The first time I saw RuPaul’s Drag Race, I remember being wowed by the elaborate makeup, the glamorous costumes, and the performers lip-syncing for their life. I always knew drag queens existed, I just never knew that the movement in the US is so huge that there’d be conventions and entire shows about them. And then, I thought about how there isn’t any representation of the drag queen and king community from India, given the fact that Indians migrate to America by the kilo.
It may be some time before we have Indian reality TV shows about drag performers, but nightclubs across India and a lot of LGBTQ friendly pubs, bars and cafés have opened their doors in the last couple of years. The first time I ever went to attend a drag performance was in 2017 when RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 7 winner Violet Chachki came to town. Rani Ko-HE-Nur and Maya The Drag Queen opened for her and needless to say, Kitty Su was more packed than the Delhi metro during peak hours.
“We’re born naked, and the rest is drag.” —RuPaul
The experience got me exploring and I had a million questions racing through my head. How many Indian drag performers are out there? Can a woman ever do drag? Does she have to be a drag king, or can she also be a drag queen? Is it more about gender identities or personas? I still have these questions, but a little walk down the wormhole that is the interwebs, I did get a few answers, and I came across some of the most fabulous Indian drag performers too.
7 Indian Drag Queens & Drag Kings You Need To Put On Your Radar Right Now
1. Rani Ko-HE-Nur
Sushant Divgikr goes by the stage name Rani Ko-HE-Nur and performs at all the Kitty Su venues as well as other popular clubs in India. He was crowned Mr Gay India in 2014 and is the Director of Mr Gay World South Asia. He isn’t just a talented dancer, but he also sings quite wonderfully. From being a demure seductress to a glam queen, Rani Ko-HE-Nur rocks all looks.
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2. Badshah Mayur
Bidisha is a singer, drag king and performer. After graduating Lasalle College of the Arts (Singapore). She aims to establish herself in India and strike a conversation about gender identities and the stereotypes associated with them. Her concept behind Desi Drag Kings is to promote drag as a form of performance art and to make it more approachable to the people of India by showcasing Indian couture instead of the more westernised approach that people take towards it. Through this, she inspires to inspire and pave the way for future drag kings in India. Her drag name is Badshah Mayur, and in a lot of ways, she gives hope to women who want to do drag by breaking the stereotype that it is an art form only for men wanting to perform a certain way on stage.
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3. Betta Naan Stop
Interestingly enough, Betta Naan Stop came up with their name while having—you guessed it—butter naan. But, the name has a bigger significance for young Prateek Sachdeva as it is a reminder of doing better, non-stop. As a child, Prateek would love performing in front of the mirror and would wear his favourite skirt and choreograph entire numbers when no one’s home. The first time that Prateek performed in drag was on camera for his YouTube channel a while ago, but his debut as a drag performer was in November 2017.
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4. Maya The Drag Queen
Maya the Drag Queen, also known as Mayamma started performing in drag since September 2014. She started humbly with a passion to perform on stage. Little did she know, she would start a fire through her performances and pave the way for future Indian drag queens. She has been featured in many platforms to make people understand drag as an art form. She believes that change starts from within and it’s really important for everyone to love oneself and give only love. She is grateful to Mr. Keshav Suri, Executive Director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group. It’s because of him that she performs regularly at Kitty Su & Kitty Ko clubs. She will be doing more episodes of her talk show – Chaya with Maya which focuses on educating about sexuality.
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5. Randy Scarhol
“Veronique” is the drag name, that was given to Randy Scarhol by Keshav Suri. Randy Scarhol is a freelance model and an architecture student from Bangalore. Scarhol loves to challenge gender norms through her visual imagery that’s often inspired by club kids and her fashion role models like Lady Gaga. On being asked about her inspiration for all her drag performances, she says, “Well, when it comes to performance drag and traditional lip syncing, Gaga has always been my go-to woman because growing up queer, I’ve always looked up to her and y love for her has only grown stronger over the years. I was able to channel my femininity through her. Watching a female pop star be that glamorous androgynous creature was like therapy.”
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6. Kushboo The Kween
Kushboo is a lawyer and writer by day and drag queen by night. She balances the world of black ink and white paper with colourful wigs and glittering eyeshadow. “I started drag in order to escape the limits of my own maleness and spread my magic,” she says. Kushboo uses her art to express her emotions, the message of self-love and the power of femininity. She likes to think of herself as an avant-garde and mystical chameleon, as she could be a sexy diva one night and a crotchety old lady the next.
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7. Rimi Heart
Rimi started doing drag after a friend pushed her into it at a pride event. She had already been interested in because of RuPaul Charles’ popular show, RuPaul’s Drag Race. So, she came up with Rimi Heart and she took her first ever at Kitty Ko and found her true calling. Everyone who’s ever been to any of Rimi’s shows knows how great a singer she is, but what people don’t know is that she’s been trained in western classical music. She draws her inspiration from artists like Celine Dion and Ariana Grande, as well as Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. While she regularly wears sarees, her aesthetic is more of a pop diva.
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We hope you go check these fabulous kings and queens of drag in India out as soon as possible. We’ll just sign off saying what RuPaul says at the end of his shows—If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?
Can we get a resounding AMEN?!