How drag saved me from depression and gave me the will to live.
After pounding my face with a blending sponge replete with liquid foundation that almost matched my skin tone, I picked up a makeup brush and started making magic.
A seemingly hodgepodge of contour, blush, highlight, blue and black eyeshadow, and a navy lipstick color-filled my face. After two minutes of putting on fake eyelashes and applying a whiff of setting spray that smelled like roses, I wore a long gown whose blue velvet fabrics were as soft as cotton, and put on a beautifully styled wig. I felt like a dolled-up 1950s chick.
I loved my drag persona but, out of it, I reverted to hating the person behind it.
I turned around and looked in the huge mirror in the family dining room. The person I saw gave me a familiar smile that I never quite saw in my teenage years.
My 13-year-old self would never have thought that becoming a drag queen would be key to loving myself, an artist whose beauty on the outside allowed him to see his beauty on the inside as well.
A heartbreaking foundation
Growing up, writing had always been my art form. From grade school to high school, I was eager to write poems and short stories about things that made me happy. I carried this medium through college despite my course being totally unrelated to creative writing. I was so excited to put new stories and experiences into writing.
However, my college experience wasn’t all roses. A series of heartbreaks from people I gave my 100% attention to pushed me into depression and anxiety, ultimately leading me to being diagnosed with bipolar disorder II and having thoughts of ending it all.
Writing, unsurprisingly, became my medium to cope with the sadness clouding up my emotions. I wrote about the tears, the heartaches, and what could have been. It was a catharsis, at some point, but reading back my poems only made me dwell even more on the sadness, on how I was a failure.
I carried that negative mindset after graduation, which ultimately led to having an unsatisfactory performance in my first job and my contract was not renewed. Yet, everything somewhat changed when I came to a local nightclub in BGC and witnessed something magical.
Blushing for drag
After dancing to classic tunes and modern bops, the lights suddenly dimmed and a spotlight was trained on the stage. A person with heavy yet gorgeous makeup, donning a pink gown and fur coat, started performing a lip-sync to Barbra Streisand’s Don’t Rain On My Parade.
That was my first experience with drag and it was, indeed, a night to remember. A lot of other drag queens followed, and I will never forget their performances.
My 13-year-old self would never have thought that becoming a drag queen would be key to loving myself.
Drag had piqued my interest and I started experimenting with makeup in 2019. Looking back, I laugh at my failed first attempts. My first experience with makeup made me feel loving and beautiful, something I rarely felt in my life.
I continued to practice doing makeup for three more years, until I found the style that I liked. I also practiced until I settled on my brand as a 1950s housewife. I bought dresses and gowns inspired by classy women from old Hollywood like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.
Indeed, every time I pranced around the house in makeup, wig and gown, I continued this kind of self-love by looking in the mirror and seeing how gorgeous I was. I was finally confident with who I was, even pushing myself to perform in one of the biggest stages of local drag.
There were occasional times when I still felt disgust and hatred when I looked in the mirror without all the wigs, makeup and gowns—when all the glamour was stripped away. I loved my drag persona but, out of it, I reverted to hating the person behind it.
My drag felt like another identity I’d rather live in rather than my own skin. I felt like sticking to just doing drag because it was something that made me feel loved, that covered what I thought was a failure. Yet, a conversation with my counselor made me realize differently.
Drag made me want to improve myself, not just in the art form but in my abilities and relationships with others and myself.
“What you see in your drag can also be seen within yourself. Always remember that,” he said. And that has stuck with me.
I transferred my mindset on drag into my everyday life and it has since saved me from the dark, negative thoughts that I always hurled myself into. It made me want to improve myself, not just in the art form but in my abilities and relationships with others and myself.
Drag pulls me up when I fall back down, making me realize that there is nothing else to do but to keep on keeping.
It has been my savior and I hope everyone finds a medium that can help them love themselves the most, especially in tough and agonizing times.