Hello, my name is Aishwarya Ayushmaan, 28 years old, from Ranchi. I am a lawyer and also a drag queen. My drag persona is popularly known as ‘Lush Monsoon’.
For years, I had kept my femininity hidden. Until I discovered the TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race. I felt a strange connection with the queens who unabashedly lived their true selves despite all the ordeals they went through. Months later, I made a lip-sync video in drag and called myself ‘Lush Monsoon’. The positive reactions that I received was heartwarming. That’s when I realized, drag is my destiny.
My parents are not aware of my drag persona. Being from a small town, it’s a struggle to open up to them. Although they have always allowed me to be myself at home, my ‘queerness’ is a difficult topic to talk about with them. Sadly, that’s the reality of many queer people all over the world.
Many think that, gender identity is not related to being a drag queen/king. But in my case, it’s different. Lush Monsoon is not just a stage character for me. She’s an integral part of who I am. Drag allowed me to come to terms with my genderqueer/non-binary self. It allows me to unleash the woman in me but not be trapped within it.
Drag and it’s history in India:
Drag in India has had an elaborate history. It has existed in many forms and with various intentions. Many of our cultural dance forms (e.g Kathakali) and local theatres (e.g. jatra, launda naach) have showcased drag. The current form of drag is inspired by the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race. This version of drag, though driven from Indian roots, is based on the same template.
Before 377, we existed in a ‘shroud of illegality’. You could be arrested/harassed any time you were in drag. It happened to me more than once, that a policeman questioned me when I was in drag. After 377, that fear has reduced considerably. More venues have also opened up and welcomed drag.
My Journey As Lush Monsoon:
I started giving performances, since 2017 – after I debuted at the Delhi International Queer Film Festival.
My first on stage performance, I still remember it as exhilarating & liberating. I lip-synced to Shirley Bassy’s “I am what I am” in six inch heels and I meant every word of it on stage.
While creating performances for Lush, I look for inspiration either in a song, or in a look. Once, I feel inspired I plan the choreography, the song, the look. The next challenge is to create the look in the limited means and time available. I hunt for fabrics, find tailors. It’s a long journey but in the end, it always comes together.
It takes me at least three to four hours to transform from Ayushman to Lush. Makeup is a ritual of self love. It’s not just a physical transformation but also a mental one. I have to allow myself to relax, and let go of myself, and discover myself again while I paint a new version of me. And I enjoy every minute of it.
My craft, over these years, has also evolved considerably. Earlier I was just focused on bringing the glamour and looking more ‘ladylike’. Now, I try to bring something different every time and don’t hesitate in making bolder fashion choices. There is a lot of thought and effort that goes into my looks as it plays an instrumental role in my performance.
The audience who come to see me perform, see us perform, is anyone who comes with an open mind. But honestly, it’s more about creating a safe space where everyone can be free.
That said, the number of drag queens is greater than the number of drag kings. Yes, it’s true. More people should play around with the idea of masculinity. But sadly, it’s still a evolving thing.
Three Things That Most People Are Ignorant About Drag:
These are the tops things, according to me, that most people have no clue about when it comes to drag.
1. Anyone can do drag. It’s not just for men who dress as women. All drag forms are valid.
2. Drag is very personal and subjective. It can mean different things for different people. For some, it’s part of their gender expression, for others it may be just a character they play for the world.
3. Drag is not a new phenomenon, it’s always been part of our culture. Trans people have been an integral part of this culture.
This is why it is crucial that LGBTQIA+ community empowering platforms such as Fifty Shades Of Gay, exist. They are very important to sharing and putting queer people on the map. For centuries, LGBTQIA+ people have had to remain hidden. And now finally people are listening, thanks to these platforms.
A Word For Upcoming Drag Enthusiasts:
Take small steps. It’s a long journey to become a full blown drag performer. Celebrate every step. Drag is about learning to accept all parts of you. Cherish all the help that you get on the way and value your friends who support you.