Politics

The best of Philippine drag celebrated on Drag Race PHL

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DRAG RACE Philippines queens with host Paolo Ballesteros, and judges KaladKaren and Jiggly Caliente — PHOTO BY MICHELLE ANNE P. SOLIMAN

A DRAG artist will soon make “herstory” as the first champion of Drag Race Philippines. The reality competition show premieres this week on discovery+, HBO Go, and WOW Presents Plus.

Drag Race Philippines is the Filipino version of the Drag Race franchise which aims to find the next “Drag Superstar.” It is based on the original American competition series RuPaul’s Drag Race. The show is produced by Fullhouse Asia Production Studios, Inc. in conjunction with World of Wonder Productions, Inc. Randy Barbato, Fenton Bailey, Tom Campbell, and RuPaul Charles serve as executive producers on the series.

“We bring some of the world’s most popular brands to our Filipino audiences and Drag Race is the perfect example of this… We are all so excited to finally have a homegrown local version of Drag Race featuring some of the most fabulous Filipino drag artists. They are not just drag performers, they are drag artists from all around the world,” HBO Max Vice-President and marketing for Southeast Asia Daniel Tan said at the viewing party and launch on Aug. 16 at Xylo at the Palace, Bonifacio High Street, in Taguig City.

THE QUEENSIn the first season of Drag Race Philippines, 12 drag queens will race to the finish line for the title of first “Drag Race Superstar” from the Philippines. They are:

Brigiding from Mandaluyong City has been featured in Pride parades and drag events in the Philippines and abroad.

A crowned pageant queen with a list of titles on her sash, makeup artist and a designer Corazon has won pageant titles from both male bikini contests and provincial Miss Gay events and talent shows.

Marikina City’s Eva Le Queen worked as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Singapore for eight years before giving up her corporate work to follow her dream of becoming a drag artist —  she won first runner-up in Singapore’s Drag It Out All-Stars competition, only four months after she started doing drag. Eva’s Drag is inspired by literary and cinematic villains. She is a resident queen at Nectar Nightclub and is also one of the founders of Drag Playhouse PH.

Hailing from Melbourne, Gigi Era is popular in the Australian drag scene for her death-defying stunts and real hair wigs. Gigi was a former dancer and airplane cabin crew member based in Dubai. She is now back in the Philippines representing her hometown, Davao.

Doing drag for 15 years, Lady Morgana is known for her comedic and hosting skills. She works as a financial advisor during the day.

Makati City’s Marina Summers’s drag name stems from her love for the beach. She began performing as a drag queen in 2019 and recently released her debut single, “I Have Arrived,”on Spotify and iTunes. She performs regularly at Nectar Nightclub and is another one of the founders of Drag Playhouse PH.

Minty Fresh from Quezon City is a model, designer, pop singer, make-up artist, and performer. A staunch supporter of LGBTQIA+ rights, she slays the stage weekly at Nectar Nightclub.

Camariñes Norte’s Precious Paula Nicole has been performing drag for more than 11 years. A performer at the O Bar, she is a professional dancer and is also known for her comedy shtick and impersonation of singers such as Mariah Carey, Beyonce, and Regine Velasquez.

Prince from Calumpit, Bulacan is known on social media for her make-up transformations. Before joining Drag Race Philippines, Prince, who is relatively new to the Philippine drag scene, was a social media strategist. Prince’s drag is heavily influenced by sci-fi and animé and she believes that “extraterrestrial” looks have a space in Philippine drag. Prince is also one of the co-founders of Drag Playhouse PH. Aside from doing drag, she manages her own make-up and merchandise line.

Turing from Cainta, Rizal has been a professional drag artist for over seven years and performs at the O-Bar. She is also a strong advocate for body positivity.

Viñas DeLuxe from San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan started doing drag while at university. She is a member of the drag group the Divine Divas, who gained popularity during the pandemic by mounting digital performances and live streams worldwide. She also owns a wig business.

Xilhouete from Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija is the Creative Director and one of the owners of Nectar Nightclub. She is an advocate for the legacy of the drag queens who have paved the way for the drag community in the Philippines.

In the competition, the 12 drag queens have to channel their creativity and confidence at photoshoots, talent shows, lip-sync showdowns, and other segment challenges. The contestants work on mini challenges and go through a main competition every week. Their weekly performance will be evaluated per episode.

THE JUDGESThe show is hosted by actor Paolo Ballesteros who is currently a co-host of the Philippines’ longest running noontime show, Eat Bulaga! He has also starred in films such as Die Beautiful where he played Trisha, a trans pageant queen whose last wish was to have different celebrity transformations at his wake. The role earned him the Best Actor award at the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival.

One of the show’s resident judges is American singer, actress, and drag performer Jiggly Caliente who competed in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 6. She is joined by writer, presenter, and producer, and impersonator of newscaster Karen Davila, KaladKaren. Guest judges in the first season include photographer BJ Pascual, comedian John Santos, and fashion designer Rajo Laurel.

“To be a good drag queen, you have to be original, have conviction, and have a strong point of view,” Jiggly Caliente said at the launch.

“I am so proud of them… We are also the first franchise to have two transwomen at the helm of the judges’ table…,” Ms. Caliente said of her experience as a judge on the show. “But the fact is these girls are so talented, they are so amazing, they are so beautiful human beings… I’m so glad that the World of Wonder decided to put their eyes on the Philippines and showcase the amazing Philippine drag.”

A drag queen should have a purpose where she draws her creativity and talent from, KaladKaren said, “Yung pagkakaroon ng purpose ang makakatulong sa kanya to find her true self (Having a purpose will help her find her true self).”

The winner of Drag Race Philippines will receive a one-year supply of cosmetics from One Size Beauty by Patrick Starrr and P1 million.

Why should we watch the show? Drag Race Philippines host, Mr. Ballesteros —  whom the drag queens call “Mama Pao” —  answered, “Because, why not?”

New episodes of Drag Race Philippines are released every Wednesday, and the spin-off and after-show, Drag Race Philippines: Untucked, premieres on Aug. 19, with new episodes released every Friday. The shows stream on discovery+, HBO GO, and WOW Presents Plus.  — Michelle Anne P. Soliman