From the moment she walked into the werk room on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 6 (I mean, who could forget that entrance?), Laganja Estranja won our hearts. This Texas-born queen may not have won the crown, but she has kept busy since her time on the show. A notable choreographer, Laganja has appeared on So You Think You Can Dance and has kept fans entertained on both YouTube and TikTok.
This talented performer is also proving her mettle as a singer – and she’s coming out with guns blazing. Her latest video, “Daddy” is so hot, it might possibly melt your computer monitor. Laganja took time out of her busy schedule to talk about the video “Daddy”, described as “WAP for Queens”, which was two years in the making. She discusses working during a pandemic and what she’s been up to. She also sits in the hot seat for our Socialite Seven, revealing her inspirations and the show that she can’t stop bingeing.
How did the song and video for “Daddy” come about?
I’ve actually been sitting on the song for about two years now and I was overly lucky that a producer named CRYSTALBOY approached me. He’s from the UK and we did all of our correspondence over the internet. Once we got the beat to where we wanted it, I had my dear friend Krysta Youngs write on the phone with me, along with Myah Marie. The three of us wrote the song together and it wasn’t until I found a production company known as BSE in Atlanta that the song really got its final iteration. They reproduced the entire beat and we finally got the end product, “Daddy.”
Once we got the song complete, I was really in love with music and making music specifically with BSE. I’ve worked with several producers throughout my career – as I launched music when I first started drag – but it took me a while to find a family like BSE. I really do consider them family. They came to me with the idea to make more music, so we did, we made more music. Once the music was all made, I decided “Look At Me” was our strongest single and we went forward with that two years ago, but making music is very difficult – and very expensive.
It’s taken me a while to get around to finally launching “Daddy”. I think “WAP” definitely inspired me. The song is sexually explicit, definitely sex-positive and encouraging people to let their inner freak flag fly. But I was always nervous to do that because I work with children as a dance teacher and cannabis is a huge part of my art form and that’s already caused some conflicts. I was afraid that releasing something so sexual, I might see the same sort of reaction. But, when “WAP” came out and was cherished by the world, I knew it was time for the gay version, and that’s why we finally released “Daddy.”
What was the experience like of shooting the “Daddy” video in the midst of the coronavirus?
Putting together this video was quite the challenge. We had 13 looks and we did this in two days, about 18 hours total. Because of quarantine, because I am a live performer, finances have been very difficult. I have been able to manage and pay my rent in Los Angeles, which I am very proud of as an independent artist. But we didn’t have the budget for “Look At Me”, my first video, which was $15,000. This one was only $3,000. Those confines forced me to be very creative and to get a lot of favors. So, most of the things you see in the video, including the participants, were donated. People really believed in me and wanted their art to be celebrated and shown during this time. I’m very fortunate that I was so supported in that way.
You used recycled set pieces for this video. Is recycling something that is important to you?
Absolutely. It’s very important to me as an artist that I not only be socially aware but that I’m also economically aware and the environment is something I definitely care about. I think as a cannabis advocate, it would be wrong of me to not love Mother Earth – that’s what we’re all known for. When I was doing this project, I wanted to make sure we weren’t going to leave a carbon footprint behind and that is why I used all recycled set pieces from EcoSet and when the project was over, instead of taking them to the junkyard, which is what most people would do, I actually paid EcoSet to take the sets back for me.
The way EcoSet works – and it’s really a genius project – is that they take things from Target or wherever and they refurbish them and allow you to take them for free. The whole idea behind it is that you don’t bring them back and keep recycling them. I knew for me, living in Los Angeles, I didn’t have space to store all of the props and I didn’t want to dump them. So, I chose to pay to give it back to where it came from and keep the recycling process happening.
The video looks so expensive, and I love the jeweled masks you wear. Who designed them?
The “Rhinestone Extraordinaire” for the video is named Cosmia, who was also featured in the video as a participant in the boudoir scene – or the bordello scene, if you will, that’s the name we went with. Cosmia does so much, they did the entire rhinestone face, which took three hours. They were at my house at 6:30 am to complete that process and they stuck around for the entire two days and helped out on set. The dress I wore is theirs, the bunny head mask is theirs, they just contributed so much to the project, so I am very grateful for that. They also just recently rhinestoned Kim Kardashian for her new perfume line, so I’m really glad that I was able to get in there before Cosmia blows up, because I know they are destined for stardom.
In addition to shooting “Daddy”, you also choreographed Katya’s video for “Ding Dong.” What was that experience like?
You know, Katya is so much fun to be around. She’s such a hysterical person, truly. What you see on TV is truly what you get – obviously, a little bit more subdued when she’s not on camera, but she’s so funny and we laughed so much. I actually choreographed the entire song, so she learned a dance that went from beginning to end, but of course, with the magic of editing, you didn’t get to see that. It just speaks to her level of expertise. She’s a gymnast and she was really able to keep up with my moves and I’m very proud of her for doing that – and for choosing me. She could have gone with anyone and I think the fact that she kept it in the drag family just speaks to the fact that LGBTQIA+ members are sticking together during this hard time and supporting one another.
How have you been doing during this hard time? What has the COVID experience been like for you, personally?
You know, I’m definitely one who sees the glass as half full. While it’s been challenging, it’s really pushed me as an artist to be creative, specifically with the space I live in. I have redone my living room and bedroom and patio more times than I ever would have thought, and it’s really allowed me to see how strong of a person I am. I know I’m a hard worker – I’m a Capricorn and we’re known for this, we’re known for being perfectionists. But I think during this time I really have learned that nothing can stop me but me and my attitude, so I just keep staying positive. I‘m so thankful we went blue. I’m so thankful that I am still a working artist during this time. There are those moments when I wonder, “What is the point of all this? Is spending $3000 on a music video really the smartest thing right now?” I have belief in myself and I feel really strong in the art I am making.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I am super excited to launch a Muse Me Christmas special. Muse Me is a series I have been doing with Robert Hayman, who directed, produced, art designed and styled the entire “Daddy” video. Our series was coming out every Monday on YouTube – at 4:20, of course – and this was a behind-the-scenes of the work we’ve created together. We filmed the entire behind-the-scenes process of “Daddy” and for our Christmas special, we will be showing people how we pulled off 13 looks in 18 hours.
And, of course, there’s more music on the horizon. I have two more singles that I’ve also been sitting on, along with “Daddy”, and I think I’m really finally ready to take the music industry seriously. I’ve been talking with two record labels and I think I’m almost positive on signing with one, which means I will finally be releasing a full, produced album known as Highconic. I’ve been teasing this for years but, as I said, it’s just been a struggle as an independent artist to finance all of this and that’s why a label is really going to change the game for me. So, hopefully, very soon, I’ll be announcing who I’ll be signing with and the launch date of Highconic.
Laganja Answers the Socialite Seven S7
Who has had the biggest influence on your music and why?
Oh, that’s a hard one! Man…I guess I would have to go with my biggest icon in life and that’s Missy Elliott. I really am attracted to her for many reasons, but the main reason I find her to be most sensational is that she was able to take pop music and inject it with intellectual ideas. For instance, I’m speaking of Supa Dupa Fly, where she’s in the music video in a giant fat suit and she’s there talking about the hypersexualization of the black female body and how black female bodies have been put on display. She wore a fat suit to take away from that – or to rather accentuate that.
That’s what I find so invigorating about art. Art that can reach the masses that is absolutely pop culture but also has a real message and meaning behind it. Not to bring it back to “Look at Me” or “Daddy”, but the “Look at Me” video is talking about cannabis and the disproportionate amount of people of color who are arrested for cannabis usage. And now we have “Daddy” which is about sex and breaking the stigma around sex and cannabis and encouraging people to be themselves. I always want to have something that’s topical, but I always want to have something that means something, and I think Missy Elliott has really been an incredible artist who has done that throughout her career. She also has incredible visuals, which, of course, I’m very inspired by and her dancing is always phenomenal and as a choreographer myself I am attracted to that kind of language – the language of dance.
I guess I know the answer to this one already…who (if anyone) would you love to collaborate with?
Well, yeah, Missy Elliott is definitely on that list, of course. I mean, that’s my dream. We are friends on Twitter. She has interacted with me a few times on there, so I know I’m at least slightly on her radar. The person who choreographed my first music video, Comfort Fedoke, is actually one of Missy Elliott’s dancers as well. So, I’m very hopeful that eventually people will see that. If it wasn’t Missy Elliott, another person I would love to collaborate with would be Meryl Streep. She’s my favorite actress in the world. I think she’s just incredible and I would love to be in a film with her. I grew up in musical theater, so acting is definitely another passion of mine and that would be incredible to be in a movie with her.
What type of music or artist that you listen to frequently do you think your fans would be surprised to learn that you’re a fan of?
Kacey Musgraves, although maybe it shouldn’t be much of big surprise as I am from Texas, but the reason I love her so much is because she’s known for getting stoned. She always says she’s higher than her hair. I just love her and listening to her music, it takes me back to growing up in Dallas and being around people who listen to George Strait, like my father, on repeat.
Are there any shows you’ve been bingeing recently?
I binge on the regular. I definitely love HBO Max. I’m a huge fan of Legendary, The Undoing, Murder on Middle Beach. I just love that platform. I think it’s incredible. But I would say my most recent binge that I’ve really enjoyed is The Great British Bake Off. I have found that it’s a slice of joy, if you will. Last night I watched the season finale, and I was just bawling. It just gives me so much joy, and I think during this time, as much as I love my crime documentaries, I need those moments of happiness and that show has brought me a lot of them.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Cannabis would be number one, my dog, Little Dabbers, would be number two, and I would say because I’m a dancer, I really need music. That would be number three. I need music to dance to.
What’s the weirdest question you’ve been asked?
Hmmm…I guess if I’m a top or bottom. I feel like that is very obvious, but people do ask that still.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Ooh, that’s a good one. I would think commitment. My parents really focused on commitment and when you sign up for something, you see that project through. And I think the best advice I was given was exactly that. When you sign up for something, you see it through – whether you are working with someone you don’t like or if the project isn’t of the same caliber as you hoped for or whatever. When you put your name down for something, you show up.