For those who like outrageous costumes, endless drama and hilarious — albeit at times salty — language, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” just might be the most entertaining 90 minutes on television.
The show, hosted by award-winning actor-singer and famed drag queen RuPaul, is in its sixth season on cable’s Logo TV. This season, 14 drag queens from across the country traveled to Los Angeles to compete for the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar,” plus cosmetics from Colorevolution and $100,000 in cash.
Four of the contestants are from Southern California — Azusa’s Danny “Adore Delano” Noriega, 24; West Hollywood’s Shane “Courtney Act” Jenek, 32; 24-year-old Van Nuys resident Jay “Laganja Estranja” Jackson; and 37-year-old Kelly Mantle of Los Angeles, who was the first eliminated.
For reality television secrecy is a key component, so it was a surprise when Laganja Estranja, winner of the season’s first mini challenge, showed up to find good friend Adore Delano is also a contestant.
“Being on the show with a good friend has had its ups and downs,” said Laganja Estranja, who holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance and choreography from the California Institute of the Arts. “I was happy to see Adore was there, but there’s a lot of tension when we’re competing against each other. It’s a catch-22.”
Competitive challenges include photo shoots, runway fashion shows, lip-synching and acting — all of which are judged by L.A. fashion designer Santino Rice and pop singer Michelle Visage, as well as guest judges Paula Abdul, Linda Blair, Neil Patrick Harris, Khloe Kardashian and Adam Lambert.
Adore Delano won the mini challenge on March 10 and was rewarded by becoming one of two team captains for the episode’s elimination round, in which two teams were required to act out a scene from the horror spoof “Drag Race Me to Hell” and give their best “queen scream.”
Being on the show has bolstered Adore Delano’s and Laganja Estranja’s careers. Both are constantly traveling and performing; Laganja Estranja performs with Barbie’s Addiction at Micky’s in West Hollywood every Thursday night and Adore Delano performs at Shark Club in Costa Mesa.
Before Laganja Estranja was cast for “Drag Race,” it was difficult for her to find work in the theater arts.
“Six months after graduation I still couldn’t find a job,” said Laganja Estranja, who hopes one day to be the choreographer for her own theater company. “I put on a dress and all of a sudden I started getting booked everywhere. Doing drag is not where I saw myself, but I take life as it comes. I always say that I didn’t choose drag; it was more like drag chose me.”
Sashaying down that path led Laganja Estranja to “Drag Race,” and an experience she’d never forget.
“It was the craziest thing I’ve done so far,” she said. “Most of the time it was 14-hour days with seven or eight of those hours in drag. It was insane. I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought it was going to be rainbows and unicorns, but it was cutthroat. I mean, put your seat belt on.”
Adore Delano might have been a bit more prepared for the whirlwind experience. As 17-year-old Danny Noriega, Adore appeared on Season 7 of “American Idol.”
“I grew up singing and I love it,” said Adore Delano. “I used to compete in and win singing competitions — and they didn’t even know I was a boy.”
The outspoken performer likes buying clothes and accessories at thrift stores for the costumes she dons in competitions.
“I like wearing other people’s stories,” said Adore Delano, who came out as a teenager and started dressing as a girl at 14.
Adore Delano’s ultimate goal is to bring drag into the mainstream.
“I am a serious artist,” she said. “I pay my mortgage, bought a car, pay all my bills, all from this. At the end of the day I just want everybody to know — gay couples, straight couples — we are all human beings. We are all working to make things better for ourselves. We are not freaks.”
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” airs at 9 p.m. Mondays. There are 11 remaining contestants — three from Southern California — with the next elimination set for Monday.