‘Guuurl, You Gotta Become A Fierce Indian Drag Queen!’

Hello! My name is Prateek Sachdeva. I’m 24-years-old. I belong to a middle class family, and live with my parents and two dogs (who we treat like family, and sometimes more than that). I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management with the aspirations of becoming a chef, but when I enrolled in a dance class, I realised my true passion lay in the performing arts. And for the last six months, I’ve been practicing the beautiful art of Drag.

Image Credit: Harshita Nayyar.

What is Drag? There is no fixed text book definition of Drag, but the perception of this art form varies from different individuals who practice it and people who watch it.

Some people use the term “Drag queen” and “female impersonator” interchangeably. More controversially, people can mix up the terms, “drag queen”, “drag king”, “crossdresser”, “transvestite”, “transsexual” and “transgender”. Drag is not defined by any one of these in particular. Rather, it’s inclusive of all.

A female impersonator is an individual who dresses in women’s clothes on stage or on film as a part of a performance, who models themselves after women; this individual we might say is doing Drag. Drag Queens by contrast can do more, such as modelling themselves after other drag queens, fictional characters, celebrities or even make up their own characters, whether it’s for laughs or to achieve some sort of dramatic realism. A Drag Queen can be larger than life, can be spell-binding, and can command attention. The objective of a drag queen is not to blend into the crowd but to stand out. This is a very modern day description of drag, all of that jumbled up with arts, fashion, and performance.

Drag gave me the liberty to perform as anyone or anything and does not limit me to the basic role of a ‘male’ dancer, or even the fixed choreography of our society. It’s not just freedom of expression; Drag has pushed my confidence level to extreme.

Recently, I had the honour of speaking at an event at Hansraj College, Delhi University. It was organised by the Gender Equality Cell and the topic of discussion was Gender Fluidity. My statements revolved around how I still identify as male but at times my Drag Character Betta takes over my body when I apply makeup and put on my costume and then I am a female. In those ways I am Gender Fluid. The discussion was also about society’s norms and rules around gender roles and expectations, a conversation to which the college audience had a lot to contribute. All of this also helped me become more informed about what others go through and how they overcome obstacles.

Image Credit: Harshita Nayyar.

I came across Drag three years back through the famous reality show “Rupaul’s Drag Race”, and I have been hooked ever since. Watching all those beautiful artists showcasing their talents with such confidence and creativity gave me the boost I needed. I started copying their catch phrases and copying my favourite scenes. At that time I had no one to share my excitement with since no one in my circle had seen the show but I was still stuck to it. It was last year when I was in Melbourne, Australia where I actually saw my first drag show and had the opportunity to speak with one of the queens. Out of the long conversation I still have this one line stuck in my head: “Guurrl, you gotta take this to India and become a fierce Indian Drag Queen!”

I went shopping the next day and (taking the advantage of a Christmas sale) I bought tons of makeup up products, came back to India, and started experimenting behind doors when no one was home.

It wasn’t until I started my YouTube Channel when I first came out as a Drag queen. My first video was “How To Cover Your Eyebrows For Drag And Cosplay”.

I even uploaded a few of my drag looks. The response has been good which makes me believe I am playing my part in educating people about Drag.

Though India is still new to the Drag scene but there are lot of Drag friendly Clubs like Kitty Su, The Lalit Group of Hotels in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chandigarh and Kitty Ko, The Lalit Group of hotels in Bengaluru host drag events where they allow drag artists to take up the stage and showcase their talents.

Image Credit: Harshita Nayyar.

Other than breaking the shell I was in and giving me the encouragement I needed in life, Drag has given me a new identity. It’s like every time I am in Drag I am a different person. One night I am a High-school girl crushing over the jock, another night I am a woman who has been injured and is healing herself. At times I am an old school Jazz singer and at other times I am a burlesque dancer. It’s your choice who you want to be and it’s your choice how to be that person.

Just as there are no strict rules for drag, there shouldn’t be strict rules to being your true self.

All images courtesy of the author.
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