HONOLULU (KHON2) — For the first time in the history of the internationally famous RuPaul’s Drag Race, Hawai’i is being represented. Sasha Colby has entered the race and is making Hawai’i proud.
According to the U.S. Census from 2020, 370,000 Hawaiians live on the mainland U.S. which is nearly a 100,000 increase since the 2010 census. Meanwhile, only 315,000 live within the Hawaiian islands. Sasha moved to L.A. several years ago in order to make her dream come true. As with so many of Hawai’i’s talented young people, they are often forced off island to pursue their talent and dreams.
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Another such talent is Kaohi Bautista, known in drag circles as Jada Slayy. Kaohi moved to L.A. in 2020 after a forced extended stay with family was caused by Hawai’i’s second COVID shut down. In that time, Kaohi has taken his drag persona, Jada Slayy, to heights he’d only dreamed of attaining while in Honolulu.
Jada Slayy is also what is known as a pageant queen. She holds the title of Miss Scarlet. Jada Slayy is part of the Haus of Royalty whose mother is Princess, the primary emcee for Scarlet Honolulu. His sisters Carissa and Keola have had a significant impact on Jada’s art.
KHON2 had an opportunity to sit down with Kaohi, who is on island visiting family, to discuss his journey as a drag performer and as a new talent in Hollywood.
Kaohi’s drag background is one of bravery and exploration. Shedding the shackles of artificial constructs, he lept into a life that has altered his path forever.
He was born and raised in Kane’ohe, Hawai’i and attended ‘Aiea High School where he was cheerleading captain, volleyball captain and overall a high achieving academic and social butterfly.
“I just love to perform and dance. I’m always a go-getter. I call myself an introvert-extrovert type of person. Some days, I love to stay in; some days I like to be out,” said Bautista.
Kaohi comes from a large ‘mix plate’ family that identifies as Hawaiian-Filipino.
“I have a huge family on both sides. Dad has x amount of brothers, more than three. Mom has more that three, too. So, when you combine both families on both ends, it’s such a blessing. I am so blessed to have such a huge ‘ohana in general for myself.”
When Kaohi was turned 21, some friends dared him to perform in drag for the Miss Scarlet fundraiser pageant that is held at Scarlet Honolulu. He ended up winning, and this experience unleashed a dormant talent that he quickly recognized as a big part of who he is. Jada Slayy was born.
“I remember my friends kind of, like, dared me into doing it. They said, ‘Hey, Kaohi, if you could dance and shake your booty and do all of these crazy tricks and moves, like, imagine getting paid for it.’ So, I was, like, huh. I ended signing up as a baby queen. I did not know anything about drag, but I ended up winning,” said Bautista.
“And, ever since I won that competition, it lit a fire under my okole, and I wanted to pursue my drag career here in Hawai’i. It was the best thing ever that’s ever happened,” explained Kaohi.
This was in 2017. In five years, Jada Slayy has made some incredible strides. While it is a short period of time, it is also a long time ago.
“Five years, especially with the drag community all around the world, like, five years is still — with the older generation, they call that young, baby queens — but for me, five years, especially the amount of things I’ve done in five years, I consider that a long time.”
But, how did Kaohi begin his trek to stardom in Hollywood?
“So, my journey to Hollywood. I remember when it was 2020; the pandemic hit for the world. We all remember that. The first time Hawai’i opened; I was so excited to just be free. So, I ended up flying. You know, I was very crazy to fly. It was only me and four other people on the airplane flying to L.A., and I was supposed to just stay a week with my family and quarantine and be with them,” explained Kaohi.
But, it seems that his guardian angel had something bigger planned for Jada.
“But, then, Hawai’i went back on their second shut down; and with that second shut down, I was stuck in LA. I was kind of stuck there; I was abandoned in L.A. Thank god I was with my family; and ever since then, I always tell everyone I haven’t come back home since,” said Bautista.
“After that second shut down, my family offered me to come work with them. So, my first gig was with 911 on Fox; and ever since then, I said hasta la vista Honolulu, Hawai’i. And, I started my journey in Hollywood,” Kaohi further explained.
The pandemic changed the lives of so many around the world. Lots of folks learned that the pursuit of financial status was pointless while others realized that if they do not pursue their dreams now, then when? Kaohi was in a unique position. He had the talent. He was ambitious, and the quarantine left him stranded in L.A.
“Honestly, the first [global] shut down, I was, like, I’m gonna go to California. Let me just be there maybe work will open; but then, I was ready to come back to Hawai’i. And, then, after that, Hawai’i was, like, quarantine again. And, I was, like, well damn, I’m stuck in L.A. So, what better way if L.A. had jobs are opening, then I’d start workin’ and twerkin’ and movin’ and groovin’, girl,” noted Kaohi.
While Kaohi’s entire family were born and raised in Hawai’i, some of his parents’ siblings moved to L.A. to pursue more opportunity and to raise their families. This led many of them to work in the local movie industry.
“So, with my ‘ohana being so seeded into the movie industry, there was an opening to come up for a production assistant for one of the television shows, which was 911 on Fox. So, being in Los Angeles as my first job ever was straight to the movie set and working one-on-one with the cast, the crew and just learning the ins and outs of the movie industry in Hollywood.”
In this opportunity, Kaohi was in a unique position to spread aloha to some of the biggest stars in television.
“When I first became a production assistant, it was at Fox Studios for a show called 911 on Fox which is with Angela Bassett, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Peter Krause; and that was my first actual big time TV show.”
It was this fortuitous encounter with Angela Bassett that changed Jada’s career path forever.
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“That’s how I met Angela Bassett, my bestie, my BFF; and that was through 911,” said Kaohi.
To read the rest of the interview, go to Hollywood dreams of a local drag queen, Part 2.