"Drag needs to be inclusive not to just the performers but to all the people in this country, the world and used as a medium of education for future generations."
1. What does "Drag" mean to you personally?
For me it means it’s an artform where you get to represent yourself or may be a different side of yourself. Be very artistic, kind of picturise a kind of character you want to be. You know go all gaga over make and outfits to look glamorous and it’s a beautiful artform. And for me drag means so much to me because it showed me a side of me which I’m so proud of. Drag is an artform which is very entertaining, artistic, sculpturous and is so much fun.
2. When did you start doing drag?
I started doing drag when I was a child but back then we didn’t know what drag is in India. There was no drag awareness in this country back then. So, back in 2005 or 2006 was when I used to find myself draping in my mother’s outfits, her chunnis, table clothes and make my own design, use her heels, make up and be all girly so that’s when it started.
3. How did you start doing drag?
I used to find myself draping in my mother’s outfits, her chunnis, table clothes and make my own design, use her heels, make up and be all girly so that’s when it started. In addition to that I also used to be a part of my school plays and each and every year in the play or concert that we had indirectly. I was put in the list of girl playing character without asking me and that gave me confidence. I think my drag journey was all along my young life where everyday I used to be a part of something and play with make up.
4. When was the first time you performed in drag?
The first time I performed was in 2019 on 1st February which happened to be the pride parade day in Mumbai, India. I had the opportunity to perform at Kitty Su, The Lalit. It was an amazing experience. And I released myself in front of thousands of people and it was my first time.
5. How would you describe your drag style?
My drag style is quite elegant, pretty, more on the side of doll like, completely feminine rather than loud and blasting make up on my face. I don’t really use hip pads or silicones. I just use my natural body because I think I’ve been gifted with a beautiful body to do my drag style. So my style is very chic, very dainty yet spicy.
6. Criticisms can either make you or break you. What were some critics you got when you started?
I don’t think criticism can either make me or break me. For me it is very one note on how we take it. If we take it in a negative way then we break and if we take it in a positive way then we can build ourselves more and more with each day. With me I haven’t been critiqued as such about my drag style but generally people keep saying that I look like a biological woman and there’s not much drag to it but it never broke me because it’s just me being me.
7. "Relevance of drag in India." What do you think?
As most drag artist know it hasn’t reached as much but for me drag has been part of our culture ever since it has been a part of our country as in the ancient history of India. It had been very relevant in India, it has been existing, it will continue to exist and keep existing in our country. We are so lucky to bring back such an old culture to modern times. We are lucky to create awareness and knowledge about it.
8. What was the initial reaction of your family and friends when you told them about you as a drag performer?
My friends were always there for me and used to support me and be happy for me. They’ve been the biggest support system to open up to my family. They had been a backbone to my drag journey. In regards to my family, my mother and father were very intrigued with keeping in mind of our orthodox family. So my family was very intrigued, supportive, surprised and excited about my drag. So I had been getting very good reaction from people around regarding me doing drag.
9. "Drag is political." Do you agree? Present your thoughts on the same.
Yes, Drag is political. I think every industry has a political side to it. It’s fair enough because every person involved in it comes from different backgrounds, cultures, religions. I do feel you need to be diplomatic at times and you need to really listen to other people if they’re correcting you because that helps in learning more.
10. Do you feel drag needs to be inclusive? Why or why not?
Absolutely Drag needs to be inclusive because it has been part of our country and culture for years together. It needs to be spread to entire nature, it needs to be made aware about the actual drag culture. The other picture that has been drawn by other people needs to go and the actual truth and culture of drag should be portrayed. A lot of Indian drag queens have made efforts to spread their knowledge and experience correctly which has lead to change in mentality of a lot of people. Drag needs to be inclusive not to just the performers but to all the people in this country and the world and used as a medium of education for future generations. It needs to be inclusive to children being educated for it be presented it more healthy manner so that the future generations need to be looked down for doing drag and considered abnormal.
11. Do you believe drag culture is compromised?
No, I don’t think Drag is compromised. For many years it was under represented and was hidden in closet. It wasn’t represented among the nation but now that it’s done it’s not in that pahse where it’s compromised in any way. We the drag queens have been doing our best to create awareness about the drag culture and it’s done right. It is not compromised but been accepted by a lot of people.
12. What are your thoughts on "Drag patronizing"?
I think patronizing is too deep word associated to drag because it is purely an artform and it is purely for entertainment purposes. I don’t have much thoughts on it because it’s too strong word in terms of the drag culture.
13. Were you ill treated/abused because you perform in drag? Please share your experience if comfortable.
No, I was never ill treated nor I was physically or verbally abused. I think I received much more love, support and happiness I’ve always seen smiles on people’s faces, smiles of surprise or smiles of happiness. It was the best experience of my life because I was so well accepted by people around me.
14. What is your vision through the art of drag?
The vision through art of drag is to create awareness which all the drag queens have been doing. To spread awareness, to spread the knowledge, to represent LGBTQ community, to be on the path of being exclusive in the mainstream society. So the vision of my drag is to live life the way it is. You need not suppress or put down anyone. Because we are all equal as human beings and we all deserve to live an equal life.
15. A message you'd like to give to young aspiring drag artists.
I wouldn’t like to give any advice because we all learn from our mistakes. I think it’s best to be original and not to replicate another drag queen or any artists. So the small message I would love to give all the aspiring young drag artists is listen to your heart, learn, practice and have wide, deep imagination and always think of yourself as a superstar and someone who people are dying to see perform. Just create that bang on impression on your first performance. I wish all you young drag artists all the very best. I hope you guys don’t have to struggle the way we had to struggle. I hope all of you have wide and great openings in terms of performances and presenting your artforms. Sending a lot of warm love and regards to every aspiring drag artists and I love you all.
Follow Madamoiselle on Instagram to support her and see her upcoming work at https://www.instagram.com/isabelle_freida_wood/
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.