Rani Ko-HE-Nur is a diva; she is drop-dead gorgeous, a sensational performer, and definitely a queen, like her name suggests. Sushant Divgikar, whose drag avatar is Rani Ko-HE-Nur, has been a prominent personality since they were crowned Mr Gay India 2014 in July 2014. Divgikar has constantly worked towards breaking barriers and has made waves in the process. In 2018, Sushant took part in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa as Rani Ko HE Nur, becoming the first drag queen in India to participate in a reality singing show.
Now, they have taken their talents to an international stage with ‘Queen of the Universe’, a drag queen singing show on Paramount +. We caught up with the star to find out how their experience has been thus far.
Q. How did the opportunity to be a part of Queen of the Universe come about?
I sent in my audition to the makers of the show when some of my queer kids saw the call for auditions. At first, I wasn’t sure but later I figured it was authentic and I thought why not? I wanted to show the world that drag is very prevalent in India and even though it might not have gotten its due in mainstream media and pop culture here, we have to start somewhere. That is what made me participate in the show.
Q. What has your experience been so far?
I have had an absolute blast on the show. I have gotten to meet and interact with the best singing drag queens from around the world. I feel blessed and honoured.
Q. Who would you say is your biggest competition at ‘Queen of the Universe’?
I believe every queen in the competition is absolutely amazing but my favorite co-contestant is GRAG QUEEN from Brazil. I believe we instantly clicked because we have the same vibe and represent so many queer people from our countries who don’t have a voice.
Q. What are you looking forward to in this competition?
For me, this entire experience has been unreal. I just want to forward the notion that art has no barriers and I hope to do that through this competition.
Q. How does it feel to be able to take Rani KO-HE-Nur to a global stage?
I’ve always wanted this opportunity and now that I can take India to the global stage and probably one of the biggest stages in the world right now, I feel like I’m on top of the world. Even as I type this, I can hardly believe that this happened.
Q. Do you ever feel pressured by the mainstream status you have received over the years?
As a gender-fluid trans person living in one of the largest ‘democracies’ in the world where me and mine have to fight for equal rights on a daily basis, there is a lot of pressure but nothing RANI can’t deal with. I hope and pray that we get the same respect as artistes first; mainstream or niche.
Q. Closer home, even today, movies that discuss queer issues or feature queer characters, like Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, refuse to cast queer actors for the same. How do you navigate that gap – of having to make space for yourself in a space that has not had the best track record when it comes to representation?
I have always been true to my identity and for the past 15 years, as an artiste, [I] have been true to my art. I’ve never let anything bob me down and I hope to keep doing what I do for as long as I can so it is easier for the next generation of queer artistes.
Q. From Big Switch to Queen of the Universe, you have constantly worked towards representing the drag community in India and breaking barriers. So what’s next on the agenda for you now?
I’m working closely with the drag community in India as well as overseas to make drag a more accessible art form for the kids who may not be as privileged as some of us in bigger cities. I’m working on a couple of projects on television as well as films. Can’t wait for the world to see them! Can’t wait for everyone to enjoy the KO-HE-NUR experience.