'Twas the moment that shocked queens around the world.
During tonight's Drag Race season 10 finale, Asia O'Hara started off her first lip sync of the night in a colorful butterfly-inspired costume, complete with two giant bra-esque cones over her chest. Pretty soon into the song (Janet Jackson's "Nasty"), she started opening up a contraption on her wrist, then one of her chest cones, then the other chest cone, and while she had yet to open up the piece on the other wrist, it was clear that whatever was supposed to be happening was not happening.
Apparently, live butterflies were supposed to fly out, sort of emulating and topping Sasha Velour's winning performance last year, when she filled her costume and wig with rose petals that flew out dramatically. This time, the effect would have been even cooler, with a swarm of butterflies filling the stage and probably overtaking her competitor, Kameron Michaels.
That is absolutely not what happened, however, because as Asia explained to EW, the butterflies most likely did not get warm enough while they waited to be let free.
"I used what are called Painted Lady butterflies, and going west across the continental divide, they have to be kept cool—basically in hibernation or asleep—so they don't stress," she told the magazine. "They need to warm up to a certain temperature in order to fly away. I, of course, rehearsed it at home several times and it worked, but [the finale was] a different place and a different environment, and I don't think the contraptions were warm enough to wake the butterflies up. But, as they warmed up in the stage lights during the break, they started to fly away!"
She says that people may not understand that "a lot of research and time and energy went into it, and I really did do my best to present it in the most professional way possible. I traveled to a different state several times. It wasn't just that I went outside and found a bunch of butterflies and stuck them inside my costume. I was very careful and took a lot of time to research it… it wasn't a careless act."
Asia says that after she opened the first one on her wrist, she knew this wasn't going her way.
"In that moment I knew, okay, it's not going to go the way I planned and that it was probably my last hurrah," she says. "But, I continued to open the other three, thinking the ones on my chest were maybe going to be warmer. It just was not the case, but you know, I wasn't going to just stand there and fold my arms and say I was done. I did my best. And to be quite honest with you, after opening the first one the rest is kind of a blur."
She also issued an apology on Instagram for the stunt gone wrong.
"I just want to let everyone know how sad and heartbroken I am that my lip sync performance during the finale of RuPaul's Drag Race turned out," she wrote. "Despite months of research and rehearsing with a professional company, what I hoped would be an amazing and safe display of optimism and a surprise for everyone including production and the network, it did not go as planned. I would like to publicly offer the entire world my deepest apology. It's important that everyone knows that I would never purposely hurt any living being and have the utmost respect for all animals."
But in the end, Asia says she doesn't regret how things worked out, even if she does regret a couple things about how the performance went.
"In hindsight, I do regret trying to go so far above and beyond anything I'd ever done that I created a no-win scenario for myself," she says. "I do regret that part of it. I don't regret the result. I think that the right person is going to win, and I had regrets on the way I was eliminated, but I don't regret being eliminated against Kameron or seeing the other three in the top.
The stunt was not addressed during the show (as all three other finalists besides Asia went on to compete in the final lip sync) but it was clear that the audience noticed how wrong things had gone. The other season 10 queens especially were stunned, and their faces were kind of priceless. So in the end, at least we've got that very good gif and a story to tell. Perhaps we'll get to see Asia redeem herself and her poor butterflies when the next All-Stars season rolls around.
RuPaul's Drag Race airs on Vh1.