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Drag Artists Come Together To Open ‘Studio 69’ — A Biweekly Online Drag Event

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For the very first time in India, three diverse drag queens have come together to create a virtual studio for drag under the roof of Royal Campus 1927. This space will host a biweekly online drag event where diverse drag performers across India will come to bring their best of art. The idea has been curated by Adam Pasha aka Empress Xara, the former Bigg Boss Kannada contestant and an eminent drag performer, and supported by Lakshya Trust founded by His Highness Prince of Rajpipla, Sri Manvendra Singh Gohil.

The virtual Platform ‘Studio 69’ is an umbrella that will host both national and international queens. Other members on board who will be curating the event are Abhishek Singhania aka Jiya Labejia from the Haus of Labejia and Suffocated Art Specimen (SAS), founder of Dragvanti, an online platform for Drag queens in India. The project is also supported by Hyderabad-based Queer rights activists’ group Mobbera Foundation.

Throwing some light on the event’s intent to bring in such a space, Adam says,

“There have been same drag performers who have been performing time and again and hardly any new drag queens are getting opportunities. And we all see the same kind of drag every time, so there need to be alternative spaces for bringing opportunities to Indian drag. That was the idea we had to make this space. As a Drag artist, performing since 2007, this is a gift that I would like to give back to my drag community in India.”

Adam has recently stepped into the role of being the first South Asian ambassador and first ambassador for the royal campus Laksha Trust, and promises to do more relevant work for the community in the future.

Adding to the conversation, Abhishek Singhania said,

“The western ball, like a scene, is something that is needed to be created in India where amateur drag nights become the periphery for new drag artists to come and explore their art form. There are multiple such places where they connect and unite with their art and that’s what we envision with Studio 69 too. We hope to kick start the ballroom scene in India too once the spaces open post the lockdown.”

Abhishek, who is also a vogue artist themselves, added that there should also be ‘Shade Sessions’, where drag artists come and read on each other. He adds, “Reading helps in creating togetherness and unity among drag artists, these are not to insult them but to celebrate and get over their inhibitions about themselves with a burst of laughter.”

Reading is the art of ritual insult as practised within communities of drag queens, trans people and queer people of colour. The most performative condition was the reading challenge, a formalised challenge each season, in which each drag queen reads all her competitors and a winner is chosen. Shade is a subtle, sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone — sometimes verbal, and sometimes not. By Bringing shade sessions, we bring the authentic art culture of drag and imbibe it with Indianness.

One of the world’s first openly gay prince and a key changemaker for the LGBTQIA+ rights in India and founder of Laksya Trust, the Prince of Rajpipla Sri Manvendra Singh Gohil, along with his partner Duke Hanumanteshwar, has been supportive in making this cause fruitful. They say that it’s a good opportunity to create visibility of Drag artists, particularly in India, to create awareness and remove misconceptions that people (including those from the LGBT+ community) carry around the concerns of drag artists.

Dragvanti, an online drag platform that hosts articles, reviews, drag-related directories, dictionaries, etc., is collaborating with the team to bring a new line-up of drag queens to the studio show. Founder of Dragvanti, Patruni Sastry aka S.A.S says, “I jumped so high with enthusiasm when I heard about the idea. This will be a wonderful platform to bring a new dimension to Indian drag.”

Patruni added that all the organisations are also working on creating a safe space for drag art to flourish. Talking about drag art education and how drag can become equal as that of dance and drama, Patruni adds “Education of an art is a stepping stone to harness the art. So I, Adam and Abhishek are planning to create a virtual drag school on dragvanti that will bring courses to educate the new generation about the art of drag. The logistics are still in planning, but you should get the updates soon.”

This is something the queer community needs to stick their eye at, for the upcoming months, and spaces like these are always a ray of hope for drag artists who are severely affected due to the ongoing lockdown. We hope we fight it together with love and art.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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