After shooting to stardom and snatching the crown last year on season 10 of RuPaul's Drag Race, spending months trotting the globe on a grueling drag tour, and recently making history as the first drag queen to grace the red carpet at the Met Gala, it's almost hard to believe that Giovanni Palandrani -- better known as Aquaria -- just turned 23 years old.
The star's new series Werq the World premiered on World of Wonder's new streaming network in June. It takes a very raw, behind-the-scenes look at the world's biggest touring drag show, which stars some of the brightest names in the game (including Latrice Royale, Violet Chachki, and Alyssa Edwards). Each episode centers around a different performer on tour.
"I think it offers a great look into the touring life and our lives as queens," says Aquaria, whose episode opens the season. Filmed in traditional documentary format, the series gives a fly-on-the-vanity-mirror vantage point and reveals the human beings behind the makeup. And of course, there is drama. "It will definitely keep the kids entertained whilst on a Drag Race hiatus," Aquaria says.
One of the highlights of the Werq series -- aside from seeing a lighter, funnier Aquaria -- is the adorable relationship between the performer and her drag mother and tour mate, Sharon Needles (Aaron Coady).
"She used to run my fan club," blurts Sharon in Aquaria's episode, partly poking fun but also beaming with pride. And it's true. Some seven years earlier, a young Palandrani watched in awe as the goth underdog from small-town Iowa became a fan favorite and was crowned America's Next Drag Superstar in season 4 of Drag Race.
The two eventually met and Sharon took baby Aquaria under her drag mother wing, and they have remained close ever since. Their age difference is something that Aquaria seems to enjoy, which often results in hilarious banter. In one backstage scene, after Aquaria scolds her drag mother for smoking, Sharon quips, "You know the new drag generation, they're against smoking, prostitution -- the things our founding Marys raised us on!"
There are the deep and tender moments too -- like when Sharon wisely schools Aquaria and the viewers about life as an old-school queen.
"I come from what we call the pre-Drag Race drag world," says Sharon, "where I didn't start doing this with aspirations of being a reality television star, or this going any further than the small smoky bars of Pittsburgh. I did drag out of necessity. I had to do it... I had to create this other character because -- because she's cheaper than therapy."
Looking back now, Aquaria is appreciative of the time spent touring with her drag mother: "It was amazing to join a tour and to have someone like that on it working with you."
The docuseries also reveals the fuzzy intersection where the drag ends and Palandrani begins. When out of drag, the former fashion student is still witty, charming, and likable, but feels much like a mermaid on land -- a magical creature temporarily subdued and longing to dive back into the water to take her true form. Aquaria admits that out of costume, all she wants to do is "get back into drag," and says perfecting the art of Aquaria is always on her mind.
In May, the queen passed the America's Next Drag Superstar crown on to the club kid underdog of the latest season of the competition series, Yvie Oddly.
Reflecting on that moment, as well as the crazy past year and a half that has turned the trained dancer into one of the most recognized queens on the planet, Aquaria says she is grateful but ready to move on. "I was ready to move forward and let Drag Race be a moment in my life now where I can look back and be like, 'Yeah, that was amazing,' but now, [I'm] more looking forward to what the future may hold."
As for her becoming a muse in the world of high fashion ? "It's pretty amazing and I still can't believe it was real," she says of her history-making moment at the Met Gala. Among other fashion accolades, Vogue recently named Aquaria "the breakout style star of the evening," at the Fashion Awards in London, in a stunning Matty Bovan gown.
So, what can we expect to see next from this international drag superstar?
"I have a few tricks up my sleeves," she says slyly, "This is 'The Age of Aquaria.'"