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‘Drag Race Philippines’: A celebration of kings, queens, and in-betweens

By Maia Marquez Published Oct 21, 2022 7:36 am

Shortly after the office reopened in June, our company held a pride celebration that featured a drag show. I was curious to experience one for the first time.

Through a brief history of drag culture in the country, plus a lip sync performance extravaganza by six local drag queens, I felt more and more inclined to immerse myself in what I instantly felt was such an inclusive and welcoming community. I wanted to take part in celebrating the LGBTQIA+, and ultimately, become a better ally.

And so when the first episode of Drag Race Philippines aired this August, I joined our office’s watch party. While admittedly never having seen any of its foreign counterparts, I find myself catching each episode and Untucked, its behind-the-scenes supplement, weekly.

Although a late bloomer to becoming a fan of Drag Race in general, I’m in awe of how the local franchise is helping make a name for local drag queens. For me, the show goes beyond showcasing Filipino Queens’ world-class talent – from being their own production teams to putting on one hell of a show each and every time. It’s about a celebration of one’s truest self, no f**ks given.

And I thought if I felt this strongly about it, what more would our LGBTQ+ friends think? So Young STAR posed the question: how has Drag Race Philippines affected you?

Effeminate and no longer ashamed

While he acknowledges the many dangers and disadvantages lots of those in the LGBTQ+ community have to face, BJ Pascual says he is very lucky to be in the fashion industry, where they’re not just accepted, but celebrated. “It’s easy to get so comfortable in our bubble, that we sometimes forget that for most of us, it can be quite the opposite,” he adds.

Since watching Drag Race in 2017, BJ reveals that the show is one of the main reasons he started embracing his more feminine side. “I’ve always been effeminate, but ashamed of it. I thought to be more attractive as a gay guy, you have to be more masculine – but Drag Race changed that for me,” he shares.

Renowned photographer BJ Pascual is one of the judges on Drag Race Philippines.

He says he’s incredibly honored to be a photographer and judge on Drag Race Philippines because “the franchise has helped the LGBTQIA+ community so much,” not just in terms of representation, but also in how it’s uplifting the drag industry worldwide. “I’ve always said the Philippines has the best drag performers in the world, so I’m so excited these Filipino Queens are getting the global recognition they deserve!” he adds.

Drag Race has become a global, cultural and economical phenomenon. It’s creating so many jobs for those in the community, and it’s happening here too because of the local franchise.

As for BJ’s advice to those who are scared, confused, or still trying to figure themselves out, he says, “as cliché as it is, and though it’s easier said than done, just be yourself. It took me 30 years to truly accept myself and trust my own voice – and it still is a constant process – but it’s worth it.”

A sickening Ru-velation of myself

While Cholo Sediaren acknowledges he’s privileged enough to feel free to be himself and not really have to face the more serious struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, “I’m still not able to 100-percent fully express myself in some situations,” he confides.

A proud fan of the whole Drag Race franchise for five years and counting, Cholo is an avid follower of all its seasons and the drag queens themselves – even watching some of them perform live. He got to know the local drag community better through work, where he helped out with and now leads campaigns that advocate for drag culture and the LGBTQ+ community.

“More than anything, it helped me take pride in flying that flag around more than I ever did before,” says Cholo Sediaren.

“One of the big reasons why I got to know local queens better is through Drag Race viewing parties hosted by BEKENEMEN podcasters Myx Chanel and Baus Rufo,” he shares. He got even more exposed to the culture through other drag shows, which he says “are a great space for queer talent and their community of fans.”

So when Drag Race Philippines’ first season premiered, Cholo said the show easily became his happy pill amidst challenging times. “More than anything, it helped me take pride in flying that flag around more than I ever did before.” He also adds that, just as RuPaul says, the show “brings families together” – Cholo’s own included, as “my sisters and I formed a new way to bond with each other through the show.”

When asked about his biggest takeaway from the show, he says “it’s really about the journey of figuring yourself along the way, and finding the people who’ll support you through thick and thin.” So, he advises those who want to know themselves more to “just enjoy what you enjoy, no matter what others say. Our sickening Ru-velation of our truest selves begins from the inside.”

Opportunities for our passion-turned-profession

Drag queen and co-founder of podcast BEKENEMEN Myx Chanel (together with Baus Rufo) envisioned a showcase for queer art and talent, as well as a way to foster a queer-safe community for these artists and their followers. What started out as a passion project to do a recap podcast of Drag Race quickly evolved into the go-to for watch parties and live performances from the queens.

Myx Chanel is a co-host of BEKENEMEN, a Rupaul’s Drag Race recap podcast.

As the rise in watch parties and drag performances continues, Myx notes that instead of fearing competition, they are “so happy that so much local talent is starting to get noticed. So many more job opportunities are opening up for my sisters. There are so many new opportunities to support this industry.”

Drag Race has become a global, cultural and economical phenomenon. It’s creating so many jobs for those in the community, and it’s happening here too because of the local franchise. The industry has never been so alive!” they gush. They see that because of the show, people are taking drag more seriously now, and hope “more people realize this is our profession as much as it is our passion.”
With the success of Drag Race, Myx hopes that more people realize this is their profession as much as it is their passion.

Drag Race Philippines helps them envision a better local drag industry, and inspires them to contribute towards that. “Hindi ka lang umaasa, kumikilos ka for it,” they say.

And one of the many ways they do their part is by practicing what they preach: that “the best way to be the best version of yourself is to start being yourself.”

***

I wrote this small collection of stories with hopes that readers, at the very least, not just become more open to accepting the LGBTQ+ community and local drag culture, but for all of us to love and celebrate all parts of ourselves, too.

So I leave you with a line both BJ and Cholo quoted from Mama Ru: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”