Korean Drag Queens talk identity with i-D
Over the past ten years VH1’s ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race‘ has brought worthy attention to the spectacular art form of drag. Kim Chi, top three on Season 8) is, without doubt, the most known name in drag with any connection to Korea (Sang-Young Shin is Korean American) but there is a flourishing drag scene in Itaewon, Seoul, full of Queens whose artistry will leave you gagging.
i-D teamed up with photographer Snakepool (Kanghyuk Lee) to capture seven of the most sensational Korea Queens, and spoke to them about their experiences, and the message they wish to portray with their drag.
Featured in the article are:
The first time I found out about drag was when I watched the movie Hedwig …To me, drag seemed like a medium that allowed the expression of another version of myself that’s kept inside, which appealed to me and pushed me forward with participating in drag.
Kuciia Diamant: Kuciia is a full-time drag queen who has been a part of the scene for five years. She is a vocal human rights activist.
As a child, I was timid and a loner. I was bullied in school, and didn’t have many friends. But considering how much confidence and courage I gained after beginning drag, and thinking about all the people I met along the way, I could say that drag was a huge challenge for me, and also an invaluable treasure that changed my life.
More: Mojimin is a drag veteran in Korea, having begun her career eighteen years ago. More is primarily a dancer, and a spectacular performance artist.
We were seen as just men dressed as women, or, as the term transgender caught up with the public, they regarded us as transgender women in dresses. Every time I went on stage, it was painful and humiliating to disguise my feelings behind fancy outfits and entertain the audience. Now, however, the sheer beauty of drag helped liberate myself from many things.
Erica Balenciaga: Ji Hwan Shin cites strong Kpop women such as BoA and Lee Hyori as inspirations for Erica’s drag character. Discrimination from her own family saw her learn the strength of the drag family in Seoul.
Imagine how frustrated I felt when I realised that Kim Chi, Naomi Smalls, Violet Chachki, and Detox all had performed in my own country. I knew I had to go back and be a part of the community myself. This was also the time when my drag was starting to take up a big portion of my life. I couldn’t bear living a double life anymore and decided to be honest with everyone. As soon as I told my parents about me being a drag queen, they cut off all contact with me emotionally and financially.
Vita Mikju: Much like RPDR S10 winner Aquaria, Mikju’s drag questions gender constantly, often bringing an androgynous, high fashion angle to her drag.
I was asked a lot to act like a man in my whole life. But I always think, “Hey I am being myself, and I’m a man! I AM ACTING LIKE A MAN! What kind of man do you want me to be?” Drag was a perfect form for me to break the rules and prove there’s no such a limit of what and how to act/wear/do/talk for being who you are. You do you.
Bori: Bori is still relatively new to drag, having almost fallen into the scene while employed as a dancer in a club.
In the beginning, I had no idea whatsoever, and didn’t know how to put on makeup. But soon after, I started to do my makeup on my own. And from then on, drag became more and more appealing to me, and as I discovered other sides of me, I continued with drag.
KYAM: Garam Kim has been a drag queen since 2010, while taking time off from acting college to perform with trans people.
Depending on how you use it, it could be protest or resistance. Personally I would like drag to be more of a performance that would reach the audience in a friendly manner.