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Sunday, April 11, 2021

#KeepDragAlive: How the Philippine drag scene thrives amidst the pandemic

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Liam Atienza
Currently residing in Manila, Liam Atienza is a student of BA International Studies in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). He enjoys writing poetry and prose and reading fictional and political narratives in his spare time. He hopes to be a drag artist and a foreign service officer/diplomat/International Relations scholar someday. For leads, you may email him at liamatienza@politixxx.today, or in Twitter via @theliamatienza.

The spread of the coronavirus did not stop us from watching six consecutive seasons of the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise—RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12, RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 5, RuPaul’s Drag Race Las Vegas Revue, Canada’s Drag Race Season 1, and Drag Race Holland Season 1—that opened doors to international Filipino drag queens such as Manila Luzon (Season 3, All Stars 1, and All Stars 4), and Jiggly Caliente (Season 4) among others.

This year, we also witnessed Filipino contestants in three out of the six seasons of Drag Race televised so far—Rock M. Sakura (Season 12), Ongina, (Season 1 and All Stars 5), and Kyne (Canada’s Drag Race Season 1).

Watching the show, we live for the drama, we sip the tea that is being spilled, and we cherish the sisterhood that is being formed within the reality television show that depicts the LGBTQIA+ community being steadfast amidst adversity.

But what about the local drag scene in real life?

Bars and clubs are closed due to quarantine measures.

With the closure of these businesses— O-Bar and Nectar to name a few—drag queens essentially have lost their way of earning by not being able to perform in front of the audience.

But thankfully that did not stop the queens to show what they got.

Throughout the course of the quarantine period, the Philippine drag scene has made its way into mainstream social media, where the queens are performing live via platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

These Queens include Turing Quinto, Mrs. Tan, Aries Night, and Victoria Salt whose stories will be featured in this article.

A drag show broadcasted live on Facebook

Knowing Thy Queens: Turing, Mrs. Tan, Victoria, and Aries

In an interview by PXXXT, John Arthur Quinto, known in the local drag scene as Turing, described what her drag was like, and how she thrived despite the pandemic.

At a young age, Turing has been a victim of bullying, and bodyshaming. 

“I wasn’t bullied because of my sexuality. I was bullied because of my size,” she said.

She further explained that there was somewhat a silver lining that she was bullied because of her size and not because of her sexuality.

“Well, bullying is really not good at all, but I am happy that, since na-bully naman na ako, I was happy that I was bullied because of my size, and not because of my sexuality. Ang iniisip ko kasi, kung na-bully ako because of my sexuality, baka nagtago ako, which is very, very hard. I’m confident with my sexuality na, eh. With my body—not so much. Pero kasi, you can always modify your size. But when it comes to your sexuality, it’s so hard to modify it, especially if that’s your real self,” Turing said.

Turing Quinto (@turingquinto on Instagram)

“Pumasok ako sa trabaho bilang drag queen, I think of it really as a profession, as a job, and not as a gateway to express my art, to express myself na ito ‘yung tinatago ko, kasi in the first place, wala naman akong tinatago. I’ve always been vocal. I’ve always been expressive. I’ve always been outspoken.”Turing

Doing drag professionally for three years at O-Bar Philippines in Pasig City, Turing is known for performing Eminem songs, opera performances, among other genres.

“I’m a very talented person. I’m a very fierce performer—walang borders when it comes to performing. I’m very uninhibited, let’s just say that. I’m very open. I don’t do boxes,” she said.

Turing claims that being a drag queen does not mean you have to confine yourself within female songs, for drag is all about unhinged performances—a lip sync eleganza extravaganza performance.

But what’s interesting is that Turing is not a drag persona. She explained that ‘Turing’ was her actual nickname back in high school.

“Walang drag persona si Turing, eh. Kung ano si Arthur in real life, ‘yon din si Turing.” she quipped.

She further explained how her theater background helped her in creating a name in the industry. Turing said, “pumasok ako sa trabaho bilang drag queen, I think of it really as a profession, as a job, and not as a gateway to express my art, to express myself na ito ‘yung tinatago ko, kasi in the first place, wala naman akong tinatago. I’ve always been vocal. I’ve always been expressive. I’ve always been outspoken.”

Turing with the rest of drag performers in O-bar which is now closed due to pandemic

For Turing, the fundamentals of theater is somewhat staged in the prospect of drag. And for her, that is one way of showing how she embraces her body and herself.

“One of the things that made me stand out in a crowd, and in the drag industry is my size, and the fact that my size is not buggering my talent,” Turing proudly exclaimed.

21-year-old Ian Jaurigue, known as Mrs. Tan in the drag world, never expected to do drag in the first place.

“Akala ko kasi puro impersonation lang siya. Hindi kasi ako marunong manggaya. Kaya sabi ko, ‘ay parang ‘di ‘to para sa ‘kin, kasi kung ito ‘yong drag, ‘di ‘to para sa ‘kin.’ Tapos, no’ng na-introduce sa ‘kin ‘yung RPDR (RuPaul’s Drag Race) ng isa kong friend na nagra-runway, tapos ini-embrace niya ‘yung individuality ng bawat isa, ng bawat character, doon nagsimula ‘yong ‘parang keri kong mag-drag,’” she explained.

Doing drag for two years, Mrs. Tan started in theater, and emerged from ‘Drag Cartel’—a competition for drag queens under Nectar Nightclub’s ‘Poison Wednesdays,’ where she shared that her drag name was in fact her pet name from her organization—UP Babaylan.

“Since wala akong choice, and biglaan ang lahat, naging Mrs. Tan ang drag name ko, [and] I just made a character out of it” Mrs. Tan said.

Mrs. Tan (@heymrstan on Instagram)

Mrs. Tan said during the interview that when you go see her on a show, expect something that is ‘fun and with heart.’

“‘Yun ‘yong totality ko, eh—fun siya, may puso siya, may message siya, mayro’n gusto siyang iparating, mayro’n siyang gustong sabihin. At hindi siya tumitigil do’n, kasi the mere fact na it transcends even after the show, that says a lot about the show that I produce, or the show that I am in. It’s something na magiging word of mouth, and it tells different stories, and from stories of people na hindi napapakinggan madalas,” she further explained.

It is somewhat rooted from her childhood, where she felt alone as Ian, and that Mrs. Tan was in fact her twin sister.

“As someone na laging mag-isa, parang ‘yun ‘yong nafi-feel ko madalas—‘yung mag-isa ako sa buhay. Kailangan kong tumayo mag-isa kasi even before, unappreciated ako,” she explained that she felt that way despite being an achiever at a young age, let alone his not-so-good relations with his mom.

Mrs. Tan also shared that as a young boy, she is not allowed to play outside, the very reason she did not establish friendships before.

“No’ng nag-drag ako, natutuhan ko na p’wede pala akong magpapasok ng tao sa mundo ko, na p’wede kong ibaba ‘yung walls ko, na p’wede akong tumuntong sa stage kung saan appreciated ako—na nakikita ako as someone worthy of watching, someone worthy of applause.”—Mrs. Tan

Mrs. Tan (@heymrstan on Instagram)

“Dinala ko ‘yung palaging sinasabi sa’kin ng lola ko na ‘wala kang kakampi—ikaw lang at the end of the day’. Pero no’ng nag-drag ako, natutuhan ko na p’wede pala akong magpapasok ng tao sa mundo ko, na p’wede kong ibaba ‘yung walls ko, na p’wede akong tumuntong sa stage kung saan appreciated ako—na nakikita ako as someone worthy of watching, someone worthy of applause… Super laking bagay sa’kin n’on—na may mga taong nakaka-appreciate, may mga taong sumusuporta, kasi never kong na-feel ‘yon.”

That is why she loved talking to herself, which is helpful every time she performs as Mrs. Tan.

“Gano’n ‘yung nangyayari every time na nasa stage ako—parang magsisimula siya na kinakausap ko ‘yong sarili ko; na dadalhin kita sa mundo ko pero hindi ka mahihirapang pumasok doon” Mrs. Tan noted.

Sef Loseo, otherwise known as Victoria Salt started drag because her circle of friends does so.

“These people are very empowered…beyond just like the art form—their message on why they do drag, kaya siya [Victoria Salt] nabuo” she said.

Victoria Salt claims that every time you see her on stage, it basically is a manifestation of power.

“Whenever I’m on stage, mafi-feel mo ‘yong presence of power…Isa sa feeling na nararamdaman ko every time I do drag is—I feel like I can do anything. ‘Yong mga time na feeling ko awkward si Sef, ‘yon ‘yong mga time na feeling ko kaya ni Victoria.”

Victoria Salt (@victoria.salt on Instagram)

“I don’t need to do anything major to prove that I am that bitch.”Victoria Salt

Growing up, Sef was a victim of bullying, not just by her classmates, but also by her teachers.

Upon her father’s death, she even reached the point that she was physically abused by one of her teachers.

“Ang kabog kasi sa pambu-bully sa’kin is that hindi lang classmates ko ang bumubunot (bullying) sa’kin, pati mga teachers ko. Nag-aaral ako no’n sa isang Christian school, ta’s nagkataon na kamamatay lang ng father ko,” she told PXXXT.

“Siyempre, bata ako, distracted ako—naglalaro— nang na-physically abuse ako ng teacher ko. Binato niya ako ng libro, sinabi na deserve ko na mamatay ‘yung father ko, because bakla ako. Since then, I was picked on ng mga teachers ko sa different subjects—every time na may nawawalang gamit, bag ko lang ‘yung iche-check. Every time na may nawawalang pera, ako lang ‘yung tatanungin, ako lang ‘yung in question, kasi first bakla ako, and second, wala akong pera. They know na wala na akong father and all.”

She then further explained why these experiences made Victoria Salt a manifestation of power.

Victoria Salt, courtesy of Potatosef Facebook page.

“I’m a firm believer that kids remember everything, and dadalhin nila ‘yan hanggang sa paglaki nila. Until now, I still hold that grudge. Kaya isa ‘yon sa mga dahilan sa for example, sasali ako sa Cartel, alam ko na by heart ‘yung lyrics, ta’s ‘yung nasa isip ko [ay] ‘yong mga taong nanakit sa’kin. Kaya nagiging interpretation ko sa mga songs is galit. Kaya every time I do drag, I feel very empowered.”

She shared the death of her cat as an example of her sad moments, and through drag, she was able to overcome that. “Kahit hindi kayanin ni Sef, kaya ni Victoria ‘yan.”

Aries Night (@thomcipriano on Instagram)

Similar to Mrs. Tan, Aries Night, the drag persona of Thomas Cipriano has emerged through ‘Drag Cartel.’

Thomas shared to PXXXT that she was exposed to drag at a young age, and started doing it whilst still in the closet.

“Na-expose ako sa drag at a very young age. Dinadala ako ng tito ko sa mga drag shows before kasi marami siyang friends before na trans women na nagd-drag. Ta’s ‘ayun, bata pa lang ako, parang ‘oh my god, bet ko maging ganiyan,’ pero [ang] understanding ko kasi before, is kailangan out of drag din babae ka. Since trans women sila, hindi ko pa gets ‘yung whole concept ng mga gano’n—SOGIE and all that” Aries night shared.

Describing her drag as a crossover of avant-garde, spook, and fish, one must expect the unexpected on an Aries Night show.

Thomas also experienced her encounter with Alaska, the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2 when she was having a tour here in Manila.

“Totoo ‘yung sinasabi nila, eh—para sa mga curious na mag-drag, tama ‘yung advice na ‘try ni’yo muna’.” Aries further explained that trying equates to wanting to go further the art form.

“Kapag may mga taong tinry mag-drag for the first time, para siyang drag na gusto mong ulit-ulitin, ta’s may mga taong ayaw nang ulitin—ibig sabihin, hindi talaga para sa kanila. So ‘yung nangyari sa’kin was, iba ‘yung feeling, eh—nasa labas ako, naka-heels. Hinanap-hanap ko siya na parang, ‘kailan kaya ‘yung next time na p’wede ako’ng magganito?’ tapos ‘ayun, okay na ‘yong family ko about it. Out na ako noon.”

A victim of bullying, Aries Night faced trauma as a child for being gay.

“May bullying na nga sa school, may bullying pa pag-uwi—‘yung mga friends ko sa streets, may bullying din. Wala akong takas sa bullying no’n. Kahit nga sarili ko, binu-bully ko na nga that time, eh,” she opened up.

Asked if Aries Night helped her overcame her traumas as Thomas, she admitted that it is still a learning curve, and that there are still scars left from his experiences as a child.

“To be honest, process pa rin siya for me na ma-overcome ‘yon, kasi I don’t think people can really overcome, eh. Kumbaga, siguro ‘yong gist of it, na-overcome ko na, pero may trauma pa rin na naiwan,” she continued.

Aries went on by admitting about the insecurities she experienced as Thomas, engulfing her drag persona—these prevailing insecurities that is rooted from her rauma. “Kaya ‘pag napansin mo, when I paint my face as Aries Night, ayaw kong magmukhang approachable. Kasi ang gusto ko, when I am Aries Night, walang mang-aapi sa’kin.”

Photo from Aries Night Facebook account

“When I paint my face as Aries Night, ayaw kong magmukhang approachable. Kasi ang gusto ko, when I am Aries Night, walang mang-aapi sa’kin.”—Aries Night

On the ‘new normal’: How did they adapt?

With Miss Rona ruining their livelihoods, we asked the queens how did they adjust since they cannot perform in front of a live audience like they used to do.

With the ‘new normal’ coming to the rise, the queens have resorted through online platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to show us what they got.

The most notable of these social media drag shows are Turing Quinto’s ‘Drag Masterclass’, and the LA Queens on Facebook!

Turing Quinto’s ‘Drag Masterclass’

Turing Quinto on YouTube

“Every good deed that we do to people, it will come back to us.”—Turing

Shifting from the actual drag scene to the online world wasn’t much of a challenge for Turing.

She’s always live on Facebook every time she does her makeup, and the idea of making vlogs was always into consideration.

“A lot of people are telling me, ‘mag-vlog ka na kaya? Ang daldal mo, eh,’” she jokingly said.

What stopped her from being in the vlogging scene is; one, the lack of equipment, even though she has the means to buy such, and two, her busy schedule in O-Bar, and three, the fact that she is not a ‘techie’ person, as she admitted in the interview.

“My passion for art. I’ve always been an artist. Hindi pa ako drag queen, artist na ako… My passion for art kept me going despite of this pandemic” – Turing

But what pushed her to do this aside from her love to talk to people is her passion for art.

“My passion for art. I’ve always been an artist. Hindi pa ako drag queen, artist na ako… My passion for art kept me going despite of this pandemic.”

The former seamstress and woodworker explained the content she used for her vlogs that are uploaded on her YouTube Channel.

The Masterclass includes the things necessary for one to be a good performer.

In her first masterclass, she explained that the videos are not just for drag queens per se, but also to those who want to pave their way into the art realm.

Turing even shared her aim to be a professor one day, and watching these vlogs will help you!

“Every good deed that we do to people, it will come back to us,” she said.

Turing, however, explained how the pandemic challenges her passion in doing these things, and how everything is different from the actual drag scene.

“You’re making your own set. You’re doing everything on your own, unlike sa bars—makeup…salang! Sure win talaga na may bayad ka, at may makukuha ka. Dito, hindi pa sure, regardless of the effort that you do. Sobrang hirap,” she admitted.

She even confessed to be burned out because of the pandemic and the current context that she is in—being in need to pay the bills.

Describing it as inevitable and unavoidable, Turing’s inspiration to keep going was her family. Being a family-oriented person, and her family being very supportive of her drag, Turing kept her family her number one priority.

“As much I want to save money for myself and my future, right now my family needs me more than myself needs me” Turing said.

Her livestreaming on Facebook and her vlogs also signify her help for aspiring drag queens.

“When I started my vlog, sila ‘yung nasa isip ko—to help them. I did my masterclass thinking about the aspiring drag queens,” she said.

In an episode of her Masterclass, she did her makeup with her bare fingers. This is to show that despite drag can be very high-maintenance, there are ways to execute drag with the littlest things possible. For Turing, “It’s drag. It’s supposed to be fun.”

To know more about Turing and to watch her masterclass and her other content, you may subscribe to Turing Quinto’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

The LA (Lower Antipolo) Kweens

LA Kweens Poster

The LA Kweens, being located in Lower Antipolo, started off as a passion project. But the fact that everything is being put online is very much of a struggle for the queens.

Mrs. Tan pointed out that the audience’s reaction is different in the ‘new normal,’ a manifestation on the great divide between the physical and the virtual world.

“Ako kasi, sucker for attention and applause. Very particular ako doon every time na gumagawa ako ng performance. Mahihirapan kang kumuha ng energy at validation kasi hindi mo naman nakikita ano’ng reaction nila” she said.

Being an introvert, adapting to the ‘new normal’ was bit of a challenge to Aries Night. But the main problem here is the resources, similar to Turing, and other queens as well.

“Ang naging struggle din namin is kulang kami sa resources. Kasi basically, biglaan ‘tong nangyari, eh. Ang s’werte na ng mga taong may setup na sa bahay, may mga studio, may magandang ring light, camera, stable internet connection,” she further explained.

Aries and Mrs. Tan further explained how the old and seasoned queens are the most victimized in this dilemma.

The LA Kweens

“Ang hirap din mag-adjust especially to those older [and closeted] queens na naka-private ‘yung Facebook, hindi sila nag-o-open up sa buhay nila kasi essentially ‘yung nangyayari, na-fo-force kang mag-live kasi wala ka nang napagkakakitaan. Kailangan mong i-open up ‘yung buhay mo, ‘yung bahay mo, maging active sa Facebook kasi ‘yon lang ‘yung way mo to earn a living. Sobrang hirap niya,” Mrs. Tan said.

An LA Kweens Facebook show

For Aries, the privileged are the ones who can get by this situation.

”Ang nakakaawa rito is ‘yung mga old queens na lately lang namin napansin na naka-adapt. Hindi pa nga completely
adapted, eh. Siguro sa lahat, sila ‘yung pinaka-affected, kasi s’yempre nasa age of technology na tayo, and ito ‘yung ‘new normal’. Kung kami na mas nasanay sa face-to-face with people, what more sila na ilang taon nang ginagawa ‘to. Ang situation naman na ‘to is power coming from the privileged. ‘Yung mga unprivileged, tapos ‘yung hanapbuhay pa ang drag, ang mga totoong victims dito” Aries said.

Even though she is known as a social media queen, Victoria Salt admitted that it is very difficult to translate the energy she is trying to enunciate online.

“Sa last live show [of LA Kweens] na nag-guest ako sa kanila, I get super pressed up easily. Ang daming napapansin ng tao—natanggal na bra, lumuwag na wig, pinawisan—‘wag kayong masyadong crucial sa mga taong ‘to. Imagine ‘yung pinagdaanan [nila] just to produce this show inside their homes, with very limited resources,” she said.

Screenshots of the LA Kweens performing on their Facebook Live show.

Victoria went on by saying that we should continue to support creative people because everyone is having a hard time to make quality content under the given context.

“It’s super easy to judge, pero mas mahalagang maging supportive tayo especially sa creatives nowadays, kasi ang hirap para sa’ming itawid ‘to” Victoria added.

The LA Kweens in fact started doing their platform out of boredom, as they admitted it in the interview. But for them, it was an easy move to transcend to the online world because of how established their relationships are.

“‘Pag magkakasama kaming tatlo, wala kaming inhibitions when it comes to being real. Kaya hindi kami nahihirapang magpaka-genuine. Kaya feel ko, ‘yun ‘yong pinaka-key ng LA Kweens—it’s a show of genuine people. You can watch Aries Night, Mrs. Tan and Victoria, but you can also see Sef, Ian and Thomas at the same time, which makes that very special,” said Mrs. Tan.

(L-R): Victoria Salt, Mrs. Tan, and Aries Night in one of their Facebook Live shows.

But like any other queen, a burn-out phase was experienced by the three. How did they cope?

It is still a process for Aries. “I don’t want to speak on [their] behalf, pero kahit ano’ng work setting or industry ay mayro’ng toxic qualities. Wala naming industry sa mundo na madali,” she said.

“Toxicity comes in all forms, and the drag community is also a victim of that. Lately, for me, sa local drag community, medyo kulang ‘yung realness. Ang daming stuck sa idea na ‘ito ‘yung character ko so ito ako’, nawala ‘yung essence; at the end of it all—under that wig, under that makeup, tao ka pa rin. So medyo demotivated ako recently—si Mrs. Tan din—pero personally, ‘yung struggle ko lately—no matter what I put out, kahit gaano kaganda, kahit gaano kagaling, may mga taong hindi supportive kasi hindi ka lang bet, at ‘yung hindi nila bet about you is ‘yung idea nila about you na hindi naman nila sure kung ikaw ba talaga ‘yon” she further exclaimed.

The LA Kweens in one of their Facebook Live shows.

On the politics within the LGBTQI+

Aries also noted that being put in the guise of a sisterhood is tiring, because at the end of the day, internal heat still exists.

“Drag is about reclaiming power, and within the community, you are establishing your own kingdom. But, hindi nila ma-realize na we can co-exist,” Mrs. Tan further explained.

Victoria Salt, a known advocate of #LetBoysBeFeminine, also agreed by saying that the LGBTQIA+ Community isn’t supportive as it seemed like.

“Ang dami ring tao na porque matagal na [in the industry], feeling nila superior sila above everyone else. I don’t think that’s a family—and it causes that burned out feeling,” she said.

Victoria’s way of coping up from the burned-out feeling is her social group.

“Every time nabu-burn out ako, ang ginagawa ko first is surrounding yourself with people who can support and understand you. It doesn’t matter kung malaki ‘yung circle or not, as long as you know who you are, and supportive sila, and nakikinig sila, kabog ‘yon. Pangalawa is, lagi mong alalahanin why you started in the first place. Cliché siyang pakinggan, pero it always helps a lot” she quipped.

Victoria also shared that there are times that she’s unmotivated while Sef perceives it as another ‘bump in the road.’

“And since art form siya [drag], you can find something inspirational from your situation, kung madadala mo siya sa pino-produce mo.” She went on by saying how backstories are important so that people can really grasp the energy one is channeling.

Through their livestreaming in Facebook, the LA Kweens have become a stage to other queens. It becomes a platform where everyone can share a spotlight.

They invited several guests which include Baby Vivora, and drag king Samael Says.

This is to show diversity on what drag really means. “Will it be something bigger? Let’s see,” said Mrs. Tan.

“I don’t know how can we pull this out pero I hope it will be something bigger. What we can promise every time we have a show—it’s something better than the last show. We agree na we are just as best as our last show, and feeling ko isa siyang magandang mindset especially sa mga starting na nabigyan ng spotlight, kasi just because you did that doesn’t mean you will always be that person,” she continued.

The LA Kweens with Samael Says (@samael_says on Instagram) in one of their live shows.
The LA Kweens with Baby Vivora (@heymacyou on Instagram) in one of their live shows.

To know more of their content, and to get updates on the LA Queens, you may follow them on Instagram: @heymrstan, @thomcipriano, and @victoria.salt.

On the next wave of drag queens: What do they say?

Finally, we asked the queens what their message would be for the aspiring drag queens, kings, and artists in the future.

“To baby queens, ang quote na pinaka-nag-work for me na since high school ko ina-apply na mas applicable ngayon sa drag is ‘yong quote ni Lady Gaga na ‘always meet halfway between fantasy and reality” Aries Night, a Lady Gaga fan, shared.

Aries was particular about people who are stuck in their fantasies—one should know when to live their fantasy, and when to live in reality.

“Piece of advice: don’t owe it to anyone aside from yourself. At the end of the day, you’re growing because you’re willing to,” Mrs. Tan said.

She went on by saying that one’s elevation depends on how one feels and perceives things.

“Always keep yourself going and to always find elevation in the most little things that you can see or you can feel. If it feels right, continue doing it. Along the way, just conceptualizing a show, or just conceptualizing a performance, ‘pag nagtanong kami sa maraming tao, may doubts na agad, eh. Pero if you feel like your performance is right, it will translate, as long as your heart is in the right place.”

“Just let people believe in everything that you could offer, ‘cause the right people will appreciate everything you offer.”—Mrs. Tan

Mrs. Tan went on to say that since the drag industry is very tough, one should be able to have a thick skin.

“Toughen up yourself, and take inspiration from older queens, pero take the right kind of inspiration. And take inspiration from younger queens as well. And take inspiration from everywhere” she said.

Turing has two things to say to aspiring drag artists—one is to educate oneself, and second is to just do it. “Number one, to educate yourself, kasi kailangan maintindihan mo muna kung ano ang essence ng pagiging drag queen.”

She explained that one must know how to work in the drag industry. “It’s not as colorful as it may seem…not all glitters are gold.”

To others it might be seen as an investment, where Turing claimed that it is very difficult because you invest a lot of resources just to look good, but Turing treats it as a profession, where she mentioned that despite of the good pay, it really is an investment to elevate your drag.

“And then number two, is to do it. Kasi kung nasa isip mo lang siya, mananatili lang siya sa isip mo.” She mentioned about practicing and using platforms such as TikTok when a person really wants to go further in drag.

“When you’re a drag queen, you have to support the queens na nilu-look up to mo, and also the queens that are needing help.”—Turing Quinto

“Don’t take criticism from someone you will not get an advice from.”—Victoria Salt

“Don’t take criticism from someone you will not get an advice from.” Victoria Salt said. She explained that it really helped her drag a lot by accepting criticism from people that she trusts, and knows that can help her better her style as a drag queen. “Kailangan nila maging sure kung papasukin nila ‘yung drag industry, if gusto nilang seryosohin, tatagan talaga nila ‘yung loob nila. And bukod sa surrounding yourself with great people, surround yourself with inspiring people as well. Cultivate your style, and know your aesthetic,” Turing further exclaimed.

“We’re all born naked, the rest is drag.”- RuPaul

With drag forging ahead into mainstream media, it does not only unpack and reaffirm their LGBTQI+ gender identities but also engender their own political and social visibilities.

At its core, drag is not merely a form of queer entertainment but it is a protest inscribed within bodily performances.

It is also essentially a kind of storytelling or narration of the struggles of a community that has been marginalized, of bodies that have been rendered invisible, and of voices that have been rendered inaudible and unsayable by different institutions of powers.

Aries Night, Mrs. Tan, Turing, and Victoria are just four of the many queens who are trying to send a message to the world that has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is but important to also hear the stories of how they continue to thrive, adopt and conquer like a true Queen this world that is increasingly becoming more precarious and unjust to those imbued with less power.

And drag is all about reclaiming that power; which also means that drag is and will always be political.

If our Queens can say a big f**k y** to the world that has always been unfair and uncouth just by merely existing and doing their own Queenly things, so can you.

Perhaps, it’s time to change the world, one performance at a time.—Liam Atienza, Politixxx Today

Currently residing in Manila, Liam Atienza is a University student taking up BA International Studies who writes poetry and prose in his spare time and hopes to be a drag artist and diplomat or scholar someday. For leads, you can email him at liamatienza@politixxx.today, or in Twitter via @theliamatienza.

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