Breaking Boundaries: Drag Culture in Seoul
Drag culture is no new item around most parts of the world, but it is quite a young movement here in Korea. One that has been bringing a new twist to the traditional nightlife in terms of art, creativity, and acceptance.
Drag is not just about people doing makeup and performing in front of others. Drag is about both performers and spectators setting new standards, breaking old limitations and finding new ways to accept and express themselves, helping others through their bravery to do so as well. A majestic storm leaving both the chaos and the beauty of a new form of self-expression that has been exponentially increasing the curiosity of both nationals and expats wanting to find out more about the whole drag scene and all that it implies.
I had the pleasure to interview three beautiful queens, whom all with their unique and inspiring stories were all able to move me through their passion, strength, and performances. Queens that each in their own way have been raising awareness and love into the drag scene. Queen Chaka, Queen Charlotte, and Queen Vanessica, I salute you all and thank you for your braveness, beauty and strength both inside and out the stage. All of you struck me by your wanting of bringing positiveness, self-acceptance, and connection into a world where we many times forget that life is a fight that does not have to be fought on our own.
“A majestic storm leaving both the chaos and the beauty of a new form of self-expression”
Each of these queens had something special, something unique. Powerful on stage, yet nurturing towards the people they perform for, all agreeing that even though performing is something that they love, what they love even more is to inspire others. How they are able to change the atmosphere and the moods of the people that visit their stages. Making them feel a little bit more welcomed, a little bit more courageous, and perhaps also a little bit more tolerant all through a good dose of humor and a huge lot of talent.
Each with their own talents and their own essence, there are some things that you need to learn about them:
Queen Chaka who performs at Qbar is the perfect personification of their don’t ask why motto when she performs, actively pushing the spectators to “let their hair down”. This queen realm of beauty is her desire to make everyone feel special.
Her music choices are the classics, those blasts from the past where she brings such an authentic performance with the best of her craft that will make you second guess if she is actually singing the song.
Wanting to make it as real and tangible as possible she pulls her crowd in no matter who there are, because she performs with passion under two big mottos “the champion is always humble” and the one that she learned from her mentor Kevin Juul who told her that she does not perform only for the people that paid for the expensive seats, but for the people that might be all the way in the back on the inexpensive seats. “I always aspire to make those people feel like they are also VIP´s because for me they truly are”
“Each of these queens had something special, something unique. Powerful on stage, yet nurturing towards the people they perform for.”
Originally a dancer that came from humble beginnings, she found dance and later on drag as a way to express herself without the need of words and also share her knowledge and secrets, a place to make herself vulnerable. The version that she presents on stage is like that part of her alter ego that wants to turn that click in people to make people question what they always believed in, especially when it comes to very conservative ideas about life and tolerance.
She does the performance that comes from the deepest part of her while keeping in mind that “in god l move breath and have my being” as powerful words that center her.
Queen Charlotte´s realm of beauty comes from a path of self-love and self-acceptance, this queen that I watched perform at the rabbithole opens all her shows under this powerful message: “l am Charlotte good enough and so are you”
A strong message that comes straight from the heart and applies to absolutely anybody, independently of their age, sex, or social status. This performer, co-creator, co-organizer and co-host of multiple drag events delayed her dreams and desires to perform for the same reason many of us delay any of our dreams, that small voice in our mind that insists in making us feel like we are not deserving, the old “I am not good enough”.
Luckily for everyone that is able to see her perform, she was able to power through these feelings proving to you through every performance that you can become anything you want. Focused on not only performing but also creating connexion, she believes that if you don’t reach out to anybody there is a big point missing from the performance.
She enjoys to share big features, exaggerated, edgy, alternative and dark looks
while also bringing a calming presence through her performances and ballades, opening the door for people to feel more comfortable, and give give back to her audience some of her strength that they give her, so they get the extra courage to fight their own battles.
Queen Vanessica´s realm of beauty was strength and self-defiance. She was into theater and figure skating growing up, born with sweet and angelic features, she decided she can have it all, she can be the fierce woman and the sweet boy.
Being one of that new generation of queens that actively chose to deviate from what was normal, she aims to spread the reassurance that you can just break the mold, and be unapologetically yourself because you don’t have to fit perfectly in order to fit in.
Through her first performance at meat market she came to the realization that even though it was great she loved more what it could have been, and therefore instead of feeling defeated, she took matters into her own hands and searched deep down for what she wanted. Expressing it differently every day through her makeup, fashion and performances aspiring also to make people laugh as much as they can, to bring some sort of lightness through all bad stuff there is at times in the world.
“Drag breaks down boundaries, boundaries that might start with gender but do not only stay there”
A bearded queen that by accepting herself as she is setting a standard for not only peers but even women to be courageous, because you can “still be feminine and beautiful even if you are hairy”.
A queen that believes she can do whatever she sets her mind to, only if she keeps on trying until she figures out the how and who firmly believes that even an empty night if it was fun, it was a successful night.
As you can see the drag movement and in particular these queens bring multiple perspectives and lessons for anybody to let themselves shine through and become that version of themselves that they can confidently defend.
A movement of self-acceptance and openness to understand that it is ok to be different to accept those who are different from us, even when it might feel unsettling at first not knowing what to expect. Powerful examples for anybody to break the mold they have been so constrainedly pushing themselves in. Through the interviews, we all agreed that drag is not only about performances and fun since there are also plenty of other things that the drag community brings into society.
Drag breaks down boundaries, boundaries that might start with gender but do not only stay there. Drag also brings inclusivity into entertainment and it is a great way to make people feel connected through something, even when at times it might be something they don’t necessarily fully understand, but this connection still spread a message, one in which we can all accept, respect and encourage each other even through our differences. If any of these concepts resonate with you, you might want to have a stroll through this hidden, yet fascinating part of the night culture in Seoul.
Editor: Lorena Jiménez
For: Groove Magazine April Issue
Cover Picture by: Daniel Kim
Photography by:Manon Thore
That was all for today, if you are curious, here you can always check some more of my printed articles.