Story by Sanket Sawant
From a very young age, dance was a part of me. It almost became a form of expression of my inner emotions. From school annual days to dance competitions, I was always the first one to be there. I still remember dressing up as a fairy for Christmas when I was in the third grade. It was the first time I did drag, unknowingly.
Everything changed when I discovered Lady Gaga. She is one of a kind and stands out of any crowd. She always looks so extra-terrestrial yet elegant. I was taken aback by her iconic music videos like ‘Poker Face’. There was something about her that moved me. I wanted to be fearless like her. She inspired me to get into drag, an art which defies all rules.
Drag is such a phenomenal art form which challenges stereotypes with charm and grace. It involves men dressing up as woman or women dressing up as men. Drag artists often sing, dance or perform stand up comedies within their redefined avatars. Within its drama, glamour and elegance, drag is all about creativity and confidence.
I got my first drag gig, 1000 Nights of Gaga, in 2018. That night, Gentleman Gaga came alive.
When I am in drag as Gentleman Gaga, I transform into a goddess, too divine for this regular world. Within layers of makeup, glitter and a wig that forms my crown, I am no longer just another guy. I am a drag queen.
The transformation is an art itself. I spend hours on makeup, perfecting the way it all blends in together. I tuck in (tape down my crotch) and use drag pads (body foam) to give myself elegant feminine curves. I finally complete my look with a wig and a pair of heels. As my physical aspects change, I feel like a different person. My body language and diction changes completely.
For my drag performances, I dance and lip sync. One of the most rewarding aspect of drag is my audience. Watching them get inspired yet stricken with awe and amazement, I finally feel appreciated for my art. I feel like a queen who is being admired for her beauty and talent by all.
Unfortunately, drag is misunderstood by the Indian society. Many people see drag as sex work and drag queens as sex workers. I have had men asking to have sex with them, often with my drag attire. I have received too many unsolicited nudes from unknown men. They see my art with lust. People also question our sexuality and our bodies. I have received countless texts, asking me if I am Trans, whether I have real breasts or a vagina. Even the Indian film industry represents us in such a poor light. Cross dressers are used as people who are either the butt of a joke or are vulgar characters who try to arouse straight men. All these interpretations are so offensive and hurtful.
Drag is such a beautiful art form that has been a part of ancient Indian culture. Sadly, drag has lost its true meaning in our society. We need to educate people and make them understand about the real meaning of drag. The only way we can normalize it is by having a discussion with an open mind. We should be able to respect others for their passions. With acceptance in our hearts, we can truly appreciate people for their skills and talents for their art.