Back in the day, watching Kumar prance around on Channel 5 was about as close to drag as most people got. Though drag in Singapore has been around for a while, you won’t see too many glamazons reading to kids anytime soon. Still, trailblazers like RuPaul and Becca D’Bus have generated some serious hype in recent years, even catapulting some ladies onto the world stage. Want to watch your first show but feeling antsy about how to behave? We found four lovely beauties to teach us more about Singapore’s drag scene and the do’s (and don’ts) of your first time.
Hands Off The Merchandise!
It’s not just rude. It’s also dangerous and honestly a scary experience to be groped inappropriately. Wig snatching may be part of the syntax but it’s not supposed to be taken literally, and touching a drag queen is never allowed without explicit consent. Adam Ameng, who goes by the moniker Yeastmonster and is one of the youngest queens in the scene, shares, “Sometimes we have outfits and headpieces that are put together with pins and hot glue so a tug can cause everything to fall apart.”
Arya Dunn, another young up-and-coming queen on the scene, has much to say as well. “First off, we are wearing heels almost 99.99% of the time. It’s dangerous to grab us or yank our clothes or touch our hair. Secondly, we might be planning a reveal or a surprise so some of our outfits come off relatively easy for the sake of the performance, [and] you would probably ruin it, so just refrain. Third, since when was it okay to touch anyone on or off stage without consent regardless if they were performing?” Spoken like a true queen, Miss Dunn.
Nobody Likes a Shady Sally
Everyone loves a good read, but when the ladies are working, interrupting a performance just spoils it for everyone, and Yeastmonster doesn’t have time for your impudence. “Don’t tell a drag queen how to do their job. Even if they sucked they put in more effort than you did appearing in this space today.” So stop rifling through your Rolodex of Hate if you aren’t Bianca Del Rio.
The fiery Miss Chili doesn’t appreciate randos clambering up on her stage. “It’s not a duet so back off unless [the performer] invites you to join her.” Gina Gemini, chimes in with some sage advice. “The performance space is usually well-defined. If you are standing in it, someone will let you know to move aside. The audience is here to watch the performance, not you (no matter how cute you are).” There aren’t any special honours for the birthday boy or the bride-to-be, even if the queen decides to sing you a song. “Bask in the moment, and then sit your bums down and enjoy the show like everyone else.”
Don’t be a Drag, Just be a Queen
I think the myth of stony Singaporean audiences can be too harsh, but most of us are guilty of giving entertainers some serious entertainment blue balls after a lazy welcome. “There will be days when people just sit or stand there watching the show with no reaction, making us wonder if it was that bad or simply because they are intrigued to see what’s on stage,” laments Gina Gemini. “We rely on participation and response to keep the momentum in a positive path.” K-pop fans can testify that a hyped-up audience can be a godsend to the performer themselves, so the next time you witness a fierce queen bringing the house down, give her the con(drag)ulations she deserves.
Take Photos (Respectfully)
The queens love it when you want to take home a souvenir of your good time, but some do prefer a little heads-up first. Miss Chili, is pretty clear on wanting a little pre-empt before taking a snap, while Gina Gemini wants to make sure you keep her tagged. “Don’t just keep it to yourself, tag us! It’s not just memorabilia for you and your friends but it’s a great outlet for us to rewatch and improve our shows in the future.”
Show a Little $upport
Tipping culture isn’t the norm in Singapore, so your confusion is understandable. Is tipping a thing at drag shows in Singapore? The answer is an unanimous yes! The queens work hard on their act, and it’s always heartening to show them that the performance was worth their time. Though applause and cheer is always appreciated, it doesn’t pay the bills, honey. Plus, your contributions help pay for the costumes, shoes, and makeup that make drag more expensive than you’d think. Wigs don’t come cheap, you know.
One thing’s for sure: drag has come a long way from its misunderstood past, and more queens are sticking with their passion for performing through criticism and shame. Some might be described as ‘campy queens’ or ‘pageant girls’, but the whole idea is self-expression, and no two queens are ever alike. It’s not just insult comedy and cheap thrills too – drag shows can be a safe and accepting space to have fun. If you’re looking to let loose and have a good time, it’s time to walk into the room, purse first.
Find regular drag performances at Singapore clubs and bars like Taboo, Tantric, and DYMK.