Updated: Feb 6, 2021
"I don’t think Drag is compromised, but many things definitely influence it." - Lush Monsoon.
1. What does "Drag" mean to you personally?
Drag means a lot to me personally. I’ve got my life back through it. I wasn’t living truly and honestly as I always wanted to be. Drag has made me show the world how I feel inside and for that reason it’s very personal and essential for me.
2. When did you start doing drag?
I started doing drag in 2017 but as a child also I used to dress up in my mother’s clothes. Although technically it wasn’t the traditional drag that you see, still it was an experience.
3. How did you start doing drag?
I started doing drag after watching Rupaul’s Drag Race. I really felt like I found my tribe. I’ve always felt scared to show my femininity to the world because I thought I would be bullied and shunned by society. But when I saw these queens embracing their feminine side and yet being so powerful and fierce, it made me want to start doing drag. I started experimenting and doing it in my room. And since then my drag journey has started.
4. When was the first time you performed in drag?
The first time I performed in drag was for an online competition on reddit. It was a lip syncing competition and that’s how Lush Monsoon was born. I gave myself this name that day. The first time I performed on an actual stage was in Delhi International Queer Film Festival (DIQFF) in 2017 and that’s when I had my debut performance.
5. How would you describe your drag style?
My drag style is very eclectic, it is a mix of all the things I’ve grown up watching. Growing up, I was inspired by all the super models as well as the Indian divas. When I grew up, I got exposed to western pop-stars. I’ve also trained in theatre and theatricality is a major part of my drag and little bit of campiness. So, my drag style is very much like me, a mix many different shades and flavours.
6. Criticisms can either make you or break you. What were some critics you got when you started?
In the beginning, the critiques that I got were very less in number because of the lack of drag queens present around. Some people told me to lose weight and dance more but kicks and splits are not my forte. I listened to those criticisms and made them my USP rather than feeling defeated by them. At the same time, I got some good advice where people appreciated the way I used to express my myself, so I focused on that. Some of the critiques were not meant to be taken seriously but yes some of it I used to polish my artform and better myself.
7. "Relevance of drag in India." What do you think?
Drag is very relevant in India because we live in such a society which is full of toxic masculinity, even in the queer community. Drag is something that can uplift all of us and teach us to love ourselves despite the difference in gender and sexuality or anything that you feel ashamed of. Moreover, India has just started with drag so there is an immense possibility with what people can do with this art form. So, yes I feel drag is very relevant in India.
8. What was the initial reaction of your family and friends when you told them about you as a drag performer?
I haven’t told my family about drag, they still don’t know. It’s a secret. And with respect to my friends, all of them have been super supportive and have been the major reason why I keep doing drag and started it. They gave me confidence when I thought the world was against me.
9. "Drag is political." Do you agree? Present your thoughts on the same.
I absolutely agree with this. Without politics, drag has no meaning to it. The world is where it is right now because it’s so political. If Drag is not political then it will be just a song and dance show, and it won’t move the people the way it does now. Everything we do in our life is reflective of our politics, where do we stand, which things do we care for? Even history has shown how drag has helped the queer community in getting our rights by through political movements. So drag would always be political.
10. Do you feel drag needs to be inclusive? Why or why not?
Of course, drag needs to be inclusive because it’s for everyone. Drag is an idea, a philosophy according to me so anyone can apply it in their own way to express themselves. So, nobody should be restricted from doing drag and there shouldn’t be any gatekeepers. Drag is for everybody and that’s how it should be.
11. Do you believe drag culture is compromised?
I don’t think it’s compromised but it is definitely influenced by many things. For example, drag is influenced by what is shown on TV like Rupaul’s Drag Race and what is desirable. Sometimes it’s also what straight people think is okay in drag, so in that sense it is definitely influenced but it’s part of the process. When something dominates too much and other things come up. For example, there are so many alternative drag shows that are coming up now which show different styles of drag like Dragula. In other countries, people present their own drag so I am not sure if it’s compromised but definitely influenced by a lot of things.
12. Were you ill treated/abused because you perform in drag? Please share your experience if comfortable.
I have been ill treated when I was performing in drag because in the beginning I used to perform in public places, not just queer spaces. People have come up to me, stared and threatened me in drag. I have also been stopped by the police.
13. What is your vision through the art of drag?
My vision in drag in India is to see a community because first and foremost Drag is about the community and not feeling alone. There are other people who have similar interests like me and who are willing to make sacrifices for the craft and create something beautiful. So, for me it’s about creating a community of performers who are all diverse and bring their sensibility and their own version of this artform. It’s fulfilling to see a community of thriving drag performers and of course the wonderful audience who come to see us. I recently saw the video of Denali Foxx from Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 13 who created a lip sync performance of all the drag performers of Chicago. It was really beautiful and that’s what I want to see, a version of that in India.
14. A message you'd like to give to young aspiring drag artists.
My message is quite simple, take one step at a time! You can’t become Rupaul in a day, we all want to, but it’s not possible. Drag is something which requires your time, money, energy and priorities. This is something very unique which connects all drag artists. There is a reason why we want to share our creativity with the world and not think of it as some great economic return. If you’re a young artist, then start being free and becoming the best version of yourselves. Once you do that, then share it with your friends and sooner or later you will find yourself performing on the stage. There will be a time when people would want to see you perform and that’s how it happened for me. This would be an exciting journey if you want to try Drag, there would be a lot of challenges, so you should brace yourself and channel your inner child.
Follow Lush Monsoon on Instagram to support her and see her upcoming work at https://www.instagram.com/lushmonsoon/
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.