Full of spark, couture flare and most importantly, heart, Ongina (Ryan Ong Palao) stole our hearts on the first season of RuPaul's Drag Race. She made us laugh, cry and cheer during her turn as a contestant on the show and inspired us when she took on the role of mentor on last year's Drag U. Now, this fashion-forward spitfire is back and ready to inject some more fierce into the lives of a newly-enrolled class of deserving women.
JG: On the "Suddenly Single" episode, your pupils were recently-single women who wanted to get back on the dating horse (so to speak). What is your idea of a great date?
Ongina: A great date for me would be a home-cooked meal with candles lit all over the place, fresh flowers, good wine and amazing conversation before, during and after.
JG: What three things should a woman never go on a date without?
Ongina: Lip gloss, pepper spray and condoms -- just in case.
JG: What is the most tragic thing a woman could possibly wear on a first date?
Ongina: Well, there's different kinds of people out there that are interested in different things, so who am I to say what's right or wrong when it comes to someone's wardrobe? But if I had to answer this question just so someone would feel warned, I'd say no sneakers. Unless of course, your first date is somewhere you'll need them -- but that might be a warning sign (laughs).
JG: This season you also had the challenge of helping butch lesbians explore their feminine side. If you were a lesbian, who would your ideal mate be?
Ongina: If I were a lesbian, I would probably be the lipstick one so I'd want a butch ...a handsome one!
JG: If you could enroll any famous lesbian in Drag U, who would it be?
Ongina: I would want to see Jackie Warner on RuPaul's Drag U. I bet she'd make a beautiful drag queen. Or Rosie!
JG: What can Ongina teach that the other Drag U professors can't?
Ongina: I can teach the power of walking in 6" stilettos.
JG: Have you kept in touch with any of your pupils?
Ongina: I did keep in touch with Shannon from Season 1, but no one yet from this season. Although I've had such amazing students!
JG: After you bravely revealed your status on Drag Race Season 1, you became a role model and inspiration for so many people living with HIV. How has this changed your life?
Ongina: It hasn't changed who I am, but it has changed my life because people look up to me. I have a responsibility to give people hope in fully living their lives to the fullest. It's my life motto and it should be everyone else's no matter what.
JG: Unique hats are much more a part of your look than wigs, which we seldom see you in. How did your hat obsession begin and do they hold any special meaning to you?
Ongina: I befriended this amazing milliner from NYC, David Mason and he introduced me to his amazing creations. I also have my friend Hayden Oney who owns Haute Hatted. He also has made me some amazing hats. I also buy them, have made them and I've had fans send me some so everything has a special meaning to me. I've donated a couple of them for marriage equality benefits and HIV benefits to try and help raise money.
JG: How did your quirky and fashion-forward look come to be?
Ongina: I work at a fashion-forward retailer based out of NYC as an Area Visual Merchandiser and I get to be fashionably creative at work which helps when creating looks for my performances and nights out.
JG: Who inspires you?
Ongina: My mother inspires me every day. She's done a lot for our family and without her we wouldn't be in America living the dream!
RuPaul's Drag U airs Monday nights 9/8C on Logo