Phi Phi O'Hara on bringing 30 'Drag Queen' stars together for a First Ave benefit for Puerto Rico

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L-R: Bob the Drag Queen, Phi Phi O'Hara, Katya Provided

Phi Phi O’Hara and nearly 30 of her drag queen friends, all of them alumni of the hit reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race, are coming together tonight at First Avenue. All ticket sales and tips go directly to efforts to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria's devastation, which has limited people's access to electricity, water, and other basic human needs.

Jaremi Carrey (O'Hara) knew he needed to step up to the plate, in part because his husband is Puerto Rican. “I remember I came home one day, and his mom had called him crying because she had family there,” Carrey says. “She was like, ‘I haven’t heard from them. I can’t get a hold of them, I don’t know what to do.’ I felt helpless.”

Carrey got on social media, hoping to use his connections to help with the crisis. “It really started with a tweet,” he says. Proposing that he and the other Drag Race alumni come together, O’Hara got an immediate response from performers who have been on the show over the past nine seasons. “I was like, ‘Okay girls, we can afford to give one night up to make a huge difference,’ and a lot of girls jumped in,” he says.

Amidst the social media blast Chad Kampe, founder of Twin Cities dance night Flip Phone, was also tagged. He immediately offered to help secure a venue and put the event together.

Carrey is used to performing with other alumni of Drag Race, because they often tour together. “With a lot of reality TV shows, you stick with your season because you have had these experiences together,” Carrey says. “But I think because there’s been so many seasons now and there are so many tours that we do together where we mix and mingle and build these friendships -- we’ve all gotten really close. I’m grateful that they stepped up to the plate.”

Carrey’s original drag name was Phoenix, but there had already been a queen named Phoenix in the season before him. So the producers asked if he had a nick name or an alternative name he could go by. “Anything! Just put me on the show!” he recalls thinking. “One of my friends in Chicago always used to call me Phi Phi for short. It stuck. I kind of like it better. It’s cute. It’s fun.”

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Image courtesy Phi Phi O'Hara

Phi Phi’s last name is O’Hara, because he’s part of the O’Hara drag family. “I didn’t have a great childhood growing up so I kind of made my own family,” he says. “There are different families, and there’s a mother that takes care of all of her gay children. That happened to be my family mom, Asia O’Hara. You kind of just take on the last name, and you’re a part of that family."

Learning the art of drag takes work. When he was first staring out, there weren’t tutorials on YouTube. “I had to sit at the club and watch people in the back -- that’s if they even let me backstage, because most of the older pageant queens wouldn’t let anybody back there,” Carrey recalls. “I’m grateful for the way I learned it.”

Beside raising a bunch of money for Puerto Rico, Carrey is excited to have so many Drag Race alumni all in one place. “No one on the history of the show has gotten a picture with 30 gals; it’s going to be so amazing,” he says.

After the fundraiser, Carrey heads off to rehearse for a new Christmas tour along with 10 alumni. For tonight, it’s a great opportunity to see all the girls together, and help out a great cause.

IF YOU GO:

Queens United/Reinas Unidas: A Drag Show for Puerto Rico
First Avenue
$75 general admission; $150 VIP 
8 p.m. to midnight Monday, November 5
You can also donate any amount to the event's YouCaring page here. All proceeds will benefit Somos Una Voz, an organization that is rushing food, water, and other resources to people in Puerto Rico.


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