Beginnings of a Drag Queen

November 17, 2018 – Hannah Francesca M. Arcenal—Eyebrows on fleek, crazy wig on place, over lined lips, and eyelashes that pop – this is how we usually picture our common drag queens as they walk the streets with pride. Usually on their platform heels and overwhelming ensembles, these queens are always up for a show. With the progressive representation of drag queens on media, more and more people are amazed by their confidence, talent, and charisma. But before all the crazy performances and the glamour, these queens go through humble beginnings wherein they face challenges and struggle in discovering themselves.

It was not always a life of wigs, false eyelashes, and over lined lips for Thomas Cipriano. He was just like anyone else: a kid with wild dreams. But as he grew older, he learned more about who he was and what he wants in life – and a great part of it was doing drag.

How did you learn to apply make up, particularly drag make up?

“It was mostly self taught. I learned a lot about drag through videos posted on Youtube and also through the help of my friends particularly Marlyn Ocampo. She practically became my godmother when I was starting out with drag.”

What inspired you to do drag?

“When I was young, my uncle used to bring me to comedy bars which are commonly dominated by drag queens. This is how I was introduced to the drag culture here in the Philippines. But what truly inspired me to do drag is the drag queens I look up to. They inspired me not just through their looks but also by the message they embodied. Drag does not achieve beauty but rather it is a political statement.”

Where do you get your inspiration for every look?

“Personally, drag for me is challenging norms of what beauty is – which I consider to be underground compared to how people think drag is all about us wanting to become women. I am inspired by underground avant-garde drag queens, like Vander Van Odd. They inspire me because they remind me that I am not alone in this craft. Also, ever since I was young I am fascinated by horror movies, I get inspirations from Tim Burton as well as gore horror movies whenever I do drag. Lady Gaga, on the other hand, was truly one of the personalities that continue to inspire me in doing this craft.”

Whenever you transform into a look or do a performance in drag, what do you feel?

“As a beginner, there were a lot of times that I am not quite sure of what I want to achieve with the look I am creating. Most of the time I have a lot of things that is on my mind but I end up doing something that is crammed or rushed. I frustrate myself in doing my look and my performances as planned that I end up doing otherwise. But when I do what was planned and I see people enjoying what I created, I feel fulfilled and confident about myself.”

Where do you find yourself in every drag look that you do?

“I see myself through the aesthetic of the look since I am the one who visualised it and the whole look was my idea. Honestly, I do not totally lose myself in the personas that I create. I am still and will always be myself in every look I transform into.”

Where do you want your skill in drag to go?

“If possible, overseas especially New York. But as of now, doing drag is something that I do passionately but not exactly as a career yet. I am still a beginner, even not half way from what these successful drag queens have achieved.  I have so much to learn and looking forward to learn about drag.”

What do you want Filipinos to take from the drag looks that you do?

“Basically, whenever I go out in drag in public its my way of showing young people that it’s okay to go out like this. It’s safe to be in drag and just be yourself and have fun. From what I learned drag has always been a political statement – which I always keep in mind. This gives drag a deeper meaning than just what we perceive it to be. It is a movement that aims to inspire and enlighten people of the present issues as well as expressing and celebrating our individualities.”

As a humble beginning drag queen, Thomas has always been passionate in doing the craft of drag and is optimistic in taking it to the next step. It may be a long journey but with the beautiful intention of inspiring young people to be confident and embracing who they truly are, he is in a long way along with drag queens all over the world. They teach us that no matter what form you are in, it is important to stay true and accept ourselves. 

These queens inspire us to celebrate our individualities and be confident with who we are as we fiercely walk the streets with pride as they always do.