"Most of the people in Drag culture come from a troubled family and they don’t know how it feels to be a part of family that accepts you for who you’re." - Lady Bai.
1. What does "Drag" mean to you personally?
Drag for me has been about not conforming to one gender because I’ve always been ridiculed and teased for being feminine. Drag for me was an outlet for me to go ahead and express my feminine side and performing on stage. Also, not caring about having a beard in feminine clothes. So, Drag has been that outlet and saviour for me.
2. When did you start doing drag?
I started doing Drag around 3 years ago. I did my first performance in September 2017 but I don’t consider it as performance because I just did it for fun.
3. How did you start doing drag?
I was introduced with drag on a dating website with one of the people I matched with. That person introduced me to drag and I got into it. My reaction was these manly looking men are dressing up as beautiful women and I’ve been doing it for 3 years since then.
4. When was the first time you performed in drag?
First time I performed in Drag officially was in February 2018.
5. How would you describe your drag style?
I would like to describe my drag style as Gender identity breaking. That’s because I look like a man in extremely feminine makeup. So my drag style is having a beard and wearing feminine clothes.
6. Criticisms can either make you or break you. What were some critics you got when you started?
Some of the criticisms I got was I’m very armature and I will never get an audience. I will never get someone to support me because my Drag style was very unique back then for me and the people watch me perform. So I had been told that I had to look very feminine, pretty with amazing makeup and hair. You will have to show body and you cannot be an Indian aesthetic drag queen. So I was told to follow the western format of drag and wear mini skirts and that was one of the worst critics I ever got.
7. "Relevance of drag in India." What do you think?
Drag in India has been there from a very long time that people can’t even imagine it been there in such an ancient past. Despite having Google so handy, no one bothered to search that. So drag has been there for a long time and its relevance has been important. But now that people think of it as a very western part then the relevance of it has gone down. But the Drag queens in India has always tried to bring Indian flavour to it. But, slowly and steadily we’re making our own name and we’re making Indian drag very representative in the entire world.
8. What was the initial reaction of your family and friends when you told them about you as a drag performer?
My extremely close friends who I’ve come out to have been very supportive. Some of them thought I look ugly as a woman because I don’t stick to womanly standards. But most of them were supportive. My family was okay-ish about it because they were in theatre so they knew the importance of a man playing a woman’s role. Initially, they were ignoring it because they thought I am only doing it for theatrical purposes and has nothing to do with my sexuality. They were sometimes supportive and sometimes they were not but the initial reaction was shocked.
9. "Drag is political." Do you agree? Present your thoughts on the same.
I wholeheartedly agree to it because anything that has to do with your rights as a human being it automatically becomes world politics. It’s not just Indian or continental but world politics. Drag empowers people to accept themselves for who they are. Drag is political, Drag was political and Drag will always be political. If you’re putting makeup on with beard and hair as a man and go out then you’re making a huge political statement. One just not dress up because they want to but because they feel they need to stand up for being who they are and standing up for their rights.
10. Do you feel drag needs to be inclusive? Why or why not?
As I mentioned before Drag started as a political statement to be inclusive whether you’re homosexual or heterosexual. If you, as a cis man (because I’ve seen most of the drag queens to be a cis man) feels to be included as a drag queen then you’ve to be inclusive to other people. Like I always say anybody can do Drag. ANYBODY. Kids can do drag, dogs can do drag. Anybody who wants to be over the top over-exaggerated then you’re a drag queen for me, you’re with me.
11. Do you believe drag culture is compromised?
I won’t say it’s compromised but this is something I’ve observed ever since there have been shows on Drag Queens people think Drag Queens are just shady, being mean to each other just for fun. I understand it because it’s a part of drag but people think you’re mean and that’s why you’re a drag queen. I’m not mean because I’m a drag queen but I’m mean because you don’t respect me as a human being. I would be this mean in or out of drag for that matter. For me, drag compromisation started with shading each other for no reason and just to be a part of a drag community. But that is not what Drag stands for, Drag stands for inclusivity and not just for shade.
12. What are your thoughts on "Drag patronizing"?
If by patronizing you mean having a patron like a Drag mother or Drag sister is necessary then sometimes it’s an advantage if you have a drag mother because you have a lot to learn from them. You get a lot of experience and feel the sense of family belonging from them. Most of the people in Drag culture come from a troubled family and they don’t know how it feels to be a part of the family that accepts you for who you’re. In that case, having a drag family is good but if you’re looking to have a drag mother to get opportunities and shows then I feel it’s not good to have that and use people like that.
13. Were you ill-treated/abused because you perform in drag? Please share your experience if comfortable.
I wasn’t ill-treated or abused as such but I was teased a lot because of my drag style. I remember this one time I was going to the performance venue and I was passing from the lobby and I saw a couple of people whom I knew. I knew that these people are femphobic and transphobic and they made comments on me like, “Look that chhakka (Indian transphobic slur) going to dance and earn money out of it, that is just so unethical and I can do it better than HIM and just take my clothes off in front of people to get money.” It was very insulting for me but I didn’t confront him because I don’t want to waste my energy in talking to someone who doesn’t agree with people but just create tensions.
14. What is your vision through the art of drag?
My vision through the art of drag is to remove femphobia and transphobia from the mindset of people. It is common I don’t know why that when they want to call you names they will they will obviously go to the woman in the family, they will comment on mothers and sisters. So why is being woman looked down upon? Why is being feminine looked down up? What is so wrong with it? Why is masculinity considered a status symbol? No, it’s not. So my vision through Drag is that to let people accept their feminine side, be kind to one another. If you don’t wanna do all that then at least live and let live.
15. A message you'd like to give to young aspiring drag artists.
My message to young artists and people who are doing drag is that YouTube is your best friend. Go and research about the art form, research about the terminologies associated with the art form. So I am not a Drag, I am Drag King or Drag Queen. There are multiple things in it Like you cannot be a drag, you can’t just say I wanna be a drag. Like just, don’t be a drag just be a Queen.
Follow Lady Bai on Instagram to support her and see her upcoming work at https://www.instagram.com/the_lady_bai/
About author : Miss Bhenji is an Indian aesthetic drag queen. She's a dancer, actor and a comedian. She's based out of Nagpur and her interview talk show is called Baatein with Bhenji. Baatein with Bhenji was an initiative taken by Miss Bhenji to interview the queer artists of India to give them exposure for people to learn more about them.