I first came across the drag culture four years ago when I visited Kitty Su at Lalit, Mumbai. Well, it was a part of a college assignment but little did I know I will fall in love with the dance, drama and vibe of the place and the people there so much that one day, I would be writing about them.
For those who don’t know, the phenomenon of drag is not very new. It has existed for centuries. However, it seems that it has gained recognition in the past 5-6 years in India. Drag, in itself encompasses several different forms of art. It uses fashion, flamboyant makeup, over-the-top accessories, drama, dance, singing, and above everything it requires a lot of confidence.
From Sushant Divigikr or Rani Ko-HE-Nur to Patruni Sastry, Indian drag queens have made unforgettable impressions on the minds of their audiences. While you may have seen some of them perform either online or offline or never at all, when I met some of these beauties I was mesmerised with their art and their talent. Since it’s pride month going on, let’s know from these drag queens how proud they are of their art.
Miss Behenji (Nilay Joshi)
Nilay Joshi, who is popularly known as Miss Behenji when they perform their drag shows, is a Mumbai-based artist whom I met at Kitty Su. (just a little extra information–I loved meeting and dancing with them after a spectacular show I witnessed). Joshi has been a big Madhuri Dixit fan since the day they were born. They used to smile every time their mother used to show them the image of Dixit. Growing up, they used to dance on iconic numbers of Dixit instead of playing sports like other boys.
“When I was a boy and everybody would make fun of me. Just because I was different, my interests varied from other boys. Gradually I realised I am different from others. I was in my third year of college when I took part in a dance competition and decided to perform something unique. At that time, I decided to take a risk and reveal my identity. And that was the start of a new era. I asked my mother for girlish attire for my dance performance. When I put on that attire, I instantly transformed into a stunning woman from a handsome boy. While nobody said good things about me at that time, ultimately I triumphed in both the battle for my life and the hearts of everyone. From there I realised I am a beautiful “Drag Queen” and I started performing every day.”
The Dark Fantasy
The Dark Fantasy got inspired to do their first drag performance as she used to get fascinated by the kind of looks the other queens used to create and the way they used to perform on television. Let’s hear from them what they have to say about being a queen.
“Dancing was always my passion from the beginning and taking it professionally after leaving my full-time job as a wildlife biologist is a different story altogether. Coming from a rural set-up somewhere in central Odisha and that to be from a tribal family whose parents are not exposed to a lot of things, it was a roller coaster for me to make them understand how I cannot live without pursuing my passion. Somehow dancing came first to my life and it took me good 5 years after my dancing career to give drag a try and finally gathered all the courage to participate in the Drag Hunt organised by Kitty Ko at The Lalit, Bangalore. I could not win the competition but surely won a few hearts and the journey began after that.”
They further said that they look forward to performing not just for the LGBTQIA+ crowd but for everyone who does not belong to the community so that everybody will get sensitised about the beautiful culture as in India, still drag shows only happen in nightclubs or parties curated for the LGBTQIA+ crowd.
Roxy Versace hails from Darjeeling and moved to Bangalore two years ago for better job opportunities. While making friends in Bangalore, they got to know about a platform that organises parties where drag queens can perform and decided to give it a shot and over some time they started performing drag for them. Here’s what they have to say.
“I do not believe in gender tagging myself. If people ask me if I am gay, I proudly say yes but if they don’t, I say nothing at all as I don’t like putting myself into a box. I love to express myself. My parents know about my art and they love it. Though they haven’t been able to be part of my shows yet as they are back in their hometown. It’s been a journey of a year and I am so proud that I have also been given the title of Go Go dancer of India. Also, I would like to add that a lot of what I do is inspired by Plastique Tiara from RuPaul Drag Race. I thought that if she is doing it why not me.”
Cologne Doll hails started their journey as drag performers in 2019 in Hyderabad but thinks that they have been drag queen in their mind even before they knew the term drag queen.
"The reason I started it was because, since a young age, I wanted to be an actress/diva looking at movies and such. I thought it couldn't happen but discovering drag gave me an artistic outlet and helped me accept the boy part of me too. The part I enjoy the most is performing. That's the main reason I started drag to show what I can do but I think getting into drag is also quite a fun part of it. Apart from that I love getting the attention I demand in drag that I deserved my whole life. The journey has been a rollercoaster ride from Hyderabad to drag shows to queer festivals to New York Film Festival winning documentary and now a Kitty queen. I am in awe but at the same time, it just feels so correct. To meet your Icons and work with them and then be awarded for it from New York Tv and film festivals. It was such a satisfying feeling. It all started because a 7-year-old me wanted to live my truth and that's what it's gonna be. I will try to continue being authentic to myself. I wanna do everything and go everywhere. Bollywood - Hollywood - Mars with Mr Elon. I want it all.”
Well, these queens are real queens as they are proud of who they are and of course their art. Do you have it in you and want to perform as a drag but are afraid of society, then don’t be! It’s time to be proud of who you are and just dance your heart out. Happy Pride Month!