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VICE’s New Drag Documentary Shows a Different Side of China

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Last year, we went to the biggest annual drag show in China, held at Lucca 390. There, we saw performances from Frozen Lolita, a “futuristic androgyny”-themed drag queen from Beijing, and Krystal de Canteur, who performed a fiery operatic number. This past weekend we saw them again — but this time on the big screen. The two are now leading characters in a new documentary, Becoming a Drag Queen, which was produced by VICE China and released yesterday.

The documentary follows Frozen Lolita and Krystal, showing how they create and prepare their clothing, make-up, and performances, and trailing them all the way to the Shanghai competition and party. In the film, the two protagonists also share their insights into drag fashion and gender identity, revealing what lies behind the glittery eyeshadow, colorful wigs, and blinged-out dresses.

Frozen Lolita performing at Modernista in Beijing (photo by Fan Shuhong)

“Drag is not only for gay people, but a combination of art, cosmetics, fashion, and performance that everyone can do,” said Frozen Lolita at the film release party on April 7 in Beijing. “I always have a strong desire for expression. In drag, I can perform as another person.”

Speaking on which aspects of drag culture have been major personal influences, Frozen Lolita said, “It helps the community to draw more attention [to itself], and teaches some people how to be LGBT.”

Frozen Lolita andKrystal de Canteur performing at Modernista in Beijing (photo by Fan Shuhong)

Krystal de Canteur, who currently lives in China but plans to soon return to Sweden after getting married, said at the Beijing release party, “Drag [culture] gives us a space to express ourselves. It makes people more accepting that they are LGBT.”

Answering an audience member’s question, she said, “The difference between transgender and drag is: transgender is who you are, while drag is what you do. When I’m performing in drag, we are not really able to feel like a woman, because it’s acting.” Frozen Lolita seconded this, adding, “I don’t feel that I’m a woman, but I’m acting out a part of me in a woman’s image.”

How did VICE China choose drag culture as a subject? Sybil Liang, the producer of the documentary, explains to RADII:

We have an editor, Alex, who is interested in gender and marginalized people’s lives. She offered a lot of contacts of active drag queens in Beijing and Shanghai. I always wanted to tell [stories of] people’s lives that have never been heard or seen, to let people know about and understand their existence. Don’t insult people before you really know them. We also want to tell good stories.

For the film’s trailer, VICE China also invited the two queens to dress up a straight staff member of the magazine, making him into a Chinese Lana Del Ray in a trailer entitled “How to Drag.”

Watch the film right here — it’s Mandarin only for now, but you can still enjoy the amazing beauties!

Cover image: Sina Weibo

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Fan Shuhong
    Shuhong (aka Rita) is a language instructor, English/Chinese translator, writer, and proud bunny owner based in Beijing. She's previously worked in Washington D.C. and IUP at Tsinghua University. She loves Chinese language, Japanese arts, post-rock music and good English TV series. Instagram: rita_van

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