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Verve People
September 26, 2018

Being A Drag Queen In India: Veronique

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

They are frequently mistaken for crossdressers or trans people and are accustomed to police humiliation while travelling in their drag avatars. In a post section 377 world, our series explores the impact on drag culture and performance in the country through the eyes of 5 queens.

What started out as a regular night at a friend’s place turned out to be a life-changing experience for 23-year-old Randy Scarhol, a trans woman who was well-acquainted with the drag scene in India but had never dressed up as a femme fatale until then. At some point during the night, her companion Anahita, along with the help of Alex Mathew (Maya The Dragqueen) applied some makeup on her face and lent her some of her clothes. That was Scarhol’s first time dressed up in drag. The first time she actually performed in drag was at Kitty Ko in Bangalore where Maya invited her on stage. They belted out a delightful rendition of Lady Gaga’s Telephone and Shangela’s version of Call Me Mother by RuPaul. Scarhol has come a long way since being a drag baby who barely knew anything about putting on makeup; she now frequently metamorphoses into Lady Gaga as Veronique, which is her drag alter ego. The name was given to her by Keshav Suri, Executive Director for the Lalit Suri Hospitality Group when they met over a year ago. He introduced Scarhol to everyone that night with a “Meet Veronique; she’s French”. Scarhol liked it so much that she decided to let it stick.

First brush with the drag community…
“My first experience with drag culture in India was very intimate and wholesome. I was hanging out with make-up artist Xen Aerat, indulging in a freewheeling conversation about drag art and debates on queer politics. I knew a lot about drag since I grew up queer, but everything I’ve learned about doing drag, I owe to Xen.

I noticed that the drag scene in India was very different from its Western counterpart. Drag culture and ball culture in the West was started by transwomen of colour. The Indian subcontinent, on the other hand, has always been home to the Hijra community — which practically introduced drag to the country.

My most liberating performance as a queen was when I  opened for American drag artist Derrick Barry at Kitty Ko about a year ago. After I was done, I was backstage with Keshav Suri watching Derrick’s act. She was lip-syncing to Britney Spears’ Slumber Party and Keshav had been looking at me for sometime before suddenly asking if I was happy. I did not skip a beat before responding with an exuberant ‘Yes!'”

Turn of the tide…
“From the very start, I was privileged to have the support of an organisation like The Lalit which gave the queens a platform even before the decriminalisation of section 377. I personally made no attempts to try and get booked at other places because I didn’t have to. I’m sure I would have had to deal with discrimination if I had.

India has miles to go before its citizens normalise drag culture. For now, the phobia and discrimination that femme bodies are subjected to lives on. Unfortunately, there aren’t many places in India where one can watch drag performances regularly apart from workshops, festivals and primarily ‘C.U.Next Thursday’ nights at their nearest Kitty Su/Kitty Ko. I would love to bring Stan culture into Indian Drag which is all about avidly supporting and emulating a particular celebrity, TV show, group, or film.”

Follow Veronique on Instagram at @randyscarhol_official

Read Part 1 with Rimi Heart here

Read Part 3 with Maya here

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