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Nymphia wave: Local drag queens want artform to go mainstream

05/19/2024 05:40 PM
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Photo courtesy of Chiangwei (front, center) May 18, 2024
Photo courtesy of Chiangwei (front, center) May 18, 2024

Taipei, May 19 (CNA) Local drag queens are calling for more support to help the drag scene in Taiwan go mainstream following the victory of Nymphia Wind (妮妃雅) on the internationally acclaimed RuPaul's Drag Race in late April.

The 28-year-old was the first Taiwanese and East Asian contestant to be crowned "Next Drag Superstar" in the American reality competition television series.

"I hope people will gain a deeper understanding of what being a 'drag queen' entails," Chiangwei (薔薇), a Taiwanese queen with five years of performance experience, said in a recent interview with CNA.

She explained that drag involves more than just entertaining people in nightclubs or bars; it encompasses sophisticated design, makeup, and performance planning by the queens.

While Nymphia's performance has introduced more and more people to drag, Chiangwei emphasized that Nymphia should not be considered the sole standard for Taiwanese drag queens because each has their unique style.

"The art of drag is incredibly diverse, and each queen has individual talents," Chiangwei added.

Chiangwei also anticipated that there could be a local drag race in the future, as well as more television programs and events featuring drag queens, which will further familiarize the public with drag culture.

Photo courtesy of Alvin Chang May 18, 2024
Photo courtesy of Alvin Chang May 18, 2024

Chaodi (招弟), the host of "Dragchaodi's Wikipedia" (變裝洨百科), a podcast show introducing drag history and Taiwan's drag scene, told CNA that Nymphia's victory on RuPaul's Drag Race has led to rising interest in the drag scene in Taiwan, including among diverse communities.

He explained that in the past, Taiwanese people may have viewed drag queens as "weird" or "funny," or simply as men dressing as women.

However, the discussion is now expanding, and individuals who are acquainted with the scene should do their bit to help others develop a comprehensive understanding.

"It's a performance art that can convey and embody diverse values," Chaodi said, highlighting the significance of drag culture within the LGBTQ community.

Despite not being a drag queen, Chaodi resonates deeply with the culture and finds watching performances helps give him a sense of himself. "I'm gay, and there was a time when I struggled to find my place within the LGBTQ community."

Starting with RuPaul's Drag Race, he developed a thorough understanding of the subculture and became a promoter to help increase the visibility of drag queens.

Recently, Chaodi collaborated with several well-known drag queens in Taiwan, including Chiangwei and Yolanda, to jointly establish a new drag queen brand called "TWeen Entertainment."

Together, they organize events such as tourism bus tours and panel discussions, to try and integrate drag culture into the lives of the public.

"In the past, drag queens were largely on their own, but now we're coming together to build strength and get the government on board to support the subculture." Chaodi said.

Café Dalida owner Alvin Chang (left) and Nymphia Wind. Photo courtesy of Alvin Chang May 18, 2024
Café Dalida owner Alvin Chang (left) and Nymphia Wind. Photo courtesy of Alvin Chang May 18, 2024

Alvin Chang, owner of Café Dalida -- the birthplace of numerous queens in Taiwan, including Nymphia -- told CNA that he hopes Nymphia's success will bring more awareness of Taiwan's drag queens, particularly given the status of drag as a subculture in the island state for several decades.

He highlighted the talents and endeavors of local queens and said he believes they are just as talented as their foreign counterparts.

Over the past three months, Chang has hosted weekly screening parties at the bar for those wanting to enjoy Nymphia's performances together.

"The crowds were unprecedented," Chang remarked, adding that more than 700 people turned out for the final.

"It felt like the Olympics of drag, and everyone was rooting for her."

Photo courtesy of Alvin Chang May 18, 2024
Photo courtesy of Alvin Chang May 18, 2024

Amid the ongoing excitement around drag queens, the second Taipei International Drag Festival is scheduled for May 25. More than 1,500 tickets sold out within minutes, according to Chang.

The event will include performances by queens from RuPaul's Drag Race, including Nymphia and Plane Jane, alongside talented local drag queens.

(By Evelyn Yang)

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