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Freeman Cebu Entertainment

‘Drag Race PH’ finalist Eva Le Queen is building a bigger table – and you’re invited

Karla Rule - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  While there’s always been drag in the Philippines, the surge of interest surrounding the art form in the past year is undeniable. As the country enters a drag renaissance of sorts, “Drag Race Philippines” finalist Eva Le Queen is more than happy to give everyone a front-row seat.

“There are queens who were made to entertain and perform on stage. And then there are queens who have bigger dreams for the local community,” drag artist Eva Le Queen tells The FREEMAN in a recent interview.

Articulate, opulent, and commanding, Eva is among the top four finishers in the reality TV competition “Drag Race Philippines” which concluded its first season in October. If you’re wondering whether she was born to perform or destined to set the stage – the answer is both.

“Everyone knows Eva Le Queen as the Tampalpuke Queen. The Opulent Queen. The Cool Drag Tita, as I introduced myself in the show,” Eva begins. “But beyond ‘Drag Race’, I’ve always believed that there’s more to drag than just entertainment. My reason for being in drag is to professionalize it.”

It’s not difficult to imagine the 35-year-old channeling her grand vision off-stage. As the matriarch of Drag Playhouse PH and with a corporate background in marketing, HR and project management – Eva is determined to provide opportunities for other drag artists, not just herself.

“I would like to be at the helm of the drag community and help elevate it especially now that we are already embracing a new era of Filipino drag. Someone needs to be there. That’s what I want to be,” she declares.

Apart from the joy and satisfaction of every transformation and performance, for Eva, it’s really all about increasing the visibility of Filipino drag. Before becoming the Queen of the Night, Eva Le Queen’s drag journey began as a form of play.

As an OFW in Singapore, Eva spent weekends playing sports and doing drag with friends. She was then invited for Singapore’s “Drag It Out All-Stars” competition where she won first runner-up despite being a rookie.

Eva quickly gained traction in Singapore’s drag circuit. After eight years as an OFW, Eva gave up corporate life and came home to the Philippines where she began performing full-time at Nectar Nightclub.

When asked what she has to bring to the table, she says, “Eva Le Queen is an experience. There are people who dance, who do stunts. And then there are people like me who consider ourselves storytellers. We use our performances to start a conversation and tell a story. Entertainment value isn’t always top of mind. What we want to do is share a piece of us, a piece of consciousness.”

Much of this has to do with the fact that Eva has lived a full adult life before coming into drag. After spending most of her life working, it was about time for Eva to explore what really lit up her soul.

Marathon

The art of drag is Eva’s playhouse. In it, her creativity is bound to nothing but her imagination. In addition to her range and spontaneity, it’s the thought and commitment that she puts into every performance that sets Eva Le Queen apart.

Even as the pandemic threatened that sanctuary, Eva founded Drag Playhouse PH to keep drag alive. She knew that as long as they had the courage to put themselves out there, someone was bound to notice. And she wasn’t wrong. Soon enough, “Drag Race Ph” happened.

A spinoff of the American reality TV competition “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, “Drag Race Ph” pooled 12 Filipino drag queens to vie for the title of Philippines’ First Drag Superstar.

A marathon. That’s how Eva described her experience in the competition. Her time on the show was a masterclass on consistency and grace, which helped her secure her spot at the finals despite not winning a Ru Badge in any of the challenges. Eventually, the competition concluded with Precious Paula Nicole at the top. But the experience was just as rewarding for Eva.

“When you’re in a race, you stay in your lane. You don’t really have time to look sideways kung ano ang ginagawa ng iba,” Eva shares. “It’s not a sprint na paunahan. You think you’re good but how far will you go?”

Throughout the competition, Eva realized how much joy she’s deprived herself of. Joining “Drag Race Ph” was instrumental to her self-discovery.

“I’ve always had this understanding that drag is the culmination of everything a person has been through. Even if Precious Paula has the experience, Precious will never have a way with words like I do. In the same way, we will never have the same amount of budget that Xilhouette has, or the fashion sense of Minty Fresh,” muses Eva, who adds that she has become a happier artist since that realization.

Eva’s “Drag Race Ph” stint also sparked her appreciation for Filipino drag as a whole. “The thing that I’m most proud of with ‘Drag Race Ph’ is not a single feat that I did on my own. It’s the character of us as humans, as gay Filipinos, na naipakita namin sa mundo,” Eva says.

Professionalizing drag

The biggest prize for Eva though is not just the fame or fortune that comes with being one of the country’s most sought-after performers. It’s the opportunity to dream bigger. As her appreciation for the craft grew, so did Eva’s dreams for herself and other Filipino drag artists. Now, she has the resources and influence to fulfil her dream of professionalizing drag.

“If you keep the impact of ‘Drag Race’ to yourself, it’s all just a waste. My time in the show has created more opportunities for me to champion causes that are bigger than myself.”

When not performing, Eva is busy building her startup booking and branding agency designed to direct business to other drag queens and set the standard for how drag talents should be treated. This means proper wages, working conditions, benefits and representation for drag talent and other creatives in the industry.

But this is all just the tip of the iceberg. For Eva, the ultimate dream is to make sure that drag and creative work are acknowledged as occupations that people can be proud of.

“I want for a gay kid to proudly say that they want to be a drag artist and for their parents to be proud of them. In the same way that they’ll be proud kapag sinabi ng anak nila na gusto nilang maging doktor, piloto, teacher…” says Eva.

“Knowing that there’s structure to it and that there’s a future for you. That you can have a good life by being a drag artist. We do our best to elevate kung ano ‘yung tingin sa members of the LGBTQIA+ community as respectable and accomplished people.”

Outside the nightclub setting

When people think of Eva Le Queen, they think of opulence, abundance, and power. Eva wants the same perception to permeate all of drag. In her empire, gone are the days when drag is equated to sketchy bars and late nights.

“We don’t want to take control of clubs,” Eva clarifies. “What we want is provide more platforms and places where drag can be seen. Drag can be anywhere, not just in clubs. It’s always been our dream to bring the art outside of the nightclub setting. To bring it to people who appreciate drag. We’re not trying to turn the tables on the clubs but we’re here to create a bigger table for everyone.”

It seems that dream is slowly becoming reality as Eva and other drag queens now frequent events outside of nightclubs. Just last November 19, Eva Le Queen headlined “Drag Royale Extravaganza” at Seda Ayala Center Cebu alongside “Drag Race PH” contestant Turing Quinto, and Sarah Geronimo impersonator Popstar Bench for the benefit of AIDvocates, a group dedicated to educating and fighting the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.

Produced by JaycEventZ, the show also featured performances from Cebu drag queens Ashlee Min Hoe, Akiko Brown, Nathalia, Morpha, Georgina Wales, Piayuuuh, Theliara, Maria Lava, Ledda Marmalade, Nicole Pardaux, Kat Phischeur, and Letina.

Eva knows there’s much work to be done, and it isn’t something she can do on her own and overnight. But the first, and often the most challenging step, had already been done – and that is to believe.

This is why, regardless of which hat she puts on, whether she’s performing or working behind the scenes, Eva wants to be remembered as the one who believed despite the circumstances.

“I was the queen who believed in Marina Summers. I was the queen who believed in Precious Paula Nicole. The queen who believed in local drag talent. Who believed in the Cebu drag scene.”

“I was the queen who believed that the Philippines is ready. I was the queen who believed in the good…who believed in the best for everyone.”

DRAG RACING

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