We’re only a few weeks into the fourth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but pageant queen Phi Phi O’Hara already has her fellow “queen-testants” on guard!
This ambitious star in the making helps people see stars (and anything, actually) during the day – but at night, her “take no prisoners” attitude has her in the crossfire of some of her competitors!
Learn more about the sweet guy living under the makeup – his inspirations, aspirations (suffice it to say, he’s definitely got a leg up if there happens to be a singing challenge this season) and the surprising way he makes a living outside of the spotlight in our exclusive interview!
Socialite Life: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Phi Phi O’Hara: I am originally from San Antonio, Texas and decided pack up and leave to Chicago, Illinois in the hopes of really following my dreams of being an entertainer with music, drag, and acting, but also – as cornball as it might sound – I hoped that “Mr. Right” was here for me…lol! In San Antonio I went to school for graphic and web design, but it wasn’t until my friend was desperate for help at a local optical that I really found my passion for Optics. I am now a certified optician and work for an optical called SPEX in Chicago, where I am not only able to help people medically but I get to be a little bit more fashion-forward and assist patients with finding the perfect pair of eyewear!
SL: How did you get started in drag?
Phi Phi: The first time I ever stepped out in drag was April 6th, 2004! Lol…and LADY PHOENIX was born! I did it more to shut people up, I was told I would be pretty, I would never win anything or be someone. I don’t like when people stomp on someone’s dreams. I entered multiple pageants and won and started to date a boy that made me quit (grrr) which I kind of find a blessing in disguise because while I wasn’t doing drag, I was able to brush up on my make-up skills, fashion designs, mixing and choreography – to really find the image for Lady Phoenix. A few years later I dumped the boy and followed my passions!
SL: How did you come up with your name?
Phi Phi: It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that people started to nickname me Phi Phi instead of Phoenix…I liked Phi Phi, I thought it was cute and sounded sassy and fun. The O’Hara was given to me by my drag mom, former US of A Asia O’Hara when she asked me to be a part of her family!
SL: Who are your biggest influences or inspirations?
Phi Phi: I base a lot of Phi Phi O’Hara’s persona on my mother! I grew up in a pretty hostile environment when I was a kid – which was both physically and mentally abusive – and my mom stood above everything to protect her kids and left the situation to ensure my sister and I were okay. She is a very hard working and strong individual who is tiny but has a big bite – just like me!
SL: How would you describe your look?
Phi Phi: I think the best part of my person is that I have many styles and I am able to change so easily. I am a little bit of punk, glam, pageant, you name it I have done it! I think learning about all forms and playing with different looks has helped my art!
SL: What do you enjoy most about performing?
Phi Phi: The best part about performing is when I am able to make people laugh! I love just being a fool on stage and really engaging the audience. I used to dance hardcore from start to finish and felt like that is how you HAVE to perform, but I find for me the audience really enjoys when you acknowledge they are there! They feel appreciated and I am nothing without my Phanatics!
SL: Where is your favorite place to perform?
Phi Phi: I love Spin Nightclub! They gave me my first job here in Chicago and they have really been the backbone for me through this whole experience. I love Spin because they appreciate the hard work it takes into being a drag queen and value the relationships they have with their entertainers!
SL: What can people expect to see when they come see you perform?
Phi Phi: Lots of sassy attitude, gorgeous costumes, big hair…and just one amazingly phierce show!
SL: What do you think separates you from the other queens?
Phi Phi: Well, I have been known to be a bitch! Haha But, at the end of the day I worked hard to get where I am! I am real with people which some like and some don’t, but I will never pretend to be someone I am not and I will always be honest and upfront about everything! Plus, I sing, dance, sew, act, draw, design…you name it, I do it!
SL: Out of all the queen-testants on this season of “Drag Race”, you’ve got the most surprising “day job”. Do you have any plans to do drag full-time?
Phi Phi: January will be my last month working in the optical business for a while! I love what I do! It is really cool because it is so extremely different than my drag career! I love being able to assist people with eyewear, contacts, sunwear not only medically but in a fashionable way. The good thing is people will always need eyewear so this is something I am able to come back to! Hopefully with a new line of my own eyewear!
SL: You’ve got an amazing singing voice (the video of you covering Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain” is making the rounds on the Internet). Is making music something you’ve always wanted to do?
Phi Phi: I have been singing since I was a kid and I have always been writing music as long as I can remember! I am excited to be able to finally work on an album and be known not as a Drag Race girl that has a cool dance single but a serious recording artist! It is a dream to be able to share my music with everyone and when I released the Bruno Mars cover I didn’t realize the effect it would have and how many people loved it! I am just glad they appreciate my talents!
SL: What was it like working with the other queens?
Phi Phi: Working or competing? LOL! We all have such huge personalities and everyone is soooooo talented this season that I really had to step up my game so not only would I be able to stay out but so people would know I was a phierce queen and one to look out for!
SL: What would people be surprised to know about you?
Phi Phi: As Jaremi I am pretty shy! lol I am very reserved and like to maintain a very professional appearance. I think a lot of that was influenced by my mom but I want people to take me seriously and know that when it is business it is business and when it is fun …well, let’s party!
SL: What do you hope people will learn about you from the show?
Phi Phi: I feel a lot of the queens are shown in one light and I am grateful I was able to showcase all of me – from Jaremi – to my optics to my drag to my singing to the things I hate about my body to the really hard childhood I had. I want people to be able to relate and see that you can get through anything and rise above it all!
SL: What song would be your dream song to “lip sync for your life”?
Phi Phi: A dream lip sync would not be for me to do but rather I would love to see RuPaul vs. Michelle Visage lip syncing one of my singles! And let me yell at them “Don’t phuck it up!” Ha!
SL: What words of wisdom do you live by?
Phi Phi: Tomorrow is never guaranteed, live each day like it is the last!
SL: Could you share one of your beauty tips with us?
Phi Phi: Krolyan TV-STICK is a miracle concealer for me – LMAO! Great coverage and super affordable!
SL: What one beauty item can you not live without?
Phi Phi: I would say my bang piece! LMAO because if there is a worst-case scenario I throw that baby on with some gloss and hit the stage! Ha!
SL: What are you hoping to gain from your experience on the show?
Phi Phi: 100,000 dollars!!! LMAO
SL: Any upcoming news, future projects or events you’d like to share with us?
Phi Phi: I have been doing my music before the show and then this opportunity came along to be on the show, so now that we are done taping I am excited to get back in the studio and work with some of the best producers, mixers, and writers to make a real album!
SL: How can your fans best stay in touch with you?
Phi Phi: I am always by my cell phone (even in the shower haha), so I am able to check my social media anytime! My Website www.PhiPhiOhara.com has the best ways to contact me whether it be PHACEBOOK, PHOLLOWING me on Twitter, or PHANmailing me! I always respond!