If you love cannabis and drag queens, odds are high that you’re already a big fan of Laganja Estranja.
After making her debut on the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race back in 2014, Estranja enjoyed a rousing welcome home when she recently appeared as a “lipsync assassin” on the series’ sixth installment of its All-Stars spinoff. Never one to make a subtle entrance, her long-awaited return to the show saw Estranja hit the stage by death-dropping off a six-foot high platform before engaging in a lipsync battle with her ontime season six sister Trinity K. Bonet.
For most, such a bold move would surely rank as the biggest moment of their summer. Not for Estranja, however. That challenge came when she made the brave and life-affirming choice to announce to the world this June via Entertainment Weekly that she was now living as a proud transgender woman.
“I feel, for most trans people, when they come out, that it can be a struggle and a lot of issues,” Estranja told Bloom & Oil during a recent phone call from her home in Palm Springs, “but for me, it’s really been smooth sailing. I feel so blessed that I was loved by the world. I mean, truly, when the news dropped, it traveled like wildfire and I received nothing but support. I mean, sure, there was a negative comment here or there, but it was overwhelmingly positive. That really encouraged me. It showed me that the world really is changing and that people’s minds are opening and people are becoming more accepting of things that are different than themselves.”
In a wide-ranging conversation covering everything from what role cannabis may play in her transition to how in the heck she pulled off that truly gag-worthy All-Stars’ entrance, Estranja’s joy at last being able to be her true, authentic self is palpable in every sentence.
And now she’s committed to paying the support she’s received forward as well.
To that end, she’ll appear in Provincetown, Massachusetts on Aug. 16 at Showgirls in conjunction with a campaign for a limited-edition PAX Era “P-town Pride” pod. Proceeds from sales of the pod will benefit the Provincetown LGBTQ Center and the Transgender Emergency Fund.
Scroll on for our full conversation with the incredible Laganja Estranja!
[Images by Jon Sams, Jose Guzman, and Aaron Jay Young]
Hi Laganja! It’s such a pleasure to speak with you. How has everything been for you since you spoke with EW?
It’s been really good and exciting, though that’s not to say it hasn’t come with its struggles. It definitely has. There are moments, like when I fly and I have to go through TSA and I have to get scanned. As you know, they scan your body as a male or a female and it’s very awkward, so there are definitely moments that I am struggling and having to deal with. But I will say, for the most part, it has been a joyous celebration. I’m living my truth. I have finally accepted who I am and shared that with the world and I think that’s really, really powerful. After living in such a xenophobic world with President Trump, it just gives me a lot of hope that we’re finally moving forward and we’re leaving those notions behind us.
And then you had your appearance on Drag Race too!
When my episode of Drag Race All-Stars came out, that was another big moment for me where I really felt like the world embraced me again. While that show has obviously changed my life, and has been so wonderful, I didn’t have the best run on my season. I definitely struggled after my season because before everyone was saying my catchphrases, they were telling me how annoying I was. There’s definitely been trauma and PTSD that I’ve had from that show, so, of course, to return and have that return be received with such positivity and love — I gained almost 100,000 followers on Instagram from that one episode — was just wild to me. It showed me there are a lot of new people watching the show now that did not watch it back when it was on Logo, which it was when I was on.
That’s truly wonderful to hear. Speaking of that All-Stars performance, I’ve got to ask: how much preparation went into that jaw-dropping death drop you performed at the start of the lipsync? I was truly gagged!
Thank you! I’d definitely had that planned for a long time. I believe I was on a podcast with Katya like three years ago where I talked about what I would do for my entrance, so I’ve definitely known for a long time how I’d want to return. As far as production goes, I let them know that I wanted to do it, so beforehand, they arranged for a very tall platform to be on the side by my stage entrance. When I got there, it was actually on the wrong side! I was like, ‘Hey, I’m a left splitter. Can you move this?’ They had to drill the platform apart and then move it over to the other side, which they did with no complaints. I felt really lucky that production saw the value in me and saw that this would be a really great gag. I ended up filming it like four times without an audience, to make sure that they got it, and then I did it one time for the judges and for the contestants. It was really, really fun. I’m just so happy that I got to do it because, as I said, I had envisioned it for years, and I knew it would be such a special moment. The fact that it was just proves to me that I am an artist, and that these visions I have — whether it be for drag or as a choreographer — are strong and they’re tapping into something that is global and universal. That gave me a lot of confidence. It made me feel great. Like I said, I’m just thrilled with how it turned out.
I want to be sure to ask about your upcoming appearance in Provincetown and the PAX pod being released in support of the transgender community. Is P-town a place you’ve spent a lot of time in?
I’ll be honest with you: I’ve only been to Provincetown once. It was many moons ago, right after my season of Drag Race, so I can’t really speak that honestly about P-town from personal experience. Now, I’ve had many, many gay friends who go like every year, and I’ve had several drag queen friends who do their one-woman shows there, so I know a lot about it. I just haven’t really had the chance to experience it, which is why I’m very excited to actually go there and be a part of the culture and to really see why the gays love P-town. I mean, it’s definitely one of our big, big cities. Obviously, we have Palm Springs here in California, where I am. That’s another one. And then there’s Fire Island in New York. I think those are like the three big gay areas. I’ve never been to Fire Island and I’ve never been to P-town, really, so I’m excited to check this off my bucket list. I want to ride the ferry and have a whole experience over there.
Do you have a feel for what the cannabis culture is like there?
As far as cannabis goes, I was just in Massachusetts recently — in Boston — but I don’t remember cannabis being legal when I first went over there. Someone told me, I think, that it’s been five years now since it’s been legal, which makes me feel really old. Like I said, I was in P-town right after season six, which would have been in 2014. I don’t believe cannabis was legal then, but even if it was, I definitely don’t remember smoking or medicating while I was there. Again, I just feel like it’s going to be so liberating to be able to go somewhere where we’re not even just celebrating queer people but we’ll specifically be celebrating transgender people. That, to me, is even more exciting because, as someone who’s definitely struggled within the cannabis industry — whether it be from homophobia, people not paying me what I’m worth, or people not acknowledging me — this is just so incredible because we’re actually raising money for transgender people who are in need. I always hoped that cannabis would come around and get to this point.
I think me being a fearless leader in the queer space helped me get to where I am today. But when I came out as trans, I definitely worried about how it might affect me in the cannabis industry, because there is so much homophobia and transphobia there. I feel like this is a really strong way to combat my fears and to show me that companies are, in fact, still really interested in doing something to help people like me. That feels really great. I also love when I’m able to partner with a company that I love. I love PAX, of course. I’ve been using their vapes since the beginning my cannabis career. It’s always great when you can partner with a brand you actually use and love.
Speaking of donations to support the transgender community, I saw that the GoFundMe that was created for your transition costs — I believe your drag sister Yuhua Hamasaki was the one who started it — hit its goal of $25,000 in like 48 hours? First off, that’s amazing, but I also read that you now hope to use any funds raised above the goal to continue paying it forward. Is that correct?
Exactly. When I saw how much attention that campaign was getting, I realized we really have the potential here to help a lot of other people. Once we reached the $25,000 goal, I committed to donate the next $5,000 to the Trans Wellness Center here in Los Angeles. I actually just worked with them last night at an incredible event called Heavenly Bodies. It’s a trans night here in Los Angeles that’s put on by Sasha Colby that celebrates all trans people: men, women, and in-between. They’re a great organization out here. Now, my next goal now is to try to raise an additional $5,000 with the idea that I’ll give it to someone specific. It’s actually really inspired me. I had no idea that we were going to raise that much money overnight. Literally, we raised enough to hit the goal in less than 48 hours. That’s really inspired me and made me realize that my platform is so much bigger than even I thought it was. Long story short, I’m working on a documentary about my transition called Honoring Her and I’ve also decided that I want to start my own foundation, which will also be called Honoring Her, which will be specifically focused on trans women. All of this is still in the very preliminary stages, but one of the guys who donated to my GoFundMe is a real amazing man who works in charities and he’s helping me right now to try and set this up.
It’s not like I have something against trans men or non-binary folk, but as a trans woman myself, I can specifically see the need. When I go and I travel and I’m working backstage, I’m always meeting these transgender women who are like, ‘God, I wish I had your platform. I’ve been working on my GoFundMe for three years to get one surgery.’ I really want to help those people. I really do. Again, to bring it back, that’s why I love partnering with companies that get it, because I think community is all about giving back. I was raised by two high school counselors, so I think it was just basically built into my blood to care and to listen and to want to help. Once the world did that for me, it just encouraged me all the more to want to do it for others.
That’s all extremely exciting stuff! Without wishing to reach whatsoever, I am curious: do feel your cannabis usage was an asset in your process of coming out?
Absolutely. Cannabis is my daily medicine. It helps me to absolutely accept who I am, to be myself, and to be open about it. I can also only imagine that as I’m having these procedures, eventually, that cannabis will be crucial in my healing process. Yeah, I definitely believe in the integration of cannabis and my life, so of course, it helped me come to this realization and of course it helped me to be open about it, to talk about it, to live it and to breathe it. I feel very grateful that I am a cannabis smoker, because I probably still would have come to that realization but I don’t know that I would have done anything about it.
Generally speaking, do you have a preferred form of consumption? Are there certain staples in your cannabis diet?
Well, I’m a dab diva. I definitely love to dab the most. I like edibles but usually only at night, because they make me sleepy. To be honest, I’ve never met a weed I didn’t like. I have a lot of friends who are successful and bougie and when they get free weed, they pass it on to other people. I’m definitely the type of person that sees free weed as good weed. I’ve never turned my nose up at anything, unless it’s like black dabs. Then maybe I’ll be a little nervous, but I would probably still smoke that too. I’m very open when it comes to cannabis consumption but, that being said, my preferred method is definitely dabs. I like crystals and preferably crystals in a sauce. Also, because I’m just so busy, I like dabs because I’m able to take my one hit in the morning and go for three or four hours without needing to medicate again until after lunch. That, for me, is just the most economical option, financially. I mean, I would smoke through an eighth of weed like it was nothing, whereas with dabs, it takes me a lot longer to consume, so for me, because I do view this as a medicinal process, that’s my preferred way of intaking.
I’m pretty sure you were joking about not wearing wigs anymore, but in terms of that Twitter thread with you, Bianca del Rio, and Bob the Drag Queen, has your relationship with wigs changed at all since you came out as a transgender woman?
I mean, yes, and no. I made that joke while I was playing around with my sisters. I do still do wear wigs. I wore a wig last night, so I’m still wearing wigs here and there. But yes, during the day, when I go out, I’m going out with my real hair now. When I’m giving interviews and things of that nature, I no longer feel the need to put on drag. For so long, I feel like the reason I never turned away from drag is because it was the only way for me to express who I truly am. And now that I’m coming into that, it’s not that I want to move away from drag… but I want to move away from drag. I mean, it’s a lot on my body: traveling the world and jumping off six-feet high platforms into splits and things. I’ve done that for 10 years and I’m very grateful for it. I do love it but ultimately, I just see more for myself.
What might those plans look like?
I’ve always wanted to be a choreographer. I’ve always wanted to have my own dance company. I want to direct Cirque du Soleil. I want to do all of these different things that don’t require me to do drag. I think I’ll always do drag because Laganja is such a strong brand and I love that. That’s why I’m trying to move it into a lifestyle brand with my clothing and merchandise. But as an artist, I’ve been playing Laganja for over 10 years and now I’m ready to not play anyone. I just want to be me. I want to be in my femininity and in my truth. I think that’s why working with PAX is really cool, because while I will be doing a show and a performance, I’m also then going to sit on the judges’ panel and watch a talent show and critique people and give them advice on how to better their performance — and I’m going to be doing that as myself. I know other people are going to be looking and thinking ‘that’s Laganja’ and I totally get that. That’s cool. But for me to know, once my performance is over, that I get to take the wig off and take off the big lashes and the rhinestones, and go out as myself and sit in that audience? That to me is really powerful. For so long in my journey, once my season of Drag Race was over, it was sort of like my life was over too. I went back to being a show of myself, so now that I’m really able to feel alive at all times, it’s very invigorating.