- September 20, 2021 03:54
By Randy Espares Jr. and Yuichi Desquitado
The highly anticipated return of Drag Race Philippines (DRPH) proudly flaunts its new set of colorful drag kweens, including the Far Eastern University (FEU) alum Jayper Frank Palma, famously known as Tiny Li’l Deluxe. As more Tamaraws brave such platforms, the creation and maintenance of a safe place play a pivotal role in exploring and improving one’s identity and craft—one of which is the stunning and complicated world of drag.
At this point, the art of drag is omnipresent in popular culture. With the airing of both drag reality competition shows, DRPH and Drag Den PH, drag has taken the world by storm.
DRPH is the second Southeast Asian installment of the famous RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise in the United States. The show is presented by former Eat Bulaga! host and makeup transformation sensation Paolo Ballesteros or “Mama Pao” as regarded by the drag kweens.
While it may appear to be all fun and games, drag aims to raise social awareness about gender expression and identity. Although the queer community is severely marginalized, drag performers continue to provide joy to their adoring fans.
"Tiny" Big Diva Kween versus the Philippines
After the long-awaited “RuVelation” of its new cast, FEU Communication alum Jayper Frank Palma will participate in DRPH's second season as his drag identity “Tiny Li'l Deluxe,” announced last July 11.
Notably, Palma is not the only alum who has slayed the werkroom of DRPH; Christian Viñas and John Philip, both FEU Communication alumni, also exhibited their talents as contestants in the show's first season.
Viñas, often referred to as “Viñas DeLuxe” in drag, was the prominent bunganga and campy queen of season one until she was sashayed away by Eva Le Queen in a Lip-synch Smackdown.
Meanwhile, Philip, more commonly known as Brigiding “Gigi” Archeta, dominated her Lip-sync for Your Life match, receiving the first ever “double shantay” alongside contender Minty Fresh in DRPH herstory.
It is not a coincidence that Viñas and Tiny share the same last name, as they are part of the Deluxe drag family. Families in drag often represent a community of queens led by a drag mother.
Many of the fans noticed the strong familial gene between the two when the girl group song challenge “BOOGSH!” was released online, where Tiny is notably able to serve and perform songs live like Viñas.
As a Communication student, Palma got the chance to exhibit his talent when he joined a reality singing competition, It’s Showtime's Tawag ng Tanghalan, displaying LGBTQIA+ pride as he performed on stage sporting the colors of the rainbow on his eye makeup.
The Deluxe family is not the only connection our drag alums have, Viñas DeLuxe and Brigiding actually met in one of the arts organizations on campus, the FEU Theater Guild. Similar to the famous saying “like mother, like daughter,” Palma also got to join the theater troupe of FEU in 2018.
Inside the University, drag inspired the Tamaraws to discover themselves while actively promoting sisterhood among rising drag kweens and supporters. This gave way for them to showcase their talent in many shapes and colors, such as singing, dancing, fashion, modeling, comedy, and improvising.
Andrei Retes, known by his fellow Tamaraws as Drei, is an incoming sophomore student in Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He believes that outside drag, he is nothing but a regular student who wishes to express and share his artistic skills at the University.
But do not be mistaken for a fierce drag kween lies behind him. A gag dress, slay make-up, and snatchedt wigs are all it takes to take birth a glamazon.
And with that? Gurl, expect one hell cucu of a Ride, as Drei transforms into Missy Rider.
“Missy Rider kasi super ano niya eh … parang go-with-the-flow siya with any kind of brand. Hindi siya takot na i-explore kung anong puwedeng ma-adapt niya—kung anong puwede i-try (Missy Rider is super like … she’s like go-with-the-flow with any kind of brand. She’s not scared to explore what she can adapt—what she can try),” Drei explained as he shared who Missy Rider is.
Initially aiming to be a fashion kween, Missy Rider is a reputable amateur stunt performer. When asked about his drag inspiration, DRPH Season 1 drag kween Minty Fresh has become her role model in keeping a posh and polished lewk when strutting.
Missy Rider RuVealed that she felt braver in pursuing drag after learning from DRPH kweens Viñas DeLuxe, Brigiding, and Tiny Li’l Deluxe.
“I feel like as a student-drag queen currently here in FEU, nagbigay din ‘yon sakin ng liwanag or nag-light up din ‘yon for me to be not shy or nag-boost pa ‘yon ng confidence sa’kin (I feel like as a student-drag queen currently here in FEU, it gave me light or it also lit up for me to not be shy or it boosted my confidence for me),” Rider said.
She also shared that she connects well with other drag children of the aforementioned kweens. Missy Rider has recounted some instances of witnessing Tiny Li’l Deluxe’s impressive shows, and she placed great confidence in their standing in the upcoming competition.
“I love her. Kapag nasa crowd ka ni Tiny Deluxe, you know na hindi ka uuwi na walang ngiti because she is a great performer. She is a diva (I love her. When you’re in the crowd of Tiny Deluxe, you’ll know that you won’t go home without a smile because she is a great performer. She is a diva),” Missy Rider expressed.
For a “baby” drag kween like Missy Rider, finance is one of the main obstacles, given that she is still in college. She has complained about the price tag attached to different drag necessities, such as wigs, costumes, cosmetics, and accessories.
Moreover, Missy Rider does not have a drag family yet, which gives her a rocky start in everything. Drag families are essential in drag culture as they help baby kweens in their journey. Importantly, they give shelter to kweens who are shunned by their own, filling the familial gaps in them.
She also expressed her frustration about how drag is usually generalized as entertainment rather than a craft, but Missy Rider found solace whenever performing in front of a crowd. Just like how DRPH helped her, she hopes to inspire other people who are also interested in trying drag.
“A little background kung gaano katagal mag-ready ang isang drag queen—it takes hours talaga, ‘day! It takes hours … parang mag-e-exam ka lang—parang magre-review. It takes hours, you know, para ma-slay ang exam gan’on (A little background on how long it takes for a drag queen to get ready—it really takes hours. It takes hours … like you’re about to take an exam—like you’re reviewing),” Missy Rider shared.
On the other hand, the Communication major found the obstacles challenging yet healing as his inner child found a new meaning to life.
But, like any niche, ruthless criticism and hostile treatment are some of the prevalent issues that the drag community continues to encounter.
After Pura Luka Vega’s infamous Ama Namin performance, the sophomore student-drag kween wished that the public gave Pura a chance to be understood and watched as they have many things to tell and share.
“Kapag nasa crowd ka kasi ni Pura, it feels so fantasy. It feels unrealistic or ano … things na masaya kasi you know nararamdaman ko … I am in a safe place (When you’re in Pura’s crowd, it feels fantastic. It feels unrealistic or something joyful because I feel that I am in a safe place),” she shared.
For Missy Rider, such an outburst of the issue could have been sourced because of Pura’s identity.
“One of the reason na pinaglalaban ng mga bading–kasi she is gay—parang mas lalo lang siyang naging controversial kasi bakla ‘yong gumanap (One of the reasons the gays fight for is because she is gay—it’s as if it only became more controversial because the one who played the part was gay),” she expressed.
Lastly, Retes wished that the FEU Central Student Organization (FEUCSO) would give drag kweens more chances to be featured university-wide after recounting the colorful 2023 Pride March that took place in thy happy halls. Realizing that FEU is a safe space for queer people, he is looking forward to showcasing their talent to a larger audience whilst inviting more drag kweens to step up and slay their own runways.
The drag culture may be deemed blasphemous by some, or be mistaken as merely cross-dressing, impersonating, and lip-synching legendary icons—but as put by Missy Rider, drag is an opportunity to find a sense of belonging by meeting new comrades who would help you out along the way.
Expanding drag culture visibility created a safe space for people like Drei Retes to explore more of his identity. If there were no such place, no Missy Rider snatchedt the stage, no Tiny Li’l Deluxe in DRPH Season 2, and no Viñas DeLuxe nor Brigiding for its pilot season. If no place nor people created such a venue, the world would be less stunning, less slay, less boogsh, less drag, and less gay.