Living a fantasy

SINCE the premiere of Drag Race Philippines, viewers have witnessed the competing queens in a beauty pageant, serving twinning looks on the runaway with their loved ones, and becoming an OPM icon for a day. Every week they are critiqued by a panel of judges, and one is dropped until there is one last queen standing.

Drag Race Philippines judge Jiggly Caliente talked to BusinesssWorld about the art of drag and how she hopes to continue contributing to the queens in the show.

Born in Laguna, Ms. Caliente is a drag performer who moved to the United States with her mother and brother in 1991. She began performing drag in 2004 at the age 24. Ms. Caliente got her drag name from the Pokemon Jigglypuff. She competed at the fourth season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race in 2011.

ON BEING A DRAG ARTISTPrior to competing in Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Ms. Caliente took part in and won many contests and pageants. But joining the TV competition humbled her.

“I wanted to win too. I got the commentary of the world. And it really humbled me. And then I also grew up. I had to grow up…,” she said. “I think now I’m just, I don’t want to say the peak, but the upward mobility of my drag career is really, really starting now.”

As a drag artist, Ms. Caliente said that the looks she prepares depend on the type of project she is working on, along with her designer Angel Ayala.

“My brand is urban glam,” she said. “I love sparkles, or sequins. Rhinestones are a huge thing for me. I like it to look rich and opulent as well now. Because back then I didn’t really care for things like rhinestones and all that. But now as my drag is evolving, I’m getting more into glamor.”

Ms. Caliente recalled that she was doing laundry when she received the offer to be a permanent judge on the Philippine franchise of the show.

“Naglalaba ako. Bigla na lang nakakuha ako ng phone call from Los Angeles (I was doing laundry. I suddenly got a phone call from Los Angeles). I originally thought that they were joking. Bigla na lang (All of a sudden), no, this is real. And I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ So, then I just started to get in the process of getting all the looks together,” Ms. Caliente wrote in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

YOUR ART IS YOUR BABYAs a former contestant of Drag Race, Ms. Caliente said that sharing your drag to be critiqued is the biggest challenge.

“Your art is your baby. So basically, you’re letting other people, as a contestant, judge your baby. And we are very sensitive to that — art is subjective. We are also very sensitive because you’ve curated your art for years, and now you’re letting other people judge it. It’s not easy,” she said. “Because I’m a former contestant, it’s easier for me to critique, and not be malicious.”

The first season of Drag Race Philippines has the top four queens in competition for next week’s episode.

“I wanted to be a role model for these queens because I want them to know that even though I didn’t win Drag Race, I was still able to make a career for myself,” said Ms. Caliente, who has continued on to perform internationally in countries like in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Guam, after the competition.

“What I like to tell all the girls is, ‘Look at me. Try to do what I’m doing and if not surpass what I’ve done,’” she said.

FREEDOM AND FANTASYHaving performed drag for 18 years now, Ms. Caliente said it is the art’s sense of freedom and fantasy fulfillment that she is happiest about.

“I’ve been able to perform in some of the most beautiful gowns that my designer has made for me, and there’s one gown special to me. He recreated the Michael Cinco gown that Pia Wurtzbach wore for Miss Universe [in 2015]. And I got to perform in that gown and do a song from Moana. So that to me is special… I get to live out a fantasy at that moment, at least at that specific moment,” she said.

Drag Race Philippines’ new episodes drop every Wednesday, and the spin-off and after-show, Drag Race Philippines: Untucked, has new episodes every Friday.  The show streams on discovery+, HBO GO, and WOW Presents Plus.  — Michelle Anne P. Soliman