‘Drag Race Down Under’ Blak Queen Jojo Zaho’s Look Dripped Faboriginality
Jojo Zaho's look was as fierce as it was deadly, and we have no choice but to stan.
Last night, Oceania’s 10 finest queens debuted in fierce force ready to tuck and lip-sync for their lives in the premiere season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race Down Under.
Many-a-shade was thrown as the queens introduced themselves to us and one another. Among the season’s dazzling queens was 29-year-old Jojo Zaho. Zaho is a Worimi-Biripi queen and the season’s only out First Nations contestant, a fact she wore loud and proud in the final challenge.
After a bite-sized superhero-to-camera contest overseen by none other than Taika Waititi, it was time for the maxi challenges. The first boasted the theme ‘Born Naked’, challenging queens to strut the runway in their finest silicone and skinsuits. But the second maxi challenge themed No Place Like Home was where Zaho shone with Blak pride — at least in this Blakfella’s opinion.
— cameron.pdf (@lit_swag) May 1, 2021
The maxi challenge asked queens to design a heart-stopping look that captured their home. There were prawn themed, Big Banana themed, and questionable black swan themed get-ups, but Zaho’s look paid tribute to her pride and First Nations sovereignty.
Her hometown gown featured a high regal wig bedazzled with the Aboriginal flag, complete with a cape that lifted to reveal the words, ‘Always was, always will be’ on cape’s inside.
Speaking about the gown in her cutaways, Zaho spoke of growing up on missions, with fear of police brutality owing to her Aboriginality as well as being queer. In her own words, her look was “dripping faboriginality.”
— e (@toasterbath666) May 1, 2021
[spoilers ahead for Drag Race Down Under episode 1 elimination]
However, in Ru Paul’s exact words, “your message was right on, but your execution was off,” and Zaho was told to lip-sync for her life, ironically, to ‘Tragedy’ by the Bee Gees.
The judges, overall, responded positively to Zaho’s message of Indigenous Sovereignty but agreed the look seemed “unfinished” (a little hypocritical considering RuPaul didn’t even bother wearing drag for the judging, but I digress). Judge, Michelle Visage explained, “when you turned around I saw the fasteners in your hair underneath.”
Tragically, after losing the lip-sync battle, Zaho was sent home.
First my land now my crown…
— Jojo Zaho (@ZahoJojo) May 1, 2021
— Megan (@MegzM_98) May 1, 2021
Zaho’s elimination has caused somewhat of an uproar. As the series’ only Aboriginal contestant, her message of Indigenous sovereignty and representation on the show was so historically important. To be eliminated in the season premiere is a major blow to Aboriginal and Indigenous viewers. She’s also one of only two people of colour in the show.
Many viewers have already protested the series for platforming queens with a racist past. More recently, viewers have also criticised the series for being unfair financially. A recent VICE article investigated how queens are expected to pay for their resources and materials in the show, leading to inequities between contestants.
drag race down under spoilers:
putting two queens who recently got exposed for racism gaffes/scandals in the top 3, and putting the only two non-white queens in the bottom 3, has got to be both the most drag race thing ever *and* the most Australian thing ever #DragRaceDownUnder
— Benji Miller (@BenjiiMiller) May 1, 2021
That first ep of #DragRaceDownUnder sure reminds you of the fact that most white people have the resources to get other people to make nice things for them.
— Jordan Raskopoulos (@JordanRasko) May 2, 2021
The only 2 queens of colour being in the bottom & the only Indigenous queen going home first episode is REALLY fucking yikes 😬 #dragracedownunder
— Claire Boland (@ClaireLBoland) May 1, 2021
For the only out Aboriginal contestant in the inaugural series of Drag Race Down Under to be eliminated in the first episode is a shame and speaks to both related and larger issues with both the show and Australia’s supposedly progressive queer scene. But don’t allow what Zaho achieved in this episode to be lost in justified rage.
Jojo Zaho used their opportunity on an international platform on one of the most anticipated tv shows of the year to advocate for Indigenous sovereignty and show immense pride in their Blak culture. To do all that is achievement enough on its own, but add in how they did it all whilst creating and slaying in an absolutely deadly look? Zaho is the moment.
— Nakkiah Lui (@nakkiahlui) May 2, 2021
I’m talking Jojo Zaho because she got on the screen and was all “Hey folks, I’m Biripi and Worimi and I’m going to continually remind white people of this fact whilst also talking land rights and displacement policies”. Epic.
— Celeste Liddle (@Utopiana) May 1, 2021
Ru telling Jojo Zaho the look was unfinished while sitting behind the judges panel not even IN drag…interesting!
— JB (Thunderpuss Remix) (@JBfromDC89) May 1, 2021
Drag Race Down Under is exclusively streaming on Stan. A new episode streams every week from 4pm AEST.
Merryana Salem (she/they) is a proud Wonnarua and Lebanese–Australian writer, critic, teacher and podcaster on most social media as @akajustmerry. If you want, check out their podcast, GayV Club where they gush about LGBT rep in media. Either way, she hopes you ate something nice today.