(Photo by Sean Vadella)
Eureka O’Hara finds herself at a turning point. “Not only in the entertainment industry,” she explains, “but in my life, period.”
That’s because the drag superstar — a fan favorite finalist on multiple iterations of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” who’s bringing her unique brand to Tampa Bay’s Halloween on Central Oct. 29 — came out as transgender last year. Her journey was chronicled on HBO’s docuseries “We’re Here.”
O’Hara co-hosted the series for three seasons with “Drag Race” sisters Bob the Drag Queen and Shangela, visiting “small-town America spreading love and connection through the art of drag.” The network announced the trio wouldn’t return to lead its fourth season in June.
At the time, the outgoing hosts wished their successors and fellow “Drag Race” alum Sasha Velour, Priyanka and Jaida Essence Hall “the best on continuing this work during an increasingly difficult time for the LGBTQ+ community.” O’Hara says that while she may appear on the series again one day, it’s her final appearance on the show for now that’s resonated with her the most.
Its third season finale in Dec. 2022 brought the queens to Florida, where they visited the interim Pulse memorial, protested against the state’s “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law and more. It was during that trip that O’Hara met two trans advocates who inspired her to live authentically, one who transitioned later in life and a young girl with affirming parents.
She says the experience made her realize she was “tired of being afraid.”
“I got to see both perspectives, an older person that transitioned and a younger person whose family celebrated her,” she explains. “I just remember as a little kid, literally praying in bed at night and wishing I could wake up as a girl and not really understanding what it meant.
“I feel happier presenting female and living my feminine energy — which is the one thing that I was literally beat and abused for when I was young,” she continues. “Now that’s all I can do is be my feminine self. That’s my truth.”
O’Hara says she also felt compelled to come out because of her platform. Nearly 600 anti-transgender bills were filed in state legislatures in 2023, including a series of laws enacted in Florida.
“I saw trans people under fire and I was like, ‘it’s time for me to get out there and be myself,’ because I have large person privilege. I have confidence privilege,” she says. “I’m ready to take it on headfirst and I have this platform to just scream that ‘I’m trans and I’m large, and you can’t do anything about it.’
“I’m not afraid of people anymore,” she notes. “I’m not afraid and so I had to be trans for my community and for myself.”
O’Hara says her authenticity has impacted her work as well, offering a fresh outlook for new projects. She’s currently writing a book, crafting a Mrs. Claus-themed holiday show and preparing to launch other exciting ventures.
“I’m really finding where my art lies,” she says. “Is it within me being a trans woman or a drag queen and how is that represented? I’ll always be a drag queen, of course. I’m a drag entertainer regardless and like Mama Ru says, ‘we’re all born naked and the rest is drag.’ I don’t devalue my drag queen-ness just because I transitioned; my art is progressing and I’m finding my own rhythm.”
The entertainer is excited to bring that perspective to Halloween on Central 3, where 22 blocks of St. Petersburg’s Grand Central and Edge Districts will close from 12-5 p.m. on Oct. 29. A key component of the LGBTQ+-inclusive spooktacular is Cock-o-Ween at Cocktail, where she’ll perform on the LGBTQ+ hotspot’s main stage across from the bar.
O’Hara will be joined by hostess and Central Florida drag legend Darcel Stevens, New York City sensation Alotta McGriddles and headliner Robin S. The Billboard Hot 100 recording artist is known for “Show Me Love” and other hits.
“Halloween on Central has proven to be one of our busiest days of the year!” Cocktail owner David Fischer says. “The event kicks off the holiday season and the attendees are all about celebrating fall and supporting local businesses. Halloween on Central really excites people about the possibilities of future closures to parts of Central Ave., as has been hinted in the past by city officials.”
“I’m bringing you Halloween extravaganza eleganza,” O’Hara teases. “I love Halloween because it’s our chance to celebrate ourselves. It’s that one time a year when you get to express yourself in any crazy, goofy way and nobody judges you. It’s just fine. It’s a celebration of happiness and difference and candy. What isn’t there to love?”
Outside of her Halloween hype, O’Hara also notes she’s excited to reconnect with Florida fans.
“There’s so much queerness in Florida, and you know who you are and I love you,” she says. “Although the politics may be a little wishy washy, I know that middle America is just trying to figure out how to survive in their own weird way and they’re blinded by old moral compasses.
“We’re all trying to grow and learn together,” she adds. “Sadly we have to be the people to educate those who are being educated in different ways. We just have to live, thrive and be positive and kind any way that we can so that we can prove to them that we’re not the monsters they want us to be.”
The monsters, she says, will be saved for the stage. Fans can expect O’Hara to perform as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and more as she showcases everything in her arsenal.
“I’m gonna bring dancing, energy and positive vibes,” O’Hara promises. “Let’s have ourselves a spooky, ooky Halloween and make it the biggest ever! This P.H.A.T. queen is ready for Halloween.”
Eureka O’Hara will perform during Halloween on Central 3 at Cocktail’s Cock-o-Ween, located at 2355 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. Read Watermark’s coverage about this year’s event here and learn more about Cock-o-Ween 2023 here.