The art of drag and the artists who do it are very popular worldwide – we can see them in their element on the stages of popular cabarets and nightclubs, as street performers or taking part in different events and pride parades all over the world. Even though they are traditionally associated with gay culture, drag performers can actually have any sexual orientation and gender identity. They vary from people who have turned drag into their profession to those who transform into their drag alter egos only occasionally.
Here in Bulgaria drag culture is taking small but steady steps towards bigger popularity and acceptance by society. That’s why we decided to present to you one of our own stars of the drag stage, who will share a little bit of her experience and will talk with us about what she will show tonight at the Opening Pride Party.
First I’ll have to ask you to please introduce yourself.
Hi everyone. My name is Malina Yang, 28 years old. I am the winner of the first Benediction Drag Rush in Bulgaria. But I don’t want to sound like a show off; after all I am just an ordinary girl with a fruity name (“Malina” means “raspberry” in Bulgarian).
How did you decide to start doing drag?
What first got me into drag was my love for one special man. He was doing drag himself, I got interested in it and it so happened that I decided to try it too and found that I really liked it.
Can you tell me who inspires you? Is there, for example, a certain celebrity that you get ideas from?
I follow closely a lot of international drag performers and music artists, but as cliché as it may sound, I do not imitate anyone. Ever since I was young I wanted to be on the stage and I can honestly say that I’ve been involved in arts my whole life, it just wasn’t performance art initially. I’ve loved painting for as long as I remember, after that I got into film and TV editing and somehow my interest in the drag scene came after that as a very natural symbiosis of all my artistic abilities. Drag culture combines a lot of them – painting, presenting in front of other people, the visual arts in general – I just take all this and use it when transforming into my stage persona. I’d actually say that this is what inspires me the most – my desire to express myself on the stage. Of course, I also frequently see things that I like and I immediately think “This is something I’d like to try on myself.”
Do you think that there is a future for drag culture in Bulgaria? Can the attitude of society be changed and be more positive?
Here a lot of people still think that drag is just men wearing wigs and high heels and do not take it seriously as a form of art. But I’m an optimist and hope that what we need is just some more time. I notice that people are getting a lot more open and accepting towards us. Even at the Pride parade, I have noticed more and more smiling faces watching from their windows and a lot of people from the older generations too! This makes me confident that, yes, things are going in a very positive direction. But to help that happen, we also need to present really good artists.
So yes, I do believe that people just need some more time in order to start accepting drag culture and Pride as something that is also entertainment. They need to start seeing it as a celebration, as a carnival, which takes place in so many other places around the world. For example, I attended Pride in Solun last year and I saw almost no policemen there, there were no more than 10 and they looked more like part of Pride than guards. People just need time to get used to it.
What would you say to those young people who want to get into the drag scene in Bulgaria? Would you encourage them?
Of course. I’ve been attending our Pride for several years now, but last year was the first time that I attended it in drag and that was one of my reasons to do it – I wanted to show young people who are interested in drag that there is nothing wrong with it, that it is just one more way to express oneself and that on that one day they are free to feel themselves. Of course, what we fight for ultimately is for people to be able to express themselves everyday and not just one day of the year. I don’t mean that we must constantly show our most shocking and over the top selves, after all we mustn’t confuse the stage self with our every day self. What I mean is that people should not be embarrassed to show themselves as they are because free self-expression is wonderful and I believe that we are getting there slowly but surely.
Author: Martin Vassilev