Aja (drag queen)

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Aja
Rupaul Dragcon 2018-227 (40268259480).jpg
Aja (left) and Alyssa Edwards (right) at RuPaul's DragCon LA 2018
Born
Jay Rivera

(1994-01-04) January 4, 1994 (age 25)[1]
ResidenceBrooklyn, New York, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
Occupation
Known for
Musical career
GenresHip hop
InstrumentsVocals
Associated actsShilow
Websiteajakween.com

Aja (born January 4, 1994)[1] is an American rapper, reality television personality and former drag queen[2][3] best known for competing on the ninth season of RuPaul's Drag Race and on the third season of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars. Aja released their debut EP, In My Feelings, in 2018, followed by their debut studio album, BOX Office, in February 2019. Their second EP, ALL CAPS, was released in June 2019.[4][5][6] They released Nail in the Coffin, a Halloween-themed EP, in collaboration with Shilow later that year.[7] They currently host the web series Ayo Sis on WOW Presents Plus. In June 2019, New York Magazine named Aja one of the top 100 "most powerful drag queens" in the United States.[8]

Early life[edit]

Aja was born Jay Rivera on January 4, 1994, in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.[1][3][9] They were raised by adoptive parents.[3] They used to suffer from PTSD and anxiety, attributing them to a "broken family" situation, but stopped having panic attacks after starting drag.[10] They lived as a trans woman for a year at age 18, later coming to identify as genderqueer after learning about non-binary gender identities.[2][6] Aja identifies as a person of color.[11] In 2018, they stated on Twitter that they are of Moroccan, Egyptian and Libyan descent.[12][13] Later, in a 2019 Tweet, they stated that they are not of Libyan descent.[14]

Career[edit]

Aja began doing drag in Manhattan at age 16, participating in contests at Posh Bar, the Stonewall Inn, Metropolitan Bar and Sugarland.[10] They were announced as one of 14 contestants for the ninth season of RuPaul's Drag Race on February 2, 2017.[15] Aja placed ninth that season and subsequently returned to participate in the third season of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars.[16] Aja was eliminated during the fifth episode of All Stars 3, but they returned in the following episode to compete for a chance to win re-entry to the competition.[17][18] Another contestant, Morgan McMichaels, rejoined instead, which placed Aja seventh overall.[18]

The drag house Haus of Aja, based in Bedford–Stuyvesant, includes members Aja, Kandy Muse, Momo Shade, Dahlia Sin, and Janelle No5.[19][20] They perform at Hardware Bar.[21]

Aja appeared in a commercial for H&M's Pride OUT Loud campaign in May 2018.[22] Since June 2018, Aja has hosted a talk show called Ayo Sis on WOW Presents Plus.[23] In July 2018, Aja announced that they no longer wish to be known as a drag queen but rather as a queer artist, stating to them. Magazine:

[B]eing a queer artist is more generalized, and being a drag queen is way more specific. I know I kind of let go of the idea of being a drag queen because, for most people, the stereotypical drag queen lip syncs and performs. I've been working on my burlesque and my live music, and I don't really have the drive to dance and flip flop and be doing dips and, 'Is she gonna jump from there?' It's just not something I want to do. It's something that is part of me, but it's not something that I'm carrying into the future, so I’m kind of leaving the term behind.[2]

In May 2019, Aja was sponsored by Starbucks to promote the company's S'Mores Life contest.[24]

Music[edit]

Aja released the single "Level Ya Pussy Up" with producers WNNR and DJ Accident Report in February 2017.[25] Aja's single with fellow season 9 queens Sasha Velour, Peppermint and Alexis Michelle, titled "C.L.A.T.", was released on April 21, 2017.[26][27] The track was produced by DJ Mitch Ferrino, who was featured on "Purse First" by Bob the Drag Queen.[28] Producer Adam Joseph remixed Aja's rant about fellow season 9 queen Valentina in a track called "Linda Evangelista".[29][30][31] In September 2017, Aja appeared in the music video for Velo's song "Big D*ck Daddy" alongside Phi Phi O'Hara.[32]

On March 1, 2018, Aja released a solo music video, "Finish Her!", which was produced in collaboration with WNNR and DJ Accident Report. It features some of Aja's runway looks from All Stars 3.[33] Their debut EP, In My Feelings, was released on May 11, 2018.[34] Videos for two other songs from In My Feelings, "Brujería" and "I Don't Wanna Brag", were released on May 7, 2018, and July 13, 2018, respectively.[35][36] Aja's second EP, All Caps, was released on June 28, 2019.[4]

Aja's debut studio album, BOX Office, was released on February 7, 2019.[37] The album consists of fifteen tracks and includes features from Shea Couleé and CupcakKe.[38] A music video for the album's single "Jekyll & Hyde" (featuring Shilow) was released ahead of the album on February 1, 2019.[39] On September 27, 2019, Aja released a Halloween-themed collaborative EP with Shilow titled Nail in the Coffin.[40] It was preceded by the music videos for its singles "Mama Chola" (featuring Amira Wang) on August 30, 2019, and "The Purge" on September 23, 2019.[41][42]

Personal life[edit]

Aja resides in New York City.[43] They use singular they pronouns.[3][44]

Just before filming season 9 of Drag Race, Aja was in a situation of domestic violence with a previous boyfriend.[45] In December 2017, Aja and their current boyfriend were kicked out of a Lyft after kissing.[11][46] The driver was later fired, and the company issued a statement of support for Aja.[46]

In August 2018, Aja was banned from Twitter for referring to a user who discounted their gender identity as a "senseless cow".[47] Their account was reinstated after a few hours.[48] In a July 2019 interview with them. Magazine, Aja shared that they were in the process of changing their legal name from their birth name to Aja in order to reflect their non-binary gender identity.[6] They said,

I’ve never identified with the name I have. Being adopted and already having several names, I feel like the name I was given wasn’t even my real name. I was like, it’d be nice to have my own name. Especially for someone who identifies as more fluid on the spectrum, as nonbinary, one of the things that really influenced was people thinking there’s this dramatic transformation and detachment from Aja as a person and an artist. What people don’t realize is that Aja the artist is Aja the person, there is no difference.[6]

They further stated,

I don’t like to be dead named. It’s really uncomfortable when people do that because even the people in my life don’t call me by my government name. I don’t think it’s proper or respectful. Everyone calls me Aja, even my mom sometimes.[6]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Title Details
BOX Office

EPs[edit]

Title Details Ref(s)
In My Feelings [34]
ALL CAPS
  • Released: June 28, 2019
  • Label: self-released
  • Formats: digital download
[4][5]
Nail in the Coffin
  • Released: September 27, 2019 (with Shilow)
  • Label: self-released
  • Formats: CD, digital download
[40]

Singles[edit]

Title Year Album Notes Ref(s)
"Level Ya Pussy Up" 2017 Non-album singles [25]
"C.L.A.T."
(feat. DJ Mitch Ferrino; with Alexis Michelle, Peppermint, & Sasha Velour)
[28]
"Finish Her!"
(feat. WNNR & DJ Accident Report)
2018 In My Feelings [33]
"Brujería"
(feat. DJ Mitch Ferrino)
[49]
"Demons, Witches & Bitches"
(feat. Shilow & Vixen)
Non-album singles [50]
"Art Jesus" [51]
"Jekyll and Hyde"
(feat. Shilow)
2019 BOX Office [52]
"Commercial" All Caps [4]
"Mama Chola"
(feat. Amira Wang)
Nail in the Coffin Credited to AJA & Shilow [7][41]
"The Purge" Credited to AJA & Shilow [42]

Filmography[edit]

Television[edit]

Year Title Role
2017 RuPaul's Drag Race (season 9) Contestant (9th place)
RuPaul's Drag Race: Untucked (season 9)
2018 RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars (season 3) Contestant (7th place)
2019 Tattoo Tales Themself

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Ref
2018 Femme Panzy LaRue [53]

Internet series[edit]

Year Title Role Ref(s)
2018 Hey Qween! Guest; accompanied by the Haus of Aja [54]
Fashion Photo RuView Guest host (two episodes) [55][56]
Ayo Sis Host [23]
Follow Me Subject of one episode [57]
Call Me Couleé Guest [58]

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Ref(s)
2017 "Too Funky" (short) [59]
"C.L.A.T." (short) [28]
2018 "Finish Her!" [60][61]
"Brujería" [35][62]
"I Don't Wanna Brag" [36]
"I'm Kawaii / Ayo Sis" [63][64]
2019 "Jekyll & Hyde feat. Shilow" [52]
"Mama Chola" [41]
"The Purge" [42]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Aja [@ajaqueen] (January 4, 2018). "God its my birthday yall. 24 years old never seemed more anti climatic lol. But i guess ill combine my farewell 2017 post with my birthday post.
    This past year has definitely been one for the books"
    (Tweet). Archived from the original on February 24, 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2018 – via Twitter.
  2. ^ a b c Street, Mikelle (July 3, 2018). "Why 'Drag Race' Alum Aja Is No Longer Using the Term 'Drag Queen'". them. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on July 4, 2018. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Spanos, Brittany (February 7, 2019). "'Drag Race' Star Aja Is Ready to Be Your New Trap Queen". Rolling Stone. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on October 29, 2019. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Blynn, Alex (June 14, 2019). "Aja Discusses Feeling Pigeonholed, Artistic Integrity, & Their New Single 'Commercial'". Billboard. Lynne Segall. Archived from the original on June 14, 2019. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Malone, Chris (June 28, 2019). "Aja Delivers Viciousness & Vulnerability On 'ALL CAPS' EP". Forbes. Forbes Media LLC. Archived from the original on June 29, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e Goodman, Elyssa (July 12, 2019). "Exclusive: Nonbinary Rapper Aja Discusses Their Name Change". them. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on July 14, 2019. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Nolfi, Joey (August 30, 2019). "RuPaul's Drag Race alum Aja sizzles in fierce 'Mama Chola' music video". Entertainment Weekly. Meredith Corporation. Archived from the original on September 13, 2019. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  8. ^ The Editors (June 10, 2019). "The Most Powerful Drag Queens in America: Ranking the new establishment". New York. New York Media, LLC. Archived from the original on June 10, 2019. Retrieved June 10, 2019.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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  14. ^ Aja [@ajaqueen] (October 28, 2019). "It's like are y'all for real lol someone went on it and fixed all of it up and then I saw it just now and it's like stuff that's not even true lol like I'm not Libyan and it says that, also I was not adopted by a single mother" (Tweet). Archived from the original on October 29, 2019. Retrieved October 29, 2019 – via Twitter.
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  20. ^ Aja [@ajaqueen] (April 16, 2018). "The #Hausofaja would like to present to you our newest member @janelle.no.5 !!! We love this hoe and can't wait to see what this woman adds to our collective ✨💕 @dahlia_sin @thekandymuse @momoshade photo by @orograph" (Tweet). Archived from the original on April 17, 2018. Retrieved April 17, 2018 – via Twitter.
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  49. ^ "Brujería (feat. Mitch Ferrino) - Single". iTunes Store. May 7, 2018. Retrieved May 7, 2018.
  50. ^ Bote, Joshua (October 17, 2018). "Aja Links With The Vixen For Spooky, Nicki Minaj-Inspired Track: Listen". Billboard. Lynne Segall. Archived from the original on October 17, 2018. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  51. ^ Rodriguez, Mathew (November 14, 2018). "Aja Continues a Hot Streak with Rap Single 'Art Jesus'". INTO. Grindr LLC. Archived from the original on November 15, 2018. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
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  54. ^ Out.com Editors (January 29, 2018). "Watch Aja Sashay Her Way Onto the Season Premiere of Hey Qween". Out. Joe Landry. Archived from the original on February 22, 2018. Retrieved February 21, 2018.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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  56. ^ "FASHION PHOTO RUVIEW: Mermaid Fantasy with Raja and Aja". Fashion Photo RuView. May 5, 2018. WOW Presents. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
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  59. ^ Lynch, Joe (April 4, 2017). "Peppermint Leads 'RuPaul's Drag Race' Queens In Recreation of George Michael's 'Too Funky' Video: Exclusive". Billboard. Lynne Segall. Archived from the original on August 19, 2017. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  60. ^ QWEERIST Editor (March 4, 2018). "AJA Levels Up In 'Finish Her' Music Video". QWEERIST. Retrieved March 4, 2018.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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  63. ^ Daw, Stephen (September 24, 2018). "Aja Shows Off All Aspects of Gender in New Dual Video for 'Ayo Sis/Bitch I'm Kawaii': Watch". Billboard. Lynne Segall. Archived from the original on September 24, 2018. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  64. ^ Aja The Kween (September 24, 2018). AJA - I'm Kawaii / Ayo Sis (Official Music Video) (YouTube video). Retrieved September 24, 2018.

External links[edit]