South Asian Drag has been kept behind the veil for far too long. Brown Drag Exists and it is time for it to be made visible in all spaces, virtual and physical.
On the 11th April Buzzfeed released a list compiled by The Drag Bible, an influential platform highlighting drag performers and drag culture. This list, titled ‘Forty Drag Queens You Need to Follow On Instagram’ was globally diverse in terms of race and geography, however, it failed to include any drag artist of South Asian heritage. After social media commentary on this omission which resulted in the deleting of the list by Buzzfeed, the Drag Bible publicly acknowledged this mishap and strived to be fully inclusive. Buzzfeed however, is yet to comment.
Unfortunately, this is a trend prevalent in mainstream drag and LGBT+ communities, be them virtual on social media platforms, or in physical spaces such as bars, clubs and Prides where few or no South Asian drag performers are featured talent. It is particular to note that the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise has not featured a single queen of South Asian heritage in its many international variants. The South Asian subcontinent does not have its own Drag Race yet, however, the diaspora is far and wide, permeating all corners of the globe including the USA, Canada, UK, New Zealand, Australia, the West Indies and Africa. To suggest that queens from a South Asian background don’t exist internationally is to be a perpetrator of erasure.
This is a harsh reality facing those from a South Asian background wanting to follow a career in drag, cabaret, burlesque and the performing arts.
We have to fight the hardest and the loudest in order to be heard or our art to be seen. In many cases we are denied work and opportunities because our art is either not understood, too political or too risky. More often than not this is down to pure ignorance, a lack of research, the unwillingness to listen, understand and blatant racism.
Not ensuring to include a diverse panoply of performers encompassing all diverse backgrounds is risking contributing to the erasure of identities and experiences.
“Erasure is tantamount to racism”
Erasure is tantamount to racism and as performers, we wish for opportunities to be included at the table of mainstream drag.
In this spirit, South Asian Drag Artists from across the world and different spheres of drag [AFAB, Trans, Drag Kings, Drag Queens etc.] came together to compile this campaign video and spill the masala tea.
A response from The Drag Bible was made on their Twitter account on the 16th April:
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