The One That Got Away: San Antonio showgirl Jorgeous won our hearts on Drag Race

Jorgeous made her big debut at the bygone SA club Babio's at the ripe old age of 16 — a nightlife feat that rubbed some drag queens the wrong way.

click to enlarge Jorgeous entered Season 14 of RuPaul's Drag Race as a self-billed "Tex-Mex Latina showgirl" who "might be small but packs a big punch." - Marco Ovando
Marco Ovando
Jorgeous entered Season 14 of RuPaul's Drag Race as a self-billed "Tex-Mex Latina showgirl" who "might be small but packs a big punch."

As a flamboyant child growing up in San Antonio, Jorge Meza idolized game-changing drag queen RuPaul, often danced in front of the television and even performing choreographed routines during family parties.

As a fiercely determined teen, Meza crafted the sultry drag persona Jorgeous — pronounced Georgeous — in the vein of fierce Latina divas including Selena, Jennifer Lopez and Chi-Chi Rodriguez, the latter portrayed by John Leguizamo in the 1995 classic To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. With her parents acting as chaperones, Jorgeous made her big debut at the bygone local gay club Babio's at the ripe old age of 16 — a nightlife feat that rubbed some old queens the wrong way.

"A lot of people were jealous," explained photographer Julián P. Ledezma, a Current contributor who tirelessly documents the San Antonio drag scene. "A lot of people were jealous of Ada Vox as well," he continued, referencing the singing San Antonio drag queen who competed on both American Idol and Queen of the Universe. After seeing Jorgeous perform at Babio's in 2017, Ledezma tapped her to perform at his Emerald Ball — an annual fundraiser benefiting Pride Center San Antonio.

Although now based in Nashville, the 22-year-old performer still draws creative inspiration from her hometown and proudly celebrated her South Texas roots as a magnetic and candid contestant on Season 14 of reality competition show RuPaul's Drag Race. She's also poised for a summer homecoming with July performances booked at San Antonio's Bonham Exchange and Majestic Theatre.

During the introductory episode of her season of Drag Race, Jorgeous described her drag style as "very Tex-Mex. ... You're going to catch this look from the West Side of San Antonio, Texas."

The geographic cues in her fashion choices weren't lost on Drag Race judge Carson Kressley (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), who amusingly exclaimed "San Antoni-ho" as Jorgeous strutted onto the runway.

Lip-synch assassin

Entering Season 14 as a self-billed "Tex-Mex Latina showgirl" who "might be small but packs a big punch," Jorgeous already had a substantial social media presence. Building on her early start in San Antonio, she became a Nashville club fixture and even landed on a 2020 billboard for Virgin Hotels.

"I'm already starstruck because I've followed Jorgeous for a very long time," New York-based Season 14 contestant Jasmine Kennedie confessed to Drag Race producers.

Chicago oddball Daya Betty echoed that sentiment, admitting to Jorgeous, "My boyfriend is obsessed with you. I'm pretty sure that you're his favorite drag queen."

It wasn't until the fifth episode that Jorgeous landed in the bottom and got tasked with lip-synching "for her life" in an elimination round. Facing off against Grand Rapids-based Orion Story in a battle over Ava Max's dance track "My Head & My Heart," Jorgeous took no prisoners and slayed her competition with ease. Ironically, the two performers had a fondness for one another and struck up a little behind-the-scenes "showmance," although "no lips were touched."

That tense moment marked Jorgeous' arrival on Drag Race since it showcased her biggest assets: an electric stage presence, killer dancing skills and undeniable lip-synch prowess — complete with emotive expressions and intense eye contact.

On the following episode, Jorgeous won the "Glamazon Prime" maxi-challenge by crafting a sexy dress from castoff materials including a curtain, a pillowcase, cookie cutters and a piece of a kiddie pool.

That may have been her only official win, but our hometown girl scored big in other ways, earning a rare blessing from Mother Ru — "You were born to do drag" — and scoring significant screen time via four additional lip-synchs for a Drag Race record of five. Those thoroughly enjoyable performances earned Jorgeous the unofficial title of the "lip-synch assassin" of Season 14.

Gretchen Wieners may not have been able to make "fetch" work in Mean Girls, but Jorgeous got her catch phrase "hello-tis" to stick on Drag Race — judge Michelle Visage even repeated it to an auditorium full of fans during the "Reunited" episode. She also inspired copycats with a signature dance move she calls "Punching the Ghost." Google it and you'll find a video of her Season 14 castmates doing their imitations.

Although she struggled with acting and comedy challenges, Jorgeous was humble and honest about her shortcomings. As fans of the show may tell you, dropping your guard and being yourself can go a long way on Drag Race, especially when it comes to fandom.

During a poignant moment on the backstage spinoff series Untucked, Jorgeous bared her soul, expressing self-doubt and frustration about her performance on the show. After a full-on sobfest, the Drag Race producers surprised Jorgeous with a well-timed video call from her incredibly supportive family back in San Antonio.

For all the layers of artifice and attitude that surround drag, that moment reminded viewers that Drag Race contestants are real people with real feelings — feelings that are amplified under the pressures of the show and the isolation it demands.

Following the unlucky 13th episode that triggered her departure in a double elimination alongside Fresno-based competitor DeJa Skye, Jorgeous appeared relieved to be homebound. The candor that made her so endearing throughout the show culminated in an enthusiastic and entirely relatable quote: "I'm going to smoke a fat-ass blunt!"

Life after Drag Race

During the Season 14 reunion special, several cast members teased Jorgeous for not returning texts and being incredibly hard to reach.

"I'm so booked and busy, I don't know what y'all want me to do!" she responded.

Atlanta-based finalist Angeria Paris VanMicheals put the situation in a nutshell: "To be fair, it would be easier to get in touch with the president than Jorgeous."

What's been keeping her so busy? As it turns out, lots of fun stuff.

In March Jorgeous was among the Drag Race stars hand-picked to perform in tribute to her idol Jennifer Lopez when the singer and actress was honored with an Icon Award at the iHeartRadio Music Awards.

And in April, she joined Drag Race alumni Jaida Essence Hall, Lady Camden, Yvie Oddly, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo and others on the European leg of the Werq the World Tour, which made stops in Milan, Paris, London, Berlin and 20 other cities.

Somehow along the way, she managed to squeeze in filming a Pride-themed commercial for the cannabis-infused beverage Cann alongside Olympian Gus Kenworthy and actors Sarah Michelle Gellar and Patricia Arquette. Drag Race Season 14 castmates Kerri Colby, Willow Pill and Kornbread "The Snack" Jeté also appeared in the spot.

Given that busy schedule, it took us nearly a month to get the San Antonio-born starlet on the phone to chat about her early club days, her turn on Drag Race and her upcoming performances at the Bonham Exchange (July 14) and the Majestic Theatre (July 17).

click to enlarge Photographer Julián P. Ledezma captured San Antonio-born drag performer Jorgeous in 2017 at age 16. - Julian Ledezma
Julian Ledezma
Photographer Julián P. Ledezma captured San Antonio-born drag performer Jorgeous in 2017 at age 16.

Let's start by rewinding to your early drag days in San Antonio and performing at Babio's. What was that experience like for you as such a young performer?

Oh my god, that experience for me — for me being so young — was just a dream come true. Ever since I was younger, I watched To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, watched Selena, and I wanted to be able to perform on stage and live my dream. And I wanted to see where else it could take me. And sure enough, it took me all the way to RuPaul's Drag Race.

And your parents would actually go with you to the club?

My entire family would go with me to the club — like my tía, my grandma, my brothers would both go see me — and make sure I wasn't getting into trouble. The only way I was able to perform was because of them being there. I wouldn't honestly be able to do what I do today without my parents letting me do that.

That sounds a little nerve-wracking to have your whole family watching you perform in a club.

You know, when I was younger, I would dance at our family parties and stuff, so it was like second nature.

And you taught yourself to dance?

Yes, I did! I would watch Britney Spears' music videos and try to copy what she was doing. All because of Britney, I know how to dance now.

What was the response like from the other queens? Did you feel supported by the San Antonio drag community?

Well Kristi Waters was my first ever drag mother — I was Jorgeous Waters at one point. I had asked Kristi if I could perform and she was like, "How old are you?" And I said "16." And she was like, "We're going to have to talk to the manager." Ever since then, she took me under her wing. Other than Kristi, some of the other San Antonio queens did not like the fact that I was performing at a bar at such a young age.

I've heard rumors about jealous queens calling the cops.

Exactly, yes. I had to stop performing for like two or three months, and that was the most depressing thing. They called TABC, they turned off the music, they would turn on the lights, and were basically telling everybody to get out. It would be like a weekly inspection. It was crazy, crazy, crazy. So, I was like, I cannot wait until I turn 21, so I don't have to worry about this shit. It was kind of scary. (Laughs.)

Even though you live in Nashville now, I'm sure you know that San Antonio claims you as one of its own. What would you wear in a runway challenge designed to celebrate your hometown?

Oh my god. I'd probably do something kind of folklórico-style, or even something inspired by Selena. Obviously, a red lip — you already know — and my hair would be a slicked-back high bun.

When you were describing your style on the "Meet the Queens" episode, you used the slang term chunti. How would you translate that to someone outside of South Texas?

That's crazy because when I said chunti, everybody in South Texas knew what I was talking about — that felt so good. But the people that don't understand chunti, it's like this little Latina 'hood girl, you know, eating Hot Cheetos, drinking a Capri Sun or Big Red.

Like flea market chic?

Yes, flea market chic down.

What is the origin of your catch phrase hello-tis? Does it have anything to do with the San Antonio suburb of Helotes?

Well, when I started doing drag, me and my girlfriends would be backstage, and I would walk in and say, "Hello-tis!" And that kind of stuck. But it is from that neighborhood of Helotes, Texas. A lot of people have asked me what it means or where I got it from. I'm like, "It's a city in Texas!"

I totally teared up on the episode of Untucked when you got the call from your family. Can you give us snapshot of how you were feeling before and after that call from home?

Before that call that I got from home, I was honestly feeling so defeated in what I was doing on Drag Race. I don't know, just the way I kept on embarrassing myself. It made me question a lot about what I did in drag. And I kept on failing, failing, failing. I was like, "What could I do differently?" And seeing my family in that video, it just gave me a boost and inspired me so much. It reminded me of why I was there in the competition.

You also had everyone rallying around you. It was one of those moments that really illustrates the whole "sisterhood" aspect of Drag Race.

Yes, absolutely. A lot of the girls were there for me when I did have my little meltdowns on the show, and I appreciate all those girls so much.

Your "Glamazon Prime" challenge win was pretty epic. Who are some of your favorite designers and style icons?

I love Versace. Versace down. And now that I have that Ru-girl money, I can get me some Versace! I live for Versace. I live for Godoy. She lives in California. And also Michael Brambila and this other [designer] named Cazias. They helped me a lot throughout the entire show, and I would not have been able to do it without them.

Has anything topped your iHeartRadio gig with J.Lo?

Honestly that was so amazing. I think that's one of the highest points of my whole entire career. Because J.Lo's someone that I look up to and I remember being in the prayer circle [before the performance] and I wasn't even praying. I was just looking at J.Lo the entire time and I just started bawling. [I was thinking] like, wow, I made it.

Did you get any face-to-face time with her?

When we were rehearsing, she was watching us and giving us pointers on what we should do. She wanted her show to be one of the best things ever. It was so important to her. And she wanted everyone to feel good doing it. She's a beautiful person.

Can you give us any teasers for your Bonham show? And is Werq the World going to be different in the U.S. than it was in Europe?

My number for Werq the World is going to be redone entirely. My number's going to be a different vibe, and it has a little bit to do with weed — of course. I cannot wait to go back home to see my people because it's been a long time since I've seen people in Texas. And I already know when I go, it's gonna be lit — it's gonna be crazy.

What else do you want to do while you're here?

Honestly, I want to get me some Bill Miller's. I need some Bill Miller's, girl!

No Tex-Mex?

Obviously, some Taco Cabana down.

What's your order gonna be at Taco Cabana?

Oh my god, a fajita taco and some rice and a Big Red.

Rey Lopez Entertainment presents Jorgeous, $20-$25, 10:30 p.m. and midnight, Thursday, July 14, Bonham Exchange, 411 Bonham St., (210) 386-4537, facebook.com/reylopezentertainment

Werq the World Tour, $49.50-$79.50, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 17, Majestic Theatre, 224 E. Houston St., (210) 226-3333, majesticempire.com

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