An Interview with Ra’Jah O’Hara, star of Death Drop

Following rave reviews at London’s Garrick Theatre, smash-hit drag murder mystery Death Drop will be sashaying into the Alexandra Theatre next week (23rd – 27th November) as part of their UK 2021 tour.

Starring Ru Paul’s Drag Race legends Willam, Ra’Jah O’Hara, Karen from Finance and the UK’s very own Vinegar Strokes, the killer comedy is set in 1991, as a gaggle of guests gather on the mysterious Tuck Island for a dinner party like no other. The tension rises as the outrageous guests reveal their questionable pasts and hidden secrets. As the ferocious finger pointing and savage speculation begins, one by one they sashay away, until at the last, nerve-shredding, side-splitting moment we find out who-dunnit!

I got the chance to have a quick chat with Ra’Jah O’Hara at Mailmaison Birmingham ahead of the Birmingham shows to find out more about Death Drop, her character Summer Raines and what makes the ‘Queen of the Death Drop’ tick.

All four queens had just returned from a shopping trip to Grand Central, during which they had done some amazing makeovers at Mac (Ra’Jah was holding a large bag of Mac products). Knowing that Ra’Jah’s favourite colour was purple I presented her with a large bar of Cadbury’s because Birmingham is the home of Cadbury’s and, well… chocolate. As always, she looked stunning – tall and glamorous with perfect make-up and legs to die for, complete with the highest pair of purple heels I’ve ever seen. 

Welcome to Birmingham! Is this the first time you’ve visited the city?

This is the first time I’m coming to Birmingham. It’s gorgeous!

Where have you been on your tour so far?

We started in Southend and then we went to Dublin which was absolutely gorgeous, I loved it. And Manchester, I had a good time in Manchester – a lot of shopping, a lot of fun, Cardiff was also gorgeous and we’ve been staying next to castles and visiting castles. It makes a queen feel so important to just visit all the castles.

Death Drop is coming to the Alexandra very soon and I’m so excited! Tell us a little bit about Death Drop and what the Birmingham audience can expect from the show.

Death Drop is a murder mystery – we’re trying to figure out who is killing everybody at a dinner party. You can expect a lot of twists and turns, a lot of guessing games and a lot of great laughs. It keeps you on the edge of your seat – it’s just a fun, camp time. You know, after coming through a pandemic and being able to come to an actual theatre and see entertainers… Everyone in the show is drag or drag related – we have drag queens, kings and everyone in between, we have an AFAB* queen as well, so it’s super diverse and so much fun. I would say family fun but not quite for the whole family because there are moments where we take. it. there.

*Note – for those who may be unfamiliar with the term, an AFAB Queen is a queen who was ‘assigned female at birth.’

You’re playing the role of meteorologist Summer Raines. Tell us a bit about Summer and how much of your own persona have you put into the character?

The part of Summer that I have put into the role myself is her bubbly spirit. She’s a lot of fun, she doesn’t take a lot of mess from a lot of people so that’s also a little bit of my character as well, and of course you know I had to dress her up in my signature colour of purple. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but we don’t see as much of Summer but there are some great twists coming. 

Ra’Jah O’Hara as Summer Raines

There are four queens from three different countries in the show: yourself and Willam from the US, Vinegar Strokes from the UK and Karen from Finance from Australia. Have you found any differences in the way that you approach things, present yourselves, how you interact or even get ready when preparing for the show? 

The thing that I’ve realised is that Drag is not a one size fits all.  It is for everybody – everybody is allowed to have their own expression in drag so what we all bring to this particular stage, not only is it the work ethic that Ru Paul’s Drag Race has taught us, like being able to get in drag really quick, pick up lines, pick up choreography and to take on anything and any challenges that are thrown our way. The show allows us to express our individual personalities as well and that’s what I love about Drag and that’s what I love about working in this particular show. This is the first type of staged play that I’ve ever been a part of so to know that the first thing that I have done is drag based, inclusive and most diverse cast that I have ever been a part of is what I absolutely love. 

What’s it like to be on tour? How are you able to move from place to place and be able to keep your motivation?

Personally I am an only child, so I was okay with being alone because that was the only option that I had. I didn’t have a lot of cousins or family members that were my age, so I grew up being around just myself and finding ways to entertain myself. That’s how I stumbled across drag and playing with make-up at a young age. Being on tour, for me, especially as an adult is the same thing – it really takes me back to my childhood, finding joy in the things around me and creating fun, energy and entertainment.

Do you feed off that after a great show and a lively audience? How are you able to sleep after a show?

There’s so much adrenaline going on when you perform because we throw our all into these characters and we have so much fun. After the show, there’s usually a wind down period but, for me, it always takes me about an hour to just try and relax. You know what helps? A great bath, a great shower, because, you know, being in heels and running around the stage all day. Miss Summer wears some pretty high heels!

How is it that you manage to stay in heels all day? I manage an hour or two for a wedding and then have to soak my feet for a week – what’s your secret?

I will give that credit to Ru Paul’s Drag Race as well, because taping Drag Race, especially on runway days, those days were so long you would probably be in drag for at least twelve hours so we would be in heels for at least twelve hours. We prepared our feet, but then what I love is that I wear the tallest heels but they are so comfortable. That’s why they call them ‘pleasers’ because they are so pleasing to the foot – they just grab your foot and comfort. 

You’re known as Queen of the Death Drop. How are you able to do it without injuring yourself?

Let me tell you, you can easily injure yourself. The first week that we performed in Southend I actually hurt my back doing my death drop. I will say take your time, and if you can’t do it just find a graceful way to get there. Not everybody’s body is meant to do a death drop because you will literally drop dead. Don’t do it. 

I could see that we were running out of time so I wanted to do a very quickfire set of questions to find out more about Ra’Jah. 

Who or what feeds your energy?

*Very enthusiastically* Shopping feeds my energy.

If music could play when you walked down the street what would be your theme tune?

*Starts singing – she has a really great voice!* Bad Girl by Rihanna.

Dolly, Whitney, Kylie, Cher or someone else?

Diana Ross.

How do you get your lipstick to stay on all evening?

I use a Retro Matte from Mac.

Are there any up and coming queens and / or kings from your hometown that we should check out?

My best friend Loretta Mac, but in this particular show there are a few kings that some people don’t know, so Richard Energy and Georgia Frost.

Birmingham has a large and proud multicultural and LGTBQ+ community and we host one of the biggest pride celebrations in the country every year.

Get me to come back for pride! (Note: I only wish I had that power – I’d have so much fun!)

What’s your best advice for the members of the community who are still unsure or afraid to be open about who they really are?

The thing about being in the closet is that is that nobody can tell you when to come out of the closet. It’s really not a closet, it’s about inviting people into your actual life. That’s what I like to say, it’s more like a room that you’re inviting people into, not a room that you’re coming out of. Take your time, invite the people that you want in, but it’s not a place for everybody because your sexuality and sexual preferences are not everybody’s business. 

And with that our time was up and all four queens were promptly whisked away for a quick photoshoot before heading off to their next destination… in those incredible heels. I’m so excited about the show!

Want to see Ra’Jah in action on stage at Death Drop at The Alexandra Theatre? Tickets are on sale for the Birmingham shows at The Alexandra Theatre – you can purchase them here!

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