“I Want to Spark a Conversation”: RuPaul’s JoJo Zaho’s Powerful First Nations Statement
And just like that, the first contestant from RuPaul’s Drag Race: Down Under has sashayed away.
In the first episode of the brand-new Stan series, JoJo Zaho (John Ridgeway) from Newcastle was beaten by New Zealand’s Elektra Shock during the final lip-sync and became the very first queen to be given the porkchop.
“There’s something punk about going home first in the first season,” Jojo told POPSUGAR Australia during an interview after her elimination. “I will always be the first Down Under porkchop.”
While Jojo was a serious contender to win the season, she knew as soon as Elektra had done her first split that she was going to be sent home.
“With the editing, it was about 50/50 [showing the two Queens] until she does the splits,” the 30-year-old said. “It was kind of relief once she did that because it was like, ‘Okay, disappointing. You’re going home but the pressure is off now. Just have some fun.'”
During the maxi challenge, the second category for the runway saw the new stars wear drag that represented where they came from and Jojo, stage name of John Ridgeway, a proud Biripi and Worimi individual in and outside drag, took the opportunity to make an incredibly powerful statement.
“It was so important to me,” she admitted. “Once I realised that this was Drag Race, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m indigenous’ and we’re not given a lot of opportunities to spark conversations and to be honest, included in a lot of conversations. So for me, it was always, ‘Okay, I’ve been given this opportunity on this international platform and this isn’t just about me, this is way bigger than me. I’m just the messenger basically.'”
She continued: “So for me, it was always about doing what I can to spark a conversation and doing what I can do to initiate someone doing a Google search about ‘Always Was and Always Will Be’.”
JoJo grew up near Newcastle in a town called Kurri Kurri, and although a small country town that didn’t have a large gay community, it wasn’t her sexuality that people saw first.
“It was a very white town,” she said. “As I said on the show, I didn’t have to hide my sexuality because they focused on the colour of my skin. It was the colour of my skin.”
Coming out for the TV star was also “tricky to navigate” however, “struggling with my identity and the colour of my skin and then getting through that, and finally being comfortable then all of a sudden, nature’s like, ‘And, you like men now’, it was also navigating that.
“I knew that my friends and family wouldn’t care,” she said. “I’m pretty sure my mum always knew, but she never cared, so it was predominantly about me just accepting myself.”
As for what JoJo learned about herself during her time on the series: “Sometimes you can let your emotions out and you don’t need to treat them like a ‘typical boy’ would — that was one of the biggest takeaways,” she said before adding: “The other one is starting pole dancing lessons so you can learn how to do the splits!”
RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under is available to stream now on Stan, with episodes dropping weekly.