Lessons In Drag

As the host of Jai Ho!, Chicago’s queer Bollywood night, I perform as my alter-ego Lahore Vagistan, a desi drag queen trying to make it from the Chicago stage to the Mumbai screen. The party is hosted every two to three months, so I only do this perhaps 4 or 5 times a year, but I’ve learned a few things:

A stick of glue is better for covering eyebrows than that actual eyebrow-cover wax stuff.

There’s really no need to shave your chest, arms, etc. for a 5-minute performance!

Buying fine glitter at a craft store is cheaper than buying beauty glitter from the drag store and is as effective (but don’t let it get in your eyes!).

Blonde wigs are gorgeous on brown men! Although rocking your own short hair is also awesome.

Thrift stores near desi neighborhoods always have ghagras and salwar khameezs.

Inexpensive dramatic jewelry is readily available at wholesale beauty supply stores.

YouTube has so many useful makeup tutorials.

Know your audience! Make sure you choose songs that you love but that they will at least be familiar with.

White people will have no clue what you’re doing and may not be a super responsive crowd, but have no doubt the brown folks in the audience are loving every minute of you on stage.

Make eye contact with your audience!

Don’t pander to the orientalists; just because it’s Bollywood drag doesn’t mean every outfit has to be a sari or gaghra.

Homos love props. Pull something unexpected out of your bra (a wad of cash, condoms, a cigarette, a vibrator) and they’ll go wild!

Stand slightly astride when you tie a sari, that way it’s not too tight around your ankles.

Tell photographers not to take close-ups!

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Drag should be fun.

Drag is EXPENSIVE!!! Even though I went with a pretty minimal look for the last party… the little things added up. See below.

Eyelashes: $2
Eyelash glue: $2
Powder puff: $2
Sponge wedges: $2
Liners x 4: $8
Lipstick x 2: $6
White pencil: $2
Foundation: $10
Powder: $10
Gold cream: $10
Beard cover: $10
Brushes: $12
Eye shadow: $4
Glitter: $1
Glue stick (for hiding eyebrows): $2
Makeup total: $83

Heels (used): $9
Blue choli (used): $3
Sari (new): $9 (actually it was Rs. 450)
Bra (new): $4
Pink skirt (used): $3
Pink chuni (used): $2
Gold tights (new): $8
Costume total: $38

Ring (new): $6
Necklace (that I forgot at home… tragedy! – used): $8
Stick on diamonds: $6
Gold earrings (new): $6
Blue and gold bracelet (new): $5
Diamond bracelet (new): $10
Diamond ring (new): $4
Jewelry total: $45

Scissors: $2
Baby wipes: $3
Face wash: $2
Baby oil: $3
Hair pins: $3
Safety pins: $3
Fake boobs (new): $20
Other total: $36

Total: $202


To find out more about Trikone-Chicago’s Jai Ho! parties visit their Facebook Page. The next one is on August 24th, 2012.

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Academic, activist, artist. Believes in glitter, neon, paisleys, sequins, mehndi, mohawks, dessert, materiality, and feelings. Abstract, but not obscure.

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