With the LGBTQIA community finding their voice and finding new ways to express their individuality, the drag scene around the world is slowly becoming even more diverse and interesting. In such a case, it is imperative that every community finds representation. Humza Mian aka Manghoe Lassi is one name who is representing the South Asian community in the drag scene in Canada and around the world.
A veterinary technician of Pakistani descent, Humza is one of the most prominent desi drag queens in Toronto, known by the name Manghoe Lassi. Desi drag artists such as Humza take inspiration from Bollywood and the prevalent pop culture to express themselves through drag.
Having come to terms with his sexuality at the age of 8, he ventured into drag only about two years ago. In a scene dominated by Eurocentric sensibilities, he found it difficult to find acceptance, even from other drag queens who found his desi aesthetic weird at times. However, he used it to his advantage and captured people’s attention, paving a way for other desi drag queens to shine.
The turning point was when he attended RuPaul’s Dragcon and garnered visibility for his desi avatar.
“I was photographed/ interviewed by a whole bunch of people, including Paper Magazine, World of Wonder and Getty Images! It really was the catalyst to all this attention I am getting now and recognition that Desi drag queens deserve.”
When asked if his friends and family know of his sexuality and his alter ego, he says “Some of my family knows about my sexuality and my drag work. I was raised in a Muslim household and my parents, aunts, uncles, etc. are all moderately religious – they fast, pray, read the quran daily. They are fixed in the culture they were raised even after living in Canada for over 30 years. For this reason, I know I will likely never come out to them or to other religious family members, and as a result they will also never be able to meet Manghoe Lassi. I am out to a lot of my cousins and to my sisters, though! They are all supportive and even though some are religious, they weren’t raised with the taboos that my parents were surrounded by growing up in Pakistan. My two younger sisters come out with me often to different queer/ drag events.”
He finds inspiration in classic Bollywood movies, especially Devdas. He also tries to juxtapose desi elements with western detail to showcase his love for his South-Asian roots and western upbringing. In the drag community, his inspiration usually comes from people who don’t fall under the conventional Eurocentric standards attributed to drag.
“Raja Gemini from Rupaul’s Drag Race is a huge inspiration of mine mainly because of her pacific islander inspired looks. Allysin Chaynes is a Toronto queen who’s also a musician and incorporates that into her drag acts. She has a full hairy chest, something unconventional and inspirational for all of us who are hairy. She’s one of the reasons why I’m a bearded queen. Another inspiration of mine is Ivory Towers. She was one of the first drag queens I went to see when I first came out. When I started drag she continued to push me and compliment me whenever she saw me out. It’s not as common as one would think to show the support among drag queens in a region, but Ivory really broke that and continues to inspire and compliment me to this day,” he says.
When it comes to his views on the desi drag scene in Toronto, he’s all praises. Events like Rangeela, Weirdo and Blockorama promote diversity, even in the drag scene. When it comes to India though, he feels like we have a long way to go. He came across Maya the drag queen late last year and has been following her on social platforms ever since.
Although he’s all for young gay men trying to explore their sexuality through drag, he also has a more pragmatic outlook when asked what his advice to them would be.
“I would advise young desi men to follow your heart but take your brain with you. We are pressured to leave behind anyone who doesn’t accept our homosexuality, but anyone who has been raised in a desi family knows that leaving your family and community it far from easy. If you feel like it’s SAFE for you to express yourself through drag, then do it! If not, wait. The world isn’t going to end and there is no harm in waiting until things work in your favor. It’s better to be safe than to risk your life to put on makeup and a wig,” he says.
About being desi in a Westernised community, he says it does come with its own share of challenges and that’s what makes it all the more important for him to flaunt his desi roots.
“We need to let the community know that we are here, we’re human, and our presence shouldn’t be boiled down to a spicy dish on dating apps.”