Famous American-South Korean drag queen Kim Chi once said “If you can name every single Drag Race queen but can’t name ten local queens in your hometown, you’re a Drag Race fan, not a drag fan.”
And, yeah. That holds up. It’s a bit like claiming to be a burger connoisseur while only eating at McDonald’s. Don’t get me wrong — I love a good double quarter pounder, and I also love consuming the several thousand products and spinoffs that good ol’ RuPaul Charles brings us courtesy of his drag-queen-superstar-making machine. But, as with many aspects of life, it’s also very important to support local initiatives.
Thankfully, drag has grown tremendously in popularity. There’s drag on television, in movies, on the radio, in theater… there are mainstream drag queens, more combative drag queens, traditionally femme-presenting drag queens, as well as more conceptual drag queens. And each drag character is based on addressing the concepts that lead each performer to explore them in this format.
I know that quarantine isn’t the best-case scenario for getting to know your new favorite drag queen — there are no drag shows for the time being — but it does present a good opportunity to take a break from RuPaul (as convenient as it is to stream on Netflix) and scope out their social media.
Today, we bring to you a peek at some of what Argentina has to offer you in terms of drag, and they’re all just a click away. Follow them, fall in love with them, and when this pandemic is over, head out to one of their shows and put in a good word for me (?). Of course, they already know I’m great, since I spoke at length with each one of them. This is what they had to say.
(Below are translations of their statements)
“For me, drag is a way of life, a way of working, a space where I found a lot of really lovely people, and a place where I can express my artistic side. Everything that I felt after I’d studied acting for so many years.
I started doing it almost by chance. I felt a need to ‘dress up as a woman,’ without knowing that it was drag or anything like that. I enjoyed it, and my wardrobe choices made it something modern and daring. This was back in 94, 95, when it started being called “modern,” but it was actually something that had already been around for a while. Crossdressing, which is a term that is now a little outdated. What I was doing was a bit more original, because I went a different way from what people were doing, which was imitating Isabel Pantoja or Sarita Montiel. Drag found me, before I even knew what drag was.
I feel very optimistic about the future. Drag has already cemented itself in the mainstream. RuPaul has made the scene very visible. And while it’s only just starting to really come to light in Argentina, I think there’s a very bright future ahead for it. As bright a future as an artistic movement can have down here, to be clear. And often it’s a lot more recognized in other countries than here. And once it hits elsewhere, you become a star here.”
“For me, drag is a way of life. It’s an artistic expression. It’s part of nature. We’re neither men nor women. This comes from Elizabethan theater, where women weren’t allowed to perform so men had to play those female characters. DRAG actually stands for ‘dressed as a girl’.
In my view, being a drag queen means to exacerbate, more than anything, the feminine aesthetic. Drag involves many artforms. From makeup, design, catwalk, editing, acting … they all come together to create a character.
There are many kinds of drag queens. It depends on the aesthetics of each region. In Europe, it tends to be a very muscular performer, big hair, thong, and heels. In the US it tends to shoot for a more femme aesthetic, always highly exaggerated. Taking that femininity to its highest level. In Brazil they are classified as “CARICATAS” because of their similarity to cartoons. Argentina right now has a fantastic mix. It’s like there is something for everyone.
I started with drag about 18 years ago, in Rosario. It was seeing a friend and watching crossdressing shows. From a very young age I dressed differently from the rest. With makeup, rings, oxford pants or long hair. Always attracting more attention. And one day I dressed up for a birthday party. A friend told me to buy me a wig, but since I had long hair, I decided that it was better to go to a hairdresser to do my hair. There I met Electra Trash, my friend and sister for life. That day she gave me an incredible hairstyle.
In Rosario, a very special event is held for the day of diversity in which most of the actors, drag performers or other artists do a big number, and it’s to support the neighborhood. Each one can show their artistic expression, telling the story they want to tell. This is how I started. Then I started working on the coast, in Pinamar. In the clubs, in restaurants. I’ve spent more than 15 seasons in Mar del Plata, at different clubs, many that are from the LGTBQ+ scene and others that are not. I was investing more and more in my character. Always ensuring that my character is sensual and appealing. I have been lucky to work at the best discos in the country, restaurants, the best hotels, all kinds of events. That led my character to be more and more professional. I make a living from this now.
I also like eco design. Making a wardrobe with recycled items and unconventional materials. I also work with a lot of designers who are part of the overall production. Often, without a team, you can’t do productions. It will always differ from the work that one does alone. Both in time and in the final result of the product.
I think drag has a bright future. It is a movement that is growing more and more worldwide, and we are experiencing a boom. Drag is cutting edge. These days, if you don’t have a drag queen at your club, it’s like you don’t exist. More and more, people have an open mind, understanding the terminology. knowing the differences. The drag queen in the underground. I think the future is very bright. The child of our current president is a drag queen. Drag queens to power for ever.”
Betty La Cueva
“Drag is everything to me, but fundamentally it is a tool for personal discovery. When I’m in drag, magic happens. I become Betty, who is an unstoppable powerhouse that does what she wants, how she wants it, and when she wants it.
I find it quite difficult to define drag, because it is a personal and non-transferable experience. Each one experiences it in a different way. For some it is art, for others work, but for all, it is the desire to have a good time. It is also an expression of gender, because — at least in me — it seeks to break down the barriers of binarism. Playing at exaggerating the attributes traditionally assigned to men and women, or combining them to create new possibilities.
Being in drag is putting on makeup so that the mask that many of us wear falls off, to face this society that does not always accept or include us. Betty LaCueva is my drag persona, my alter ego, my way of expressing my art. She was born experimenting with clothes of the opposite gender to mine, since I was very young. Later on (largely thanks to Agus Gelfo) I discovered the art of makeup, and how to apply those tools and products to myself. As Betty, I am much more uninhibited and more fun. Getting in drag pushes me to do and say things that are “politically incorrect.” I realize that it helps me more and more to bring that unabashed disinhibition in daily life.
In 2017 Tarde Marika took off, which gave me a space and continuity in drag. We founded Tarde Marika along with Santa Rita, the Tamaña Sisters and several others, a space born from the need to experiment with the body. Santa Rita, knowing that it is not always easy to have all the elements for drag (makeup, wigs, costumes, etc.), as well as the fact that there is not always a safe space to do so, had the brilliant idea of gathering materials, supplies, knowledge and experiences in a super fun afternoon where we made everything available to everyone. Thus, people had the opportunity to approach, play, ask questions, dress up, and go out in the street accompanied by peers. We also sought to open up the possibility of taking drag to other spaces, not just a stage or a disco, areas related to nightlife and partying; make it known as another art form.”
“Tarde Marika is different from other groups or “drag houses” because it lacks the hierarchical structure that is generally present in these spaces. We do not have “mothers and daughters” because we consider that we are all equally important and fundamental to the group. All decisions are made in common agreement, we are very respectful with the opinion of all members. We are gender activists, a group of militant artists, who through drag try to fight for the rights of the LGTBIQ + collective that are still missing.
For me, the drag queen is a very strong figure, and it is shocking — and I use that term to mean that it attracts attention and generates a “shock,” to say “here I am, here we are, and they will listen to us,” in a playful and performative way . And taking advantage of that visibility that we have, we join so many other groups, such as trans people (in their fight for labor inclusion), transfeminists (Ni Una Menos, Aborto Libre y Gratuito), HIV-positive partners, etc. .. knowing that their causes do not always intersect with us so directly, without wanting to appropriate their struggles, but we support them so that all of us as a society can evolve and improve.
When I consider the future of drag, I consider the future of society. I would like a society where drag draws attention as an artistic expression and not because it is militant, not because it has to ask for rights, or speak for those who do not have a voice, or who are invisible. A society where a person in drag can go out without fear of being attacked, and that if they are yelled at from a car, it is to tell them that they look great. A society that constantly questions its privileges and works so that we all have the same opportunities. It seems to me that the drag figure comes into play here, as a dissident element of struggle.
As for drag itself, I think that thinking about the future is quite difficult, because although it is a movement that follows fashions and grows based on that, it is also characterized by breaking the mold and going beyond. So a future drag would be one that finds how to destabilize current patterns in new ways.”
“For me, drag, like any artistic expression, is therapy, the best therapy you could do. It can start as something more playful and become a very deep internal process. It can change the way you see yourself, how you feel about your body, express a transformation every time you do it, be that version of yourself that you consider more fun, or showy, or outgoing, or whatever you want, and where everything is allowed. There are no limits because it is your personal journey.
After years of doing it, it seems to me that it is something for which I should be grateful. Imagine that, like everyone, you have fun in your room, in front of the mirror, pretending that you are a star. You sing, you dance, you have a good time, you let all your queer out. Now imagine that you find a way to share it with the world, in a fun way for others as well, that you make a profession of it, that people celebrate it, that you get paid for it! It’s incredible. For me it means putting all my creativity in one place, playing with my gender, flirting with things that in another context might not come to mind.
I started almost without meaning to, just wearing a skirt, or just a pair of heels. It was pretty genderfuck what I was doing when I started. I hardly wore makeup. Just an eyeliner, a skirt, and I’d go out dancing, I wasn’t looking for anything, I was just exploring. I was always attracted to women’s clothing, there was so much variety, so many things that were much more fun than the pants and t-shirt that society said a man could wear; pop star outfits seemed so awesome, there was something in all that femininity that I loved.
On the other hand, I always knew that I wanted to do something artistic, something visual, something on a stage, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Did I want to act? I felt too queer for that. Dancing? No. Was it something else, singing? I don’t have the talent. Design? Only for myself. And when I started going out to dance and I wore what I wanted and I began to be more free with myself, I was finding all that, I began to play with looks, clothes and makeup, what I felt inside. I had many ideas, many references, a lot in my head, and I was taking it out little by little. Then I had the opportunity to get on nightclub stages, I could put on a show! Suddenly I was performing in full drag, and people began to recognize me for being the drag queen from the Whip party, which is where I started. That’s when I knew I was doing drag, people were telling me. I was just doing what I felt like. Looking at it like this now, it seems beautiful to me.
I think drag has evolved and changed so much in recent years that it’s going to be hard to name it. It never had many limits, now much less. A cis male could be considered drag artistically displaying artifacts of female culture, or creating a total female presentation. Today, anyone of any gender can do it, representing any gender, or even none; nowadays, wearing makeup alone can already be considered doing drag, I think that so many forms of expression are called drag, that it loses the meaning it originally had, it even puts people into this group who perhaps do not consider what they do drag. Makeup artists, cosplayers, outrageous apparel designers, you could say they all do drag at some point.
I think it became so mainstream that we face the challenge to get creative and perfect what we do, which is great. You see so many talents from all over the world doing different things and it’s totally inspiring. I see the future incorporating more and more elements, combined with more disciplines, more drags in music, in more tv programs, in more shows, there are already those who teach how to start doing it. A few years ago that was unthinkable! I think that just as photography became massive at one point and everyone was encouraged to take their photos, we are going to get to the point where at least a couple of times, just for fun, everyone does drag.”
MARIANNA K- Drag Clash
“Drag is making art on the body… as well as the head and emotions. It is creating something new from what one lives. Change things, shake them up. It’s getting rid of prejudices and everything you were taught about the rules of gender, to unleash your creativity. The most important thing is always to have fun. If you are not having fun or living some kind of fantasy, you are not doing drag!
Each of us had a different approach to drag. Some were more interested in makeup, others in costumes, and others in performance. But it was together that we managed to give life to our characters or alter-egos. It started as a game between us, and then, little by little, we showed ourselves to the world as Drag Clash.
Drag Clash was born from the union of different drag artists wanting to generate content of all kinds. Together we host parties, live shows, short films, video clips, photoshoots, podcasts and even our own annual tournament. As of today, the official members are Debrah (current Drag Clash Queen), Lady Tai, La Leo, Marianna K, Simona Boss, Victoria and Vanessa Traviano. We are fortunate that each one has a different approach to drag art, and we believe that this variety is our strength. The process of shaking off prejudices can be complicated; in our case it was facilitated by mutual support, despite our differences we all took the same bondi. And here we are.”
“Drag was always and always will be, more and more people are trying it and that is great. Little by little, in our country it begins to be considered one more artistic profession and we believe that with time that will become more established. Although the pandemic took us away from the clubs and the stages, drag in the world (and especially in Argentina) turned to social networks with all the fury: we see live shows, original video clips, fantastic photos and a display of content that shows that drag queens never felt like stopping.
We believe that the new generations are tired of the old mandates about gender and have more and more desire to play with all the colors in the crayon box. It is no longer the case that blue is for boys and pink for girls. The future is multicolored.”