I am Alex Mathew, aka Maya the Drag Queen. I am out and proud queer cis man who has been performing as an Indian drag queen since 2014. I am currently working as an artist manager and residing in Bangalore, India.
How did you know you wanted to become a performer/be involved in theatre? And how did you know you wanted to do drag?
The moment when my Mom made me watch The Sound of Music & My Fair Lady. The moment that I happened to hear Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You.” I knew then that I would be a performer/involved in theatre. I didn’t have the privilege to experience theatre arts. I had to seek it and search for it in cities where the theatre scene was open and ready to accept newcomers. I found that in the cities of Hyderabad and Bangalore.
But, it was when I was in Bangalore City, that I realized that I wasn’t getting accepted because of my feminine demeanor and not having a neutral accent. Hence, I felt stagnated for the theatre roles given to me. I felt like I had to pause and do some introspection. I started watching movies. I came across this brilliant movie known as Mrs. Doubtfire. I was like if Robin Willams can do drag, I can do drag too! With that, I did more research, and I came across Dame Edna in the UK and RuPaul in the US. The whole universe was opened to me, where I came to know different types of drag as an art form.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment so far?
My ability to connect to children and make them understand that we are human beings like them, after all. I was able to perform in front of children in a school in Bangalore around 2016. That’s the biggest accomplishment so far.
I absolutely adore all of the pieces you put together for Maya. What inspires your outfits, makeup looks, color schemes, etc.?
My inspiration is from all the genderfluid people out there. It’s from divas of the world. Inspiration is all around me. All I need to do is observe and apply it in my life.
Describe a typical performance for Maya (or perhaps talk about how you make every performance unique?)
A typical performance for Maya is very thought-provoking. I could easily be like any other drag queen. But, I chose to educate people about the LGBTQIA+ community through my performances. I use storytelling as technique. Mix it with pop songs and make it my own.
People say parody of pop songs. I would say inspiring forms of pop songs.
What do you find the most fulfilling about your career and your art? What is the most challenging?
My most fulfilling thing about my career and my art was the adrenaline rush that I longed for. People search it in alcohol, recreational drugs, etc. But it’s satisfying for me through my art form.
The most challenging is to fight against homophobia and transphobia. It’s evil. It’s a mental disease. At times, I wonder whether I need to be a doctor to cure people of such sickness. However, love is the cure.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Asian womxn in the LGBTQ+ community today?
Patriarchy that seeped its roots into the society. Internalized racism that dictates our bodies and our lives. No access to sex education is causing harm to Asian womxn.
There are more. But, these are glaring monsters at the moment.
You are also an open advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and openly express your passion for individualism. What advice would you give other LGBTQ+ Asians?
Stand strong. Don’t listen to what others dictate about your lives. You are who you are. Believe in that. Love yourself fierce. Listen to other queer people’s stories. Find out what’s inspiring and connect to it. Whenever you are ready, share your story, for there will be another queer person who finds you inspiring.
Pride, for me, means that I can breathe knowing that my sexuality and gender belongs to me. I am able to express myself and say my story out and loud. It’s freedom ultimately. Pride is a protest. Pride is intersectional. It’s all over our herstory.
What’s next for you? Any exciting new projects?
With lockdown, I do what comes my way. Right now, I am trying to complete a web series where I talk about the LGBTQ+ community in India. I am trying hard. I hope I finish soon.
Among all the fun and frolic we are continuously dealing with things that aren’t great with the LGBT community in India. Coming out of the closet, discrimination and harassment at workplaces and public spaces and marriage equality to name a few. While we wait for minds of the people to look at us with an open mind, we’ve got each other’s backs and have to help and grow as a community.
Maya is a drag queen from Kerala and to be a drag queen in Indian society takes a lot of guts, confidence and determination. Maya has been performing as an Indian drag queen since Sept 2014. Her first performance was at The Humming Tree, Bangalore and continues to perform regularly at Kitty Ko, Bangalore. Her ideals are to fight against inequality, towards individualism, gender equality and feminism. Along with that, she loves to act, sing, dance and entertain people.
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Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
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