOT usually down for that, so I’ll only do Korean numbers if I feel it’ll be a good enough number to make the audience forget they can’t understand a word I’m lip syncing. During Halloween time I really, really enjoy doing creepy/bloody numbers. I’ve decapitated babies, I’ve performed abortions, I’ve eaten raw cow hearts all during Halloween, it just really gets my creative juices flowing. So yeah, it just really depends on my mood *laughs*!
You have some of the most gorgeous clothes ever! Who or what inspires your looks?
*Laughs* Aw thank you! My style is ever changing and ever evolving! I can’t really say I’m “inspired” by any one in particular, I stopped watching Drag Race last season specifically so I didn’t subconsciously take someone’s style and incorporate that into my drag. I really, really want to be original with my drag, so I buy whatever I feel looks good. Depending on the time of year, I change my style. For instance, when I started drag, I 100% wanted to be the scary spooky queen, and my looks incorporated a lot of black and dark colors. Then I tried to do more club kid/cosplay looks, but my makeup skills weren’t up to par for that so the looks were terrible. Finally one day Lili Whiteass came up to me and said “Girl, you have such a beautiful face, you could be so fishy if you tried” and so that inspired me to go in the direction I went in now, but I always try to change up my “fishy” style a couple times a year. Last year all I wore were swimsuits, then I tried to be old Hollywood glamour, then I decided to be more cute/Kawaii and now I just try to buy really gorgeous fashion pieces. When I buy something now, I always say to myself “is this good enough to be on camera?” and if I don’t think it is, I won’t buy it. I just always want my drag to improve, I never want to get complacent in my drag or my drag style, so I constantly just buy whatever I think is gorgeous and a “statement” piece. So to answer your question, and I know this sounds super cheesy, but I inspire my own style.
What has been your favourite task so far in the Miss NotSafe4Werk Pageant?
My favorite part of this competition so far was probably celebrity impersonation week! Everyone ALWAYS tells me I look just like Taylor Swift when I’m in face, but to be totally honest, I don’t really like her music, so I never really fully embraced it. But when celebrity impersonation week came, and I knew I basically HAD to do Taylor Swift, I got all of these ideas for how I could make her funny and how I could make her interesting. And I thought back to all of the Snatch Games I’ve seen and how a lot of the times the Drag Race girls do these terribly boring impersonations, and I knew I didn’t want to be boring. So I filmed for probably 4-5 hours that day, like there’s literally HOURS of Taylor Swift footage that we didn’t include in the final video, some of it was definitely funnier than what was included in the final cut, but it didn’t really fit with the “documentary” thing. Like that night I did a six minute Taylor Swift lip sync, and the only part that made it into the final video was “Kanye” interrupting me. But it was really so much fun because it kind of forced me to think on my feet and do something I had never done in my drag career and editing that video was so so so much fun.
What’s your ultimate lipsync choice?
My ULTIMATE lip sync choice (and this is going to sound so basic I can’t believe I’m about to type it) is Cannibal by Kesha. BUT it’s one of my favorite numbers to do because I get to be super super creepy with it! I almost ALWAYS dump an insane amount of blood on myself, and it’s the number I eat the cow heart! It’s just a crazy, fun, psychotic number for me to do and sometimes I really like to just let loose and be a crazy ass bitch *laughs*.
During the competition, you’ve included a lot of important messages within your tasks. Do you think it’s important for drag performances to have a deeper message?
This is kind of a hard question to answer to be honest *laughs*. I think if a drag queen is passionate about social issues, is willing to educate themselves on those issues, have a very open mind and are willing to break down these ideas that society has forced upon us, then they should absolutely go out and be an activist and use their platform to raise awareness about the issues that matter most to them. HOWEVER, where it gets tricky is, a lot of people don’t want to educate themselves and a lot of people don’t want to take the time out of their day to listen to another person’s perspective on life that may be completely different from theirs and still acknowledge it as valid. I don’t think that’s just the drag community, I think that’s society in general. And it’s really unfortunate too because gay men are always advocating for gay rights and are preaching about how we’ve had our rights stolen, how we aren’t equal members of society, but when you bring up a movement like Black Lives Matter, they immediately dismiss it as crazy, invalid, wrong and something that’s not important at all. It’s similar with how some feminists are so passionate about fighting sexism and how women aren’t equal to men and how it’s never the victim’s fault when it comes to rape, but bring up police brutality and how 161 unarmed people have been murdered by police in 2015 alone, it’s the victims fault for not complying with the cop’s orders. I’m not trying to downplay any cause and I’m not saying one is more important than the other, but what I fail to understand is why is it so easy to stand up for causes that only directly effect you, but when it comes to something that affects someone else from a different walk of life, suddenly it’s invalid. Then, when you do have someone advocating for a certain cause, you never know if that particular activist will actually help the cause or harm it. For example, you see with Danny Pintauro who was diagnosed with HIV and recently came out about it, who was on The View and the hosts were talking in such a negative way about it and he did absolutely nothing to correct them and he did absolutely nothing to try to help fight the stigma that comes with being HIV positive. So to answer your question, I think if you’re going to be an activist for a cause, educate yourself about it, be open minded and never stop learning about the cause and be 100% authentic with your activism.
What would it mean to you to be crowned Miss NotSafe4Werk 2015?
Being crowned Miss NotSafe4Werk would honestly mean so much to me. When it comes to my drag, I ALWAYS second guess myself so I just want something to signify that I am a good drag queen and show I can actually achieve greatness when I put my mind and efforts into something. Regardless of the prizes or the crown or anything like that, it would just mean so much to me as validation of myself and it would remind me to never give up trying and always to put my 100% into everything I set my mind to. However, win or lose, I’m so grateful for this experience. I’ve been able to do things that I’ve never done in my two and a half year career, I’ve been able to make connections with the contestants that will be long term friendships and I’ve been able to tap into my creative side more than ever before. And I was able to showcase my activism to a really, really large audience and even if I got ONE person to second guess their thoughts and opinions on certain subjects, the entire pageant was worth it. I’m just really excited for that the future holds for my drag career regardless of if I take the crown or not.