COVID 19 has shut all the drag places with highly effecting Indian drag community. While many of the drag shows have been moved to Online spaces now. However the new initiative by Indian Drag artist Miss Bhenji aka Nilay Joshi is a need of an hour now.
Miss Bhenji is a drag queen based in India. she hosted my digital show called All About ME. All About ME is a queer show that helps the queer artists of India to showcase their talent. she hosted the first show in pride month with over 24 performers across the world.
Miss Bhenji is bringing the second season of All About ME on the Independence day of India i.e. on 15th August, 2020. Because of COVID 19 situation, drag artists are left with no income source as their performance stages are out of work since last 4 months. So, she came up with an initiative to not just provide them platform but also help them economically. Inorder to know more about "All About Me Season 2", Dragvanti reached out to Miss Bhenji to get more details about the idea and thought process behind this initiative. Here is what we have asked
Tell us about your journey through drag ?
My drag journey has been quite very well in India. I am an Indian aesthetic drag queen, so it’s very easy for the general Indian audience to connect with me and my art form. I try to incorporate dancing and comedy in my lip-syncs which makes it different from other Bollywood dancing. I try to narrate a story with my act and entertain my audience. As simple as my concepts might sound, it all depends on how I execute it eventually for people to understand and connect with me from the audience.
Your first season of All about me was so hit , tell us how did you come up with this idea ?
I was looking at a lot of online drag shows that were happening around all over the internet. People have different ideas of doing the shows similar to the one we see in the clubs. When I used to watch those shows I used to feel this could’ve been better, that could’ve been added. With time I understood the basics of hosting a show and I thought why not create one from my side and provide platforms for various queer artists with the country.
What is all about me all about ?
As narcissistic as it may sound, this has always been my mantra before performing on stage. Earlier when I started drag I was put down by people within the gay community that my drag is Indian, it will be forgotten soon. No one cares for an Indian queen, its similar to cross dressing and all that. But to keep my mind sane before the performances I used to sip my drink and remind myself, “These 5 minutes of performance are mine. Ain’t nobody is taking away this from me. This stage is for me and for those 5 minutes, it’s ALL ABOUT ME”. And hence came the name of the event.
Whats up for the upcoming season?
The upcoming season is going to be the gag of the year. Y’all ain’t ready for this. As we celebrate 73rd year of Independence, I am coming up with second season of All About ME. This time 9 drag queens (including me) from 3 different cities and 1 editing and post production guy are coming together to entertain you at your home. We are collaborating with my friend Gulshan Giri( his work experience includes working with brands like Reliance, Uber, Hero Honda, Production houses like Dharma Productions [Baahubali 2] and queer artists like Sushant Divgikar, Glorious luna [Queer Carnival]) who will be managing editing and post production of the event.
Gulshan was one of my first friends in Mumbai, he has constantly supported me in and out of drag and being gay himself, enjoys the drag culture like any gay guy would. All these queens have different drag genres but they are here to entertain you on the Independence day on the theme I am calling “Indian culture and drag”. Watch these amazing queens showcase the different cultures of India through their drag.
How has pandemic effecting drag artists in india?
Things were starting to go fine when suddenly the world got hit by a menacing curse of COVID-19. Rapidly rising infections and health hazards have forced people to stay indoors. As a result, a lot of people have lost their only means of livelihood. Artists and performers especially have been hit with the worst effect of this pandemic. Since the clubs, hotels, and cafes which have served as the platform for these incredible queens to showcase their talents, have all closed down for an indefinite period. This development has thrown them out of their work and sadly they have lost their means of livelihood.
How many drag artist are a part of it and what was their choice criteria?
There are total 9 drag performers in this particular event. They’re as follows:
(a) Miss Bhenji from Nagpur, India - I am the curator, host and performer of the event. Not just I am managing the whole event in the background as a curator, I am also on the forefront as a performer and the host of the event.
(b) Glorious Luna from Mumbai, Maharashtra – Luna has been my drag sister since the beginning of my Kitty Su shows. As a matter of fact, we met on the audition for Kitty Su’s future drag queen hunt. We became friends since then and now we are sisters who have each other’s back and help and support each other. So, Luna was my obvious choice for this event.
(c) Betta Naan Stop from Delhi, India – I’ve known Betta since December, 2017 from Facebook. We always used to talk about drag and when we met we connected instantly. I always used to make sure I attend all the shows of Betta whenever she was in Mumbai. So, obviously Betta had to be there in the show.
(d) Tropical Marca from Mumbai, India - How can I have a show without the most campiest queen of the country? In earlier times when I was new to the drag culture Marca was one of the first drag queens I’ve seen perform live on stage with Rani Ko-HE-Nur and I was just mesmerized with how animated and entertaining she was during the whole show. So, of course Marca had to be there.
(e) Divine Scarlett from Delhi, India – Coming out as gay, about Eight years ago was a beginning of a new life for Divya Roop. Accepting their true self brought them closer to their stronger side and while embarking on this journey of self-exploration, they found true love a month ago. they found solace in their drag queen avatar – Divine Scarlet.
(f) Hiten Noonwal from Delhi, India – Hiten Noonwal is a free bird, who learned to fly when the world was busy trying to break its wings. They are a celebrated Genderfluid performance artist, Drag Queen, fashion designer and a model. Even with the most devastated homophobic experience at their school, they could manage to earn a Masters Degree in design from “National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad”. They use their own body as a medium to express themselves through performance art and photography. They have won many awards, including winning Comicon Cosplay but still they believe that the biggest achievement of their life is “accepting themselves” as the way they are.
(g) Seventeen from Bangalore, India – A very radical, creative and transgressive boy who loves to shake the mere establishment of normcore Fashion and loves to explore his Art fantasies and 80's ballroom culture by dragging and cosplaying his nights out.
(h) Rita Squirter from Bangalore, India – Rita is an indian drag performer who is trained in classical indian dance from Banglore. She brings the indian asthetics of classical dance with drag and presents the true cultural essence.
(i) Bahaar from Bangalore, India – Bahaar is not just any DRAGQUEEN, she is an entrepreneur, a fitness enthusiast, a self-taught chef and an Instagram entertainer. After the success of her first company, in 2019 Bahaar started her clothing company “DESTELLO” which makes casual shirts for men.
What are you looking up for the Upcoming season?
Looking forward to work with Queer artists, Transgender people and undiscovered talents of the LGBTQ+ community.
Any message you would like to share with your viewers?
Don’t step out, it’s still not very safe. Donate whatever amount possible to support Indian drag queen. Be kind, be creative and most importantly be YOU.
How can you help?
You can donate whatever little amount possible to donate for this cause. The link is https://www.impactguru.com/fundraiser/help-nilay-joshi. You can also help by sharing it in your circle to help these drag performers from India.
So why wait, Support these amazing artist and catch them making art at the scheduled event.