"I feel because of shows like Drag race people are keeping up very high standards for themselves to white gay men and it’s affecting the local drag scene." - SICKK.
1. What does "Drag" mean to you personally?
Drag to me means personal expression. I know that Drag originally means dressing up as opposite gender whether it’s male impersonation or female impersonation. Some people even argue that it’s a Shakespearian term as “DRess up As Girls” but if we move past these binary concepts of Gender. Now the meaning of Drag is personal expression through the costuming. I think everyone does drag in some form. You know when you wake up in the morning and put your clothes on, that is your drag. Whatever helps you get by the world by lil bit of glamour and fun. But as a performative standards drag means fucking with establishment and status quo. So that’s what Drag is for me, it’s punk rock and extremely political.
2. When did you start doing drag?
Around 2016 was when I created this character which is very fashion, weird clown I was inspired by party monsters and club kid a lot from New York. I read a lot. I admired people like Amanada Lapore, Micheal Alig etc. and these were the people that I knew even before Rupaul’s Drag Race. They were really trans performers. My idea was heightened feminine performer. I remember buying long Gray wig and it was very early on my transition. I started playing around with make and I used to have my friends over, we used to dress up and click photos. This is how started drag. The first time I performed in Drag is a funny story.
3. How did you start doing drag?
I feel I’ve done Drag in some for or the other as a transgirl. Trying to look like a feminine person, growing up looking at the New York city night life, the club kids. Soon it exaggerated glamorous version of what these performers were doing , I always wanted to emulate them. Always being inspired by the world of fashion, I wanted to be a fashion model. But growing up as a feminine transperson the only way to do that was through Drag. Whether it was just in my room, buying wigs off Amazon and really embodying the character.
4. When was the first time you performed in drag?
This was in 2017 with another very prominent Drag Queen Prateek aka Betta Naan Stop were asked to perform at Kitty Su and just a month before my surgery was scheduled. It was supposed to be my debut but it didn’t happen because of my surgery and my doctor told me I absolutely cannot dance. I was really heart broken because I really wanted to perform in Drag at a club. But I moved on and now I’m friends with all the drag performers and I’ve nothing but utmost respect for them. In 2019, I was booked for the magnetic fields at the peacock club where I was performing with a team.
5. How would you describe your drag style?
My drag style is incredibly strange, weird and it fucks with gender. It’s glittery, pretty but it’s fashion. I define SICKK as post punk art sided clown.
6. Criticisms can either make you or break you. What were some critics you got when you started?
May be I got criticism in the starting but I don’t pay a lot of attention to criticism. I never got any harsh critic because I never performed in a club, most o0f it was digital. People were enjoying the kind of things I was doing. My visions regarding drag aesthetics were quite fixed. I could be polished or be really messy because I purposely do it.
7. "Relevance of drag in India." What do you think?
In a country like India Drag is very relevant. I feel in country with such huge queer population. There are so many styles of performance and there’s such rich background and culture. When queer people enter this space which is filled with upper caste, rich and traditional people, it’s just so fantastic. People like Suffocated Art Speciman (SAS), Patruni who mixes tranimal drag with Indian music itself tells you the relevance of drag. Being at club and to see your own culture being represented. Then there is Maya – the Drag Queen who gets in that character in a saree but it’s a queer person reclaiming characters show how relevant Drag is. Drag gives queer people voice and be a superstar.
8. What was the initial reaction of your family and friends when you told them about you as a drag performer?
My friends loved it. I used to watch Rupaul’s Drag Race even before it was such a big phenomenon. I started watching it from season 3. I would be talking about it all the time, even on my Facebook and people were clueless as to what I was talking about. So they always knew and when I wore wig for the first time they saw it coming. They were like “ab toh wig pehenke hi ghumegi yeh” (now she’ll just roam around wearing a wig). With regards to my family I never had to explain it to them as I have already told them that this is the heightened expression of feminine behavior. Earlier they took time but when they saw me getting opportunities, especially in a fashion industry they started to come along. After my show with Magnetic Fields they became super supportive.
9. "Drag is political." Do you agree? Present your thoughts on the same.
If Drag is not political then it’s absolutely NOT drag. Drag is so inherently political because to have a queer identity in a country especially like ours which historically hasn’t been accepting. Your queerness is political hence your drag as an expression of queerness in political. Drag queens all over the world has been a huge statements for queer movements. Drag Queens have been the loudest people in the room and when something this big thing tells you something – queer people listen. That is the power of Drag.
10. Do you feel drag needs to be inclusive? Why or why not?
I definitely think Drag needs to be inclusive and I’m a testament to that. As a transgender woman, who has heavily been influenced by drag culture. I remember one of the first movies I saw was Paris is Burning. Drag has always been inclusive, it’s for the weirdos, strange people and people who don’t fit in. In a mainstream society, Drag has been home for people like that. So for that matter it needs to be inclusive.
11. Do you believe drag culture is compromised?
I do. I think with mainstream media now and Rupaul’s Drag Race where even straight people are getting involved, the local drag scene is being compromised. Everybody thinks that you’ll be the most perfect and beautiful person as a Drag Queen. But usually not what drag is like. A very famous drag queen Katya said that Drag is rooted into failure. The main point of drag is you think they’re not women, they’re pretending to be a woman. They’re singing someone else’s song. We’ve lost the punkness and gritiness in Drag and that’s why I feel Drag culture is compromised. I feel because of shows like Drag race people are keeping up very high standards for themselves to white gay men and it’s affecting the local drag scene. It’s great that the Drag race has bought Drag to mainstream media but it has also set a ridiculous standard for the queens.
12. What are your thoughts on "Drag patronizing"?
Drag needs more patrons, more people who celebrate drag. It’s a very easy to adapt in any culture.
13. Were you ill treated/abused because you perform in drag? Please share your experience if comfortable.
Surprisingly, NEVER. I know it must be universal experience but ive always been so committed with the vision of who I’m. Before transition it was very difficult for me to date because I was very fem person and flamboyant. So I didn’t have men who wanted to date me or be seen in public with me. When I’m in drag I feel so powerful, invincible and like a bad ass bitch so no one dares to approach me. So, I’ve never been abused but rather been more respected for doing drag.
14. What is your vision through the art of drag?
My vision is to fuck with gender norms. To pay homage and pay honor to all the people who have come before me. It’s a way of being included in a large queer narrative. The vision through my drag is to fulfill all the wishes I had as a child. When you’re in drag you feel invincible, you feel like super hero. Through drag I want to experience the relationship of body with the queerness through performance. I want to question the norm, question the need for gender transition to be considered as drag and I want to shake things up and have a lot of fun. Make new friends, live my life and make my vision come to life.
15. A message you'd like to give to young aspiring drag artists.
My message to young drag artists is to STICK TO IT. If you’re really passionate about this then just stick to it. Be crafty, start taking sewing lessons. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on wigs. You don’t have to be the prettiest girl in the group. You don’t have to look like a white person to be valid. I will tell these young queens to not look at these international people but to look at your local scene. Its okay to be busted, all of us have started looking busted. We didn’t know about make up but just KEEP DOING IT. Don’t need to get discouraged. Practice makes you perfect. Take your time to decide your drag character, to be fearless, to be out there and to be the hero you never had growing up because that’s why I did drag. It might sound cliché but have fun with it. Drag is an excuse to have fun. Don’t be serious, be ridiculous, be stupid, smear a bunch of lipstick on your face. Make complete full of yourself but enjoy yourself.
Follow SICKK on Instagram to support her and see her upcoming work at https://www.instagram.com/kawaiibloggerchan/
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.