A Chat with Eureka O’Hara
Last month, RuPaul’s Drag Race was just heating up when we had a chance to chat with East Tennessee’s own drag superstar, Eureka. We caught up with her about her career, how she got started, and what she could tell us about this season so far. You know we had a good time, and got some good stories out of this one!
Tell us a little about how you got your start in drag!
I got my show start here in Johnson City, Tennessee. I was a student at East Tennessee State University… I just got started because I went out in drag one night for fun and was having fun with some of the locals here. There were a few groups that said … you know, you should do it more often. I started doing some talent shows and working with PFLAG in the Tricities and Tennessee Equality project as an entertainer as a way to also be a part of the organizations and to give back, to have a bit of a larger voice.
Then I started working here locally every other weekend and making pretty good money—as a college student it’s always nice to be making a little extra money. So that’s kind of where I got started…
You mentioned you were “out in drag” when you got started…. What inspired you to go out in drag to begin with?
Well, I have a weird story about that actually [laughing]… When I was a high school student, I was using a fake ID—it was my cousin’s ID—to go to the bar when I was trying to ‘discover’ my LGBT-friendly self. Whenever I turned 18, I was terrified to go in with my regular ID—I just knew I was going to go to jail or whatever. I was young and silly. Then the ID I was using expired, and they wouldn’t take it anymore!
So I had this grand idea: ‘Oh, if I go out in drag, then they won’t know I’m the same person!’ So I would always go out in drag for the longest time, and so that’s kind of where she came from… She just kinda popped up on the scene! Eureka is after my mom’s name, cause I’m named after my dad… So Eureka was born, honey!
What was it like hearing you had gotten on Drag Race the first time?
I got the call in the middle of my nap. I thought it was a dream when I legitimately woke up. I went to the restroom and looked at my phone and noticed I had a call. So I had to call the office and be like, “This is Eureka… Did I speak to someone in your office? Could I speak to them again?” And so I spoke to one of the casting directors and said, “Did you call me?” and they said, “Yeah, you made it on the show!”
So I flipped out, dropped my phone in the toilet—it was so dramatic. I grabbed the phone out of the toilet and drove to my mom’s house. My mom was ecstatic—she was so happy for me! I had talked about if for years.
Who did you meet that you initially thought you might not click with that you ended up really enjoying?
I honestly think Charlie Hides, for me, for season nine, was definitely one of those people. I was unclear … obviously she told me to shut up pretty aggressively in the second episode, so I was like, ‘I don’t think I’m gonna like this ho!’ But I ended up falling in love with her—she’s a hard-working gal. Sometimes you gotta respect your elders!
We all know how that season ended for you. What was the reception you got back home or while traveling?
The fans were disappointed because I went home early of course, but there was also a feeling that I went home fourth… The fans got to see some of me but maybe not enough to get invested, you know? But I got a lot of love and support, for sure, from drag queens, and from fans. At Drag Con, so many people came to see me just to check on how my knee was doing…
At what point did you realize you were going to be able to go on Season Ten?
I literally got approved by my doctor two weeks before filming. So I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go. And then also my mom was sick—well she is sick, but she was going through chemo and radiation really heavily right before filming. I almost stayed out of filming for that as well. So it was definitely a weird situation… My life is like a Lifetime series.
So, with all that going on, what was it like to go back into the workroom?
It was a lot of pressure, but it was awful exciting, and I had a lot of anxiety—that's probably the best way to describe my reaction in the beginning. When I first got there, and no one really knew that I was coming back. There was a little shock when I was there. There was a little bit of bitterness, maybe, or people thinking that I have the upper hand.
I quickly proved that I did not! I was nervous… It took me a minute to get out of my head.
Were there things that you prepared for, or things that you had learned, that you kind of brought to this season?
I watched myself on TV, so I got to kind of see myself in that element. And I thought that I'd changed more about myself than apparently I did! It's kind of hard because you can't prepare yourself for that situation like you think you can. You prepare yourself, thinking it's going to be the same way that it was before. But it's a whole new group of people, it's a whole new circumstance, and challenges.
I watched all the episodes, during my down time from surgery. I really just kind of worked on my confidence, the direction that I wanted to present myself on the show—which was all out the window once the anxiety monster started eating at my head the first day!
People look at it like such an advantage, mentally, and there are a handful of advantages. Like I was able to maybe work on looks—on certain hair or certain outfits, like maybe a finale dress, or things that you know are coming. But you don't get a list of costumes until you find out that you're definitely filming. And you don't get that list until the weeks before going to filming…
There were also a handful of disadvantages … going back into the competition, being with a whole group of girls that the judges haven't seen, so they have the element of surprise. My biggest disadvantage was they already knew who Eureka was. It was hard to reach ‘shock and awe,’ so I had to really turn up the heat to get that same exciting response…
Then judges are like, "Whoa, we're used to you being so much more confident, so much more exciting and happy and jolly in general!" And I was just eating myself alive with anxiety, so I had to get rid of that heavy rope.
Had you met any of these queens?
I had met a few of the girls. I randomly met Miz Cracker when I was filming my music for body positivity that week in New York. And I had literally didn't realize it was the same person until a week into competing. She's like, "You don't remember me from brunch?" And I was like "No." She was like, "Bitch, you bought the wig off my head!" She was Brianna Cracker then—she's only been Miz Cracker for like the last year apparently, I guess. But I was completely floored by that.
Same question as before: are there people this season that you kind of clicked with?
Kameron Michaels for sure. The first day, before we came out, we were split up into groups of two, and put in these holding rooms for the premiere episode... Me and Kameron were in the same room, and I got to know her the first day. She's from Tennessee, and we just had so much in common. Randomly, throughout the season, we've gotten closer... We kind of ... she's not a talker and I'm a talker… It’s perfect because she loves to listen!
But it's so hard, I love them all. But there's definitely a lot of them that I just adore.
What's the more cringe worthy moment that you've had watching the show with other people?
My exit for sure … maybe. I don't know… I would have to say, it's definitely the lipstick episode this season, because just being in a bar full of people, seeing yourself at such a weak moment, on TV. Reliving those emotions that you're going through, and that fear of going home after all the hard work to get back, was very intimidating to do in a bar full of people.
There was a lot Eureka couldn’t share at the time of our interview since only three episodes had aired. Be sure to check back with us after this season—hopefully we can get her on the line again!