The word ‘drag’ refers to an art which is full of high energetic performance. It blends physical transformation, fashion and complicated facial recreation for a gender’s aesthetic. Drag even includes music, dance, performances, and very often shock tactics or concepts that are created to round a persona. Simply put drag is a liberation to many. Drag is a form of self expression. Drag is freedom to be whoever you want.
On that note, this week we at Fifty Shades Of Gay did an exclusive interview with Kween Mallika. She is Toronto’s favorite Bollywood drag queen and this is her story.
Realising drag is my destiny:
I realized I want to try the art of drag when I saw my drag sister/ unofficial drag mentor: Sofonda Cox perform at Woody’s (Toronto’s best gay bar) in the year 2017. She was wearing a metallic dress with wings, which she later told me was all made by her. Hearing her love for the art form was so inspiring; I thought I should give a try too. That time, I had no idea that that one time thing will become such a huge part of my life.
What drag truly means to me:
Drag for me is a way of expressing the feminine side of me as a guy. Drag gives a new way of looking at certain things in a way that I might have not understood if I have not done drag. Believe me, I would’ve not understood the real meaning of what fem shaming is (even within the LGBT community) if I was not a drag queen. Not only that, when you start doing drag, you will also see the true faces of your family, friends and society. Drag for me is kind of a “litmus test” to tell me if the person is a true supporter of the community and the culture. Or if the support only comes with terms and conditions (such as “straight-acting gay guys” etc.)
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Your desi Indian Punjabi drag queen of Toronto 🙏 #desi #punjabi #jatti #salwarkameez #model #plussizefashion #plussizemodel #instamodels #modelhunt #indianmodel #poc #mallikathequeenofhearts #dragqueen #dragracecanada #toronto #india #canada🇨🇦 #insta #instagood #instagram
Also, drag gave me a way to explore different ventures in my life. I would have never imagined that I could construct a garment for myself, or make a hair-do on a wig, or make props for the stage. Drag, indeed helped me grow as an artist. If you are willing to learn and grow, drag is an excellent way to do that.
Coming out to my family and friends:
It was quite a shock to my parents when they came to know about me doing drag. They did not understand at first when I was explaining the concept of drag to them, but over the period, they came along. They did their research on the topic. I also helped them know and understand more about what being a “gay person” and a “drag artist” means. So, luckily, my parents are supportive enough not to stop me living my dream of being a drag queen.
My extended family, however, just like any other ignorant family members, did not take it well. I still face discrimination from them. I have been laughed at, called names like “chakka”, “meetha”, “hijra” and such by my extended family members including my cousins. However, I am strong enough to shun them and call them out whenever I face such behaviour.
In a way, drag has made me a stronger person to stand for myself and my dignity. Also at the same time show people their boundaries which should not be crossed by anyone. Which includes your family members.
Toronto’s drag scene:
Toronto drag scene is pretty diverse, we have queens and kings all over the world who showcase their talent, diversity and culture with their drag style. We have pageant queens, club kids, non-binary performers, Bio queens, Drag kings, queens and kings with agendas (showcasing real face of the society) in their performances. We also have horror and spooky drag artists (such as Yovska from season 3 of Dragula) and we have the true queen of the North- Brook Lynn Hytes.
Bollywood is big in Canada! People love Bollywood and Indian culture in general. My friends who are Caucasians and Middle Easterns sometimes surprise me with the knowledge of India and Indian Movies they have! It has happened to me, where a few Caucasian friends of mine know more about our movies than I do.
It’s known that there are not many drag kings in India, when compared to drag queens. Unfortunately, it is the same case in Canada as well. Although, it is growing at a faster pace than ever. We need more drag kings in the drag Scene!!
Difference between Indian and Canadian drag:
Drag as an art form is the same for everyone – it includes a performance, a message, entertainment and creativity. Western drag is the one which is inspired by the arts and culture of North America; that includes famous Hollywood movies/ actors/ actresses, famous TV shows and pop artists. Similarly, Indian drag is also influenced by movies and culture. Indian cinema has played a major role in shaping the Indian drag style of today. I also believe that folklore, classical dance forms and customs of India played a very big role in inspiring current and future drag artists. For example, myself, who is born in a Sikh Punjabi family is inspired by “Gidda” and “Bhangra” – Folk dance of Punjab; “Kathak”-classical dance form of North India and Bollywood movies- I grew up watching all the Bollywood movies at that time.
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finally, found this pic when I went to Montreal pride parade 2019 for a desi performance!! #dragqueen #Mallikathequeenofhearts #rupauldragrace #dragqueen #dragperformer #dragperfection #dragmodel #model #plussizemodel #toronto #torontogay #desigay #desidragqueen #indiandragqueen #bollywood #bollywooddance #bollywooddragqueen #punjabi #punjabidragqueen #insta #instagood #instagramer #instagram #dragracecanada
I believe Indian drag scene is richer than the drag scene of the UK and the US. You won’t find men performing as female deities in any other culture except in India. Take examples of our classical dance forms such as Kathak, Kathakali, Bharatnatyam etc, in all these classical dance forms, men were the one to portray the feminine roles (that what drag means, literally!) , and that has been going since centuries. That is way before the Western countries learned the concept of drag.
Drag in India before Section 377:
Before 2018, drag scene in India in clubs were at the nascent stages. There were few clubs which regularly hosted drag shows such as Kitty Su. But, after the decriminalization, the drag scene has grown quite a lot and it has a lot of potential to grow further.
I moved to Canada in 2014, so, I personally did not see the growth of drag scene after this section was decriminalized. But I came to know about it on social media such as Instagram.
Western culture’s influence on Indian drag:
I believe that Indians have inspired other communities about theatre and drag; because of the vast history (available to us in both writing and in images) of it available to us in the form of “Natya Shastra”. In the west, the term “Drag” was coined in the early 1900s and have made it popular by the media. Popular drag artists such as Rupaul have inspired many people and have helped to make drag as a profession – an acceptable profession of course!
So, I believe that “Indian culture gave us the roots of the concept of drag, the West coined the term “drag” and helped it become popular and normalized”. The inspiration came from people who are visionary, artistic and ahead of their times.
My growth as a drag artist:
In my earlier days as a drag artist, I wanted to please the audience by performing on English songs and I didn’t feel like I was true to myself. But, as I got more experienced, I realized that songs or the choice of songs do not matter. The only thing matters is that you enjoy the performance and connect to the audience. People will not remember which song you did the other day. However, they will remember that they thoroughly enjoyed the performance because you were able to connect to the audience during the performance.
With that experience, my drag-style has now become more representative of my Indian heritage and culture. I wear elaborate Indian clothes, saris, jewelry, as well as bodysuits with Indian designs. Though, I still like to perform sometimes of Ariana Grande, Sia, Lady Gaga and Adele songs if there is a special request.
I, obviously take inspiration from Bollywood. My biggest inspiration from Bollywood is Madhuri Dixit Nene!!! I have done so many songs of her now, that people have started calling me “Madhuri Dixit of Drag”! I know, it’s a very big title and I try to live by it every time. So whenever I go on stage, people now expect at least one Madhuri Dixit song. It is my dream to meet MD, at least one in my lifetime and learn some dance moves from her!
Tell us the three things that most people are ignorant about, when it comes to drag:
Three things that most people don’t understand that we are:
1. We are humans too: your negative comments do make us feel bad, even when we try to ignore it. Calling us bad names and that we are bringing shame to our family, or worse, death threats also make us feel vulnerable at times.
2. We all are uneducated: Excuse me, sir! I have a master’s degree in Science and I am a full-time drug researcher, I can slay a stage and teach an undergraduate class at the same time!
3. We all are trans: Some queens/ Kings are, but not all of us! I am a man as much as you are!
4. Prostitutes: Not everyone is a prostitute
A word for aspiring or upcoming drag artists:
Always remember to stay humble, help each other and ask for help if you need it!
I really admire Fifty shades of Gay for doing such a great work in uplifting the LGBT society in India; by giving them a platform to have discussions, showcase talent, connecting people, inspiring people to accept themselves for what they are and organizing events which cater to educating masses about LGBT rights and issues. Hats off!