Sutan Amrull, a.k.a. the decadent drag queen Raja, was the clear favorite in the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, scooping up victories in the first two challenges and coasting on fabulous self-confidence until he eventually picked up the third season crown. The America’s Next Top Model makeup artist, who has also counted Adam Lambert, Iman, and Dita von Teese among his clients, may have led a small faction of queens that he called “the Heathers,” but he was ultimately a respectful queen who simply brought it. We caught up with the Cali native to discuss life since the show, his feelings about the All Stars season of Drag Race (which features no past winners), and the sissy hell of the early 2000s.
AfterElton: Well, here’s a question I’m sure you don’t get often: How is life different after the show?
Sutan Amrull: [Laughs.] It’s changed quite a bit. I was on Facebook this morning, and I didn’t know any of the friends I had on my normal Facebook page. I had this small weird panic attack. This happens rarely, but things are just so different now. You know? There’s a different audience. I have to filter out the nonsense, the haters, the bullsh*t that come along with the territory and really focus. I have to tailor what it is, what kind of message what I want to put out there and really focus, which I’ve never been into before. I hate focusing! So now I’m being forced to focus and figure out what my legacy is. I feel lucky to get to do that.
AE: I take it you’ve seen the cast list from RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race. Do you have favorites to win yet?
SA: I think its a great idea! From what I understand, it’s going to be pretty short. It’s only six episodes, I guess? I wish there were more. I’m so addicted to it. I was addicted even before I was on it, so I’d like to see more. I have a few favorites on there as far as friends, like I’ve always been a big fan of Raven and of course Camilla because we spent so much time together. I’m excited they get a second chance at exposure, and it’s going to be really cool to watch.
AE: Do you have a favorite underrated queen from the show? One who got, say, ninth place and deserved better?
SA: I don’t really have one. As far as watching them compete, I think Raven was definitely my favorite, and not just because I’m friends with her, but because of the Raven-ness of it all. I love it! But they’re all my friends at this point. It’s been a sorority that’s built up over these past few seasons.
AE: I personally thought your Heathers shtick on your season was hilarious. Do your fans routinely bring that up to you? It was divisive with some viewers.
SA: Oh, I think a lot of people really related to that. Everyone loves those stupid movies — the Mean Girls and Heathers. You can’t take it too seriously. The intention was not to be bullies or mean girls by any means, but to create teams. It is a sport. It is a competition. No one wants to see one team hugging on each other loving. You have to embrace the competitive nature of a competition. I think a lot of of people do relate to it and a lot of people do realize it’s tongue and cheek. It’s not meant to be taken seriously; it’s a game. And life is a competition, so that’s what I wanted to relate with that.
AE: One of my favorite things about you is that you’ve stated plainly that it sucks to have haters, that it’s annoying and a little depressing. Do you deal with criticism, particularly harsh stuff from anonymous internet commenters, differently now than you did after you won your season?
SA: I think when I said that on the reunion, I think it was still so fresh to me. I’d spent most of my life — you know, you want people to like you. I work in a business where you make friendships and you want people to like you. It’s very foreign to have people who “hate” you for no reason at all. They dont even know you at all, and they make an assumption based on what they see on television. It all seems so unfair, but I’ve had some time to deal with it, and I have friends who are far, far more famous than I am, and I’ve asked them for some advice, and they’re like, “You know what? If you don’t see the haters, they just don’t exist.” Basically: Just ignore it. There’s a bravado that comes with being hidden behind a computer screen. It really doesn’t matter if you focus on the people who really support and get your message.