By Christopher Rudolph
Throughout her stint on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Aiden Zhane always stood out from the other girls. Not only was she from “the middle of nowhere,” Georgia, but before being cast on Season 12, she wasn’t regularly performing drag for an audience. Unlike her competitors, many of whom seasoned professionals from big cities, she was still working her day job as a line cook at IHOP.
On multiple occasions New York’s Brita Filter butted heads with Aiden, who was baffled that Aiden was never in the bottom two. Even though the girls would consistently gang up on the “mysterious” newcomer by accusing of her just coasting by, the spooky queen proved to be tough competition. Ru and the judges saw something special in Aiden: She survived the acting challenges, served kooky looks on the runway, eventually making it to Snatch Game. But it was her impression of Rocky Horror Picture Show star Patricia Quinn and her lukewarm Frozen runway look that finally sent her packing.
Following her elimination, Aiden spoke with MTV News about the lessons she learned while competing on Drag Race, what her backup choice was for Snatch Game, and whether or not she’s still flipping pancakes.
MTV News: Hey, Aiden! So you made it to Snatch Game. How did that feel?
Aiden Zhane: Yeah, it felt good. I think Snatch Game is that point of every season that everybody knows is coming. It’s an iconic moment. So to make it that far is a great feeling. Obviously, it would’ve been an even greater feeling to make it through the Snatch Game.
MTV News: Afterwards, back in the workroom, Heidi said how Snatch Game was different than she thought it was going to be. Do you agree with that?
Aiden Zhane: I mean the whole show is different than what you think it’s going to be.
MTV News: How so?
Aiden Zhane: Watching as a viewer and doing it are two completely different things. You can sit at home and judge these queens and say, “Oh, this is what I would have done.” But being there in the moment and feeling the stress of the competition, it’s a completely different situation. You can try to psych yourself up for it and prepare mentally but once you get there, it’s a wild ride.
MTV News: Yeah. I would think sitting on that Snatch Game set trying to come up with witty answers would be pretty stressful.
Aiden Zhane: Yeah. And Snatch Game is all about improv. It’s not scripted. You have to react to the moment, so it’s a tough challenge.
MTV News: And so do you have any regrets about picking Patricia Quinn?
Aiden Zhane: Yeah, the fact that I got eliminated with her. Nobody goes to this competition not wanting to make it to the end. So, of course, looking back and watching the show now, you can’t help but pick out things where you’re like, “Oh, I wish I would’ve changed that, or I would’ve done this better.” Obviously, picking Patricia Quinn, and where my mind was at during that episode, I failed to deliver. So, in hindsight, I wish I could go back and maybe choose somebody different or pick one of my backups. And maybe I would’ve done better, but who knows.
MTV News: Who was one of your backups?
Aiden Zhane: One of my backups was Aileen Wournos.
MTV News: Oh, the serial killer.
Aiden Zhane: Yes, the serial killer. I had chosen her just because she totally plays into my darker side and my love for horror and just creepy things. But she’s also such a character. She’s such a hillbilly. And I think she would just be such a crazy and fun person to play in Snatch Game.
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“I will NOT leave this competition being the quiet bitch. & on that note AAaAAhHHhhh!!!!!!!” tried to show off a campy side to myself with this look 100% focusing in on the cartoon side of my drag. Not something I’d usually wear but I’m giving you my version of the Abominable Snowmonster from the 1964 claymation “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” obviously also inspired by one of my favorite drag race queens @manilaluzon & her big bird dress that we all know & love. Hair by @shontellesparkles
MTV News: Have you reached out to Patricia Quinn or do you think that you’re going to?
Aiden Zhane: I have not. Who knows? I might tag her in something. But, no, other than that, probably not. I mean, I didn’t do the greatest in the episode so we’re already going to have the whole world judging me. We don’t need Patricia judging me, too.
MTV News: Why did you pick Patricia Quinn in the first place?
Aiden Zhane: Like I said in the show, I have met Patricia Quinn and got a little bit of experience knowing what a crazy and kooky woman she is firsthand. She’s very open about her drug use in the past and how that’s affected her, and she’s just so fun and kooky. She’s such a crazy old woman. And not only Rocky Horror being one of my first exposures to drag, in general, but knowing that about her, I thought she would be a fun person to play.
MTV News: How did you end up having lunch with her?
Aiden Zhane: Years and years ago, there was a shadow cast here in Georgia who did a showing of Rocky Horror every Friday night. And she came out for Dragon Con in Atlanta one year, to open The Rocky Horror Picture Show. So we got to go out to lunch with her and talk with her and all of that.
MTV News: It seemed like a recurring occurrence on Untucked was the girls ganging up on you. Did you feel that way?
Aiden Zhane: Yeah, to be honest, from day one going into the competition. I went into it feeling insecure, just because I knew there were going to be girls in this competition who came from New York, or who had flashy drag pieces, or who had years of experience of being on a stage and in front of audiences and have that confidence. And I didn’t have any of that. And immediately being picked out in that first mini-challenge as the weakest one of my group validated what I already felt. And it kind of just snowballed from there with little things here and there, comments, different things that eventually all added up.
MTV News: Have you and Brita made amends since filming?
Aiden Zhane: Yes, we have. All of us, the entire cast, we have all talked since filming the show almost every day. So all of us are friends.
MTV News: Who did you get closest with on the cast? It seemed like Heidi and you had a bond.
Aiden Zhane: While filming, yeah, Heidi was definitely somebody that I bonded with a little bit. I think we both shared the mutual story of being girls from smaller towns. And we were also both picked out as the weak link in that first mini-challenge. So she, out of everybody, was somebody who knew how I felt in that situation more than anybody else could. So, who knows? Maybe that’s what sparked her moment in Untucked of her standing up for me.
MTV News: Speaking of small towns, what does your life look like now post-Drag Race? Are you still living in the middle of nowhere? Were you able to quit your job at IHOP? What’s going on?
Aiden Zhane: Well, I definitely quit my job at IHOP [laughs]. But right now I am still living in that same small town. But my plan is to move to New York. I’m just going with the flow and riding out this crazy COVID-19 situation that we’re all trying to get through together and just seeing where it takes us.
MTV News: Where can fans find you since everything has been canceled? Are you doing any digital drag shows or do you have any plans to?
Aiden Zhane: Definitely my social media,and I have some things in the works. I haven’t specifically signed up for any digital drag shows yet. I haven’t posted or announced anything about it yet, but I want to do a sort of “Scary Stories with Aiden” online moment where I sit down and read you guys a short story.
MTV News: Oh, I love that. I also love how you leaned into the whole one wig thing. You’re selling merch with one wig. I love how Coco Peru came to your defense. What do you have to say for all the one wig haters out there?
Aiden Zhane: It’s funny because, even prior to filming the show, I joked about how this was going to become a thing. Yes, I have other wigs. Yes, I can afford other wigs. Like damn. But if you don’t like it, too bad, that’s my drag. For me, it’s one of my staple pieces. And at the end of the day I wanted it to be something that, after I left the show, when somebody thinks of Aiden Zhane, I wanted them to think of her in the same way that I do. I always picture her with that hair. So I don’t think there’s a single person who, when they think of me, is going to think of me any differently. And, you know what? Great.
MTV News: What’s the one big lesson that Drag Race taught you?
Aiden Zhane: My biggest takeaway, I would say, is definitely have confidence in yourself. Just know who you are and stay true to that at all times. There are always going to be people who want to tear you down, or people who don’t get what you do. But those people are always going to exist no matter what level of drag you’re at. And don’t pay it any mind. Just do what you love, know what you love, and stay true to it.
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