Get to know Aura Mayari, the Filipina Moon Goddess of 'Drag Race'

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Filipina moon goddess Aura Mayari is in the running to become America's Next Drag Superstar. Photo from RU PAUL'S DRAG RACE/FACEBOOK

Aura Mayari put in her audition tape for the biggest drag show on television, leaving her fate in the hands of people she hoped would see the star power in her. She got in on the first try.

“When I got the call saying I made the show, I totally freaked out and couldn't understand anything that they were saying on the phone. I had to tell them to give me a minute to breathe,” she says.

The Filipino-American is set to compete against 15 other queens on the 15th season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” With $200,000 and a lifetime of drag reverence on the line, Aura has her eyes on the crown.

In her introductory video that officially made her a RuGirl, part of a YouTube stream with over a million views, Aura gets straight to the point: she is your Filipina moon goddess. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and is now based in Nashville, Tennessee.

When asked about the origin of her drag name, Aura makes her Filipino pride crystal clear, combining Filipino gay slang term Aura and lunar deity Mayari (“the most beautiful divinity in Bathala’s court” according to local anthropology) to create the celestial queen she is today.

Gravitating toward Mayari was inevitable. “Growing up, I watched a lot of anime and superhero movies. For some reason, I always gravitated towards characters with gray or white hair, and coincidentally, they were all connected to the moon,” Aura says. “When deciding what to name myself in drag, I wanted to pay tribute to my heritage and to my obsession with gray hair.”

Dubbed the Walking FaceTune of Chicago, Aura is the face of the season. In drag, she sports her signature gray hair and flashes her pearly whites while performing, describing her drag style as “very edgy, very fashionable, very boss bitch vibe, queen of the night.” Out of drag, she is more masculine, armed with self-proclaimed Jay-Z swag and muscles borne out of regular heavy lifting at the gym. Aura is not only aware of the unique juxtaposition of her masculine and feminine sides — she relishes in it and blurs the line whenever she feels like it.

“I act the way I want to because I am comfortable with myself… Everyone should just be free to express themselves how they want to express themselves. There's no shame in who you are and how you act. Just make sure you are being authentic to yourself, and not acting a certain way to impress the people around you,” she says.

As a 13-year-old Filipino kid who was new to the States in 2003, Aura knows firsthand the struggle of the Filipino diaspora.

“I was called names like Chinese and Japanese, which at that time, I thought they were just clueless until I realized that it was a way for them to make fun of me as an Asian immigrant,” she laments.

Enduring discrimination “made her strong” and pushed her to be an all-around kid, excelling in academics, venturing into sports like basketball and volleyball, and eventually joining musical theater, which was her gateway into drag.

She quickly rose in the Chicago drag scene thanks to her high-energy moves, but balancing a 9-to-5 and weekend drag gigs took a toll on her, forcing her to put Aura Mayari in the backseat. She moved to Nashville with her fiancé in the middle of the pandemic, wanting a fresh start in a place warmer and cheaper, with no plans of joining the local drag scene. But as she put it, drag kept following her everywhere she went.

“I moved to Nashville, and Play Dance Bar, where I work now, found out that I moved. I auditioned and got the job and finally decided to do drag full time and left my day job,” she explains.

Honing her craft is hard work. Working in nightlife takes up most of her time now; she rarely goes out to party, which she says has improved her health. At Play, where she performs several nights a week, she does six numbers a night, bringing the weekly total to 30.

The grind paid off. Aura makes her mark as Nashville’s “best, most stunning, and most electrifying drag performer” as she struts into the Werk Room (“dressed for battle,” as Season 5 and All Stars 7 winner Jinkx Monsoon says in the Pit Stop), as seen in the double premiere watched by 1.3 million viewers.

Competitors Irene Dubois and Luxx Noir London catch a glimpse of what Aura can do as she walks in while showcasing her killer moves.

“You’re already out of breath,” Irene points out.

Aura responds: “Girl, I was doing too much!”

The Moon Goddess survived Saturday’s double premiere, placing safe after her performance of to BLACKPINK’s “Kill This Love” and her all-black look on the runway.

RuPaul’s Drag Race, arguably the biggest platform for drag today, announced the cast on the morning of December 13, turning Aura’s life upside down.

She found her face plastered on MTV’s promotional materials. She’s gained 20,000 followers since the announcement. She was stopped by at least four people at the airport when she was traveling back to Chicago for the holiday season.

Preparing for Season 15 was a challenge. After getting the call, she had to work on her package immediately, going from state to state to meet with different designers for her runway looks. As a queen in a new city, Aura did not have the luxury of relying on friends’ support while going through the whole process. “I almost wanted to give up and I cried almost every night,” she says.

She flew to Hollywood in May to begin filming the competition with 15 other queens, most of whom were total strangers to her. The sole familiar face was Sasha Colby, a renowned queen most known for winning Miss Continental in 2012.

The queen is excited to show viewers what she’s got. On the runway, she promises “fashion, edginess, some Filipino influence in my style, and friendly shade.” Beyond that, she wants fans to see that Asian queens are more than just pretty faces.

“One thing that I pride myself on is my ability to become one with my songs. If I do a sad ballad, I'll make sure you feel my emotions through your bones. And when I do a dance number, I'll make sure that you are as out of breath as I am. You're getting a total performance when I am on stage. I may not be your stunt queen, but I will definitely give you lots of hairography, hip-hop, death drops, duck walks, and facial acrobatics,” she says.

Having grown up gay in Manila, Aura understands the responsibility she now holds in representing Filipino queer kids on television. Even from across the pond, she makes it a point to stay in the loop with Philippine drag, booking Brigiding her first gig in the States back in 2019, and even participating in Jiggly Caliente’s Pinay digital drag show in 2020. She rang in the new year, her first as a RuGirl, by performing Puede Ba by Maymay Entrata at Play.

Drag is now more popular than ever in the Philippines, with shows like “Drag Race Philippines” and “Drag Den” pushing the artform to a national audience.

“I knew the Filipina queens were going to slay so I was SO looking forward to watching [Drag Race Philippines],” she says.

Aura joins a long list of Filipino queens who have appeared in the original franchise, including Manila Luzon of Season 3 (now the host of the Filipino drag competition “Drag Den”), whom she credits as one of the reasons behind her foray into drag. As the season rolls on, she’ll be touring the States and beyond to perform in different bars and clubs. Will she be coming home to perform in Manila? She’d love to — one email from local producers and she’ll make it happen.

Asked why she should be America’s drag superstar, she jokes at first: she is the most talented, she is pretty. She stutters and takes a serious turn. “I just want to inspire a lot of people out there.”

Under all the pressure of being in the running to become America’s next drag superstar, Aura is determined to stay authentic, hoping to be an inspiration to young queer Filipinos.

“I lived in the slums by NAIA when I was little. Here I am now, doing what I love to do, and slaying on an American TV show on MTV,” she says. “Nothing is impossible. Never lose hope.”