We wanted to do a makeover video but we took it several notches up. We got a straight guy to dress up as a drag queen. For this, we had a professional drag queen come down to our office.
Drag queen: Lush Monsoon is a lawyer by day and a drag performer by night. He performs at Kitty Su on Thursday nights. He is an artist who loves makeup and performing.
Straight Man: Vishnu Gopinath is a journalist who likes to try new things. Vishnu knows nothing about makeup. He has never even tried cross-dressing.
What Is Drag?
Cross-dressing is a simple act of wearing clothes that are meant for the opposite sex. Drag is confused with cross-dressing but it goes beyond that. It is an art-form where people dress up as either men or women in an exaggerated and highly stylised way. When people wear women’s clothing and perform stylised forms of femininity, they are called drag queens. The opposite of them are drag kings.
The art-form emerged from exaggerated female caricatures of “the wench” and “the damsel” from American vaudeville art scene. Since then, drag queens have evolved from kitschy 1930s comedy acts that were enjoyed by everyone, to gay clubs where artists risked getting arrested. These performances were considered obscene and socially unacceptable. But in 1980s and 1990s, Drag was a powerful movement in NYC.
India itself has a rich cultural history of drag. One example of this lies in Mahabharata, where Arjuna lived in disguise for a year as Brihannala – a woman who taught music and dance. Another example can be witnessed every year in Kerala, where over five thousand men and boys dress up as women as part of a ritual at the Kottankulangara Devi Temple. And of course, historically, men have performed as women in different kinds of folk theatre.
It was in 2009, with the premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag culture which was still an underground movement, entered the orbit of mainstream entertainment globally. Drag queens were no longer something you had to seek out; no more did fans have to hunt around for local drag shows at gay bars in their cities. The show didn’t just give a closer, more intimate look into the lives of drag queens, it was educational too.
The show has inspired many Indian men to embrace their femininity and feel pride in that. Indian queer people have taken to this art form and are using it to express gender fluidity. Drag queens are confused with men trying to be women but it’s not. Anyone can do drag. Even straight men and women can do drag.
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