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Brown queens exist! Britain’s ‘first Muslim drag queen’ is tired of South Asian performers being overlooked

Reiss Smith April 22, 2020
Asifa Lahore, Sachit/Agnes and Humza A. Mian. South

Asifa Lahore, Sachit/Agnes and Humza A. Mian. (Brown Queens Exist)

“South Asian drag has been kept behind the veil for far too long,” Asifa Lahore tells PinkNews as she launches a new campaign to highlight the erasure of brown queens.

Asifa Lahore has been known for the better part of a decade as Britain’s first out Muslim drag queen.

Her pride in the title is tinged with frustration. Five years after rising to fame in a major Channel 4 documentary, she is exasperated to remain not just the first British South Asian queen with a major national platform, but the only one.

We have to fight the hardest and the loudest in order to be heard or our art to be seen,” she says.

“In many cases we are denied work and opportunities because our art is either not understood, too political or too risky.

“More often than not this is down to pure ignorance, a lack of research, the unwillingness to listen, understand and blatant racism.”

Brown Queens Exist includes South Asian drag queens, kings, trans, non-binary and cis performers from across the diaspora.

Tired of seeing drag performers who look like her excluded from best of lists, Pride line-ups and nightclub tours, Asifa has curated a diverse list of drag performers from across the South Asian diaspora.

“Brown drag exists and it is time for it to be made visible in all spaces, virtual and physical,” she says.

The Brown Queens Exist campaign launches with a video showcasing 18 performers of different genders, nationalities and performance styles, highlighting the diversity and beauty of South Asian drag.

Asifa says she was forced into action after Buzzfeed published a list of “Forty Drag Queens You Need to Follow On Instagram”, curated by The Drag Bible.

The list failed to include a single South Asian queen and was deleted after Asifa and other members of the community publicly called it out.

She noted that while The Drag Bible acknowledged the “mishap” and reaffirmed their commitment to inclusivity, Buzzfeed have not made any public statement. The website didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from PinkNews.

“Unfortunately, this is a trend prevalent in mainstream drag and LGBT+ communities, be them virtual on social media platforms, or in physical spaces such as bars, clubs and Prides where few or no South Asian drag performers are featured talent,” Asifa said.

The diaspora is far and wide, permeating all corners of the globe.

She points to the fact that RuPaul’s Drag Race “has not featured a single queen of South Asian heritage in its many international variants”, nor is a South Asian edition-off part of its growing slate of international spin-offs. The closest Drag Race has come is Drag Race Thailand, representing the Southeast Asian country.

This, Asifa says, is just another sign of the erasure of her community – a “harsh reality facing those from a South Asian background wanting to follow a career in drag, cabaret, burlesque and the performing arts”.

“To suggest that queens from a South Asian background don’t exist internationally is to be a perpetrator of erasure,” she says.

“Erasure is tantamount to racism and as performers we wish for opportunities to be included at the table of mainstream drag.”

Brown Queens Exist! 18 South Asian drag queens, kings and queer performers you need to follow.

Asifa Lahore.

Bijuriya.

Humza A. Mian.

Patruni Chidananda Sastry.

(Instagram/sas3dancingfeet)

Karma Sutra.

Abhijeet.

Rotiboi.

Prophet.

 

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A post shared by P R O P H E T (@prophetdrag) on


Crayola.

Chutney Chataranga.

Jawan Chokra.

 

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A post shared by Jawan Chokra (@jawanchokra_) on

Bombae.

 

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Wow this only took me 10 hours to do.

A post shared by bombae (@bom.bae) on

Ashqueen.

Sachit/Agnes.

Masala Sapphire.

Seemaa Butt.

Maria Maya Rahaman.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. …

A post shared by Maria Maya Rahaman (@that.caribbeangirl25) on

Curry Anne Durr.

More: Asifa Lahore, drag, south asian drag

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