Drag Race Thailand is currently in its second season and already making waves.
Upon its premiere, it made history by auditioning the first cisgender contestant. At its core, though, it still has all the hallmarks of drama, beauty, entertainment, and doing away with gender stereotypes that originally made RuPaul’s Drag Race the phenomenon that it is.
One contestant on the current season of Drag Race Thailand is Genie — an American queen whose rise in the drag world has been, in her words, ‘super dramatic’.
GSN sat down with Genie to talk about her journey and how it ended up at Drag Race.
It all started with frenemies
Let’s start with some background – how did you first get into drag?
When I was in grad school, some friends invited me to a drag brunch show. It was amazing. That was the first time I remember feeling proud to be part of the LGBT community. A year later, I competed in an amateur drag night at that same spot. Like half of my grad school came out to cheer me on. And I won… because it was based on audience applause!
What was your path to Drag Race Thailand, especially as an American?
Oop. It was super dramatic. In the states, I moved around a lot for work. But everything changed when I moved to Hong Kong. I’ll tell you right now, this whole thing only happened because two frenemies (a drag queen and booking manager) pissed me off.
Long story short, they went out of their way to create a toxic atmosphere for me and other queens in the community. My response? I started turning looks they could never, booking gigs at triple their rate, and building my reputation as one of the most creative queens in Asia. A few months later, Drag Race Thailand S2 began accepting international queens. Audition tapes were due in two days. I had all the footage and photos I needed, thanks to those two mean girls.
Entering the world of Drag Race
Luckily it worked out for you! Had you watched Drag Race before? What do you think of the way the show has brought drag into the mainstream for both LGBTI audiences and otherwise?
Definitely, I’ve been a fan of the show for years! It’s incredibly inspiring to see how Drag Race are affecting people (especially young people) who watch the show.
For me, it’s also very humbling. A kid reached out to me on Instagram and asked about the glowing cloud costume I wore on the runway when I won Episode 2. He loved the look and wanted to recreate his own version… to wear for his senior portrait! Can you believe that? It was so sweet, so of course I told him all the details.
Young people are seeing drag on television and they’re bringing it into their own lives. They’re finding the courage to express themselves in new ways, and creating a new normal where differences are not just tolerated but celebrated.
Being a multi-national queen
What was your first impression of Drag Race Thailand?
Oh, my first impression was basically a nonsensical stream-of-consciousness: Damn, this is a whole different game. We are not in Kansas anymore. What is everyone talking about. These other queens are way too fierce. This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Bandit’s legs are sexy. I’ll just sit here quietly like the cute teddybear I am. And Jesus Christ it’s really hot under this teddybear costume.
Sounds about right. Have you noticed any differences between drag in the US versus Thailand? What about universalities?
One of the things that Drag Race Thailand did really well this year was represent different styles of drag. There are people out there who have limited definitions of what drag is supposed to be; pretty, fishy, sexy, glamour queens who walk and talk a certain way.
DRT Season 2 has that, but it has more. They cast me on the show because I bring a cute, creepy aesthetic that doesn’t try to be sexy, and that’s something a lot of viewers hadn’t seen yet. There’s a different fantasy in my head I want to share with the audience. Like our wedding makeover challenge, for instance. I mean, I dressed the entire wedding party in gas masks and had a nuclear bomb bouquet. All of us queens had different approaches that made for a more interesting runway show!
Drag has power
What can people learn from drag?
There’s a lot, so I’ll make a list. How to be brave and put yourself out there. How to hustle, let yourself be silly in a world that’s too serious, be the one who decides what art is, laugh at yourself, and just BE yourself.
And I think most importantly: how to understand gender. It’s a construct. Humans made it up. Aliens would come here and think we’re weirdos because we trap women and men in such limited ways of living and being.
Damn right. And Drag Race Thailand just made history for airing the first audition of a cisgender woman in Drag Race franchise history. What do you think of making the franchise more inclusive of trans and cis queer women?
Maybe next year a cis woman will make it onto the show. But this year already, I feel Drag Race Thailand has taken a huge step forward by including trans women.
To me, the message is not ‘everyone can do drag,’ because that’s a very limited message for a limited audience. To me, the message is ‘transgender people are amazing human beings too.’
Unfortunately, there are parts of society who don’t see transgender people as people at all. Well, our cast has two intelligent, incredible transgender queens who shine brighter than any of that shady shit. Kandy Zyanide and Angele Anang are two of my new drag sisters, and they’re going to take over the world. It’s a message to the world that transgender people will not be hidden away, will not be silenced, will not be complacent.
Venturing into drag… and beyond
So what does drag ultimately mean to you?
Drag is an expression of one’s true self. That sounds like new age bullshit, but it’s not. It’s showing the world a vision of yourself that they cannot see, but need to see.
If someone is interested in drag, it can be a little daunting. Do you have any tips for getting into this world?
Go see your local queens. Support them and tip them. Go to their home bars, and make those places your hangout spot. That’s how you should start getting into the world of drag. And by the way, almost every Drag Race queen started out as a local queen. So there ya go. I was a local queen. I made it onto Drag Race Thailand. And who knows what I’ll do next?
Well… what is next for you?
I am a US citizen, and California is home for me (I miss you, California, my love!). I’m in talks with a few clubs and promoters about gigs in the US right now. As for RuPaul’s Drag Race… it’s funny, people have been asking me about Season 12 or 13. All I can say is, you never know what the future might hold!
You can check out more for what Genie’s up to her on her Instagram account.
Interview has been edited and condensed.