Welcome to the new Human Stories series by TMS, where we get to know Hong Kong through its many different faces. This month, we’re speaking with Queen Kong, a drag performer in Hong Kong.
Larger than life wouldn’t be a phrase bold enough to encapsulate Queen Kong as she steps into the TMS studio in an oversized jumper, sweats and sneakers. Confidence, elegance and swag beam from her aura as she makes her way to the interview room. She excuses herself, needing a few moments to add the final touches to her entrance.
She peels back her heavy layers, revealing that she’s clad head to toe in a full-body Swarovski trompe l'oeil catsuit. What the trompe l’oeil is of? Well, nothing less than the full anatomical representation of the female human body. Nude, of course.
The look is complete with one light, homemade jacket from a traje de luces to cover her modesty and a matching Swarovski hood. She sits poised in the silk interview chair, perfect velvet red lipstick slightly upturned and glitter-covered eyes dancing. This queen is most definitely ready for her closeup.
Queen Kong vs. Godzilla
“I always say this – King Kong likes to climb tall buildings. Queen Kong likes to climb tall dicks!” the queen laughs as the team at TMS asks how she came up with her name. Queen Kong came through many reincarnations and rebrandings before she landed on the chosen persona of today.
Wanting to bring an element of Hong “Kong,” paying homage to where she was born and where her drag started, she wanted an aspect of her city in her name and an element of power and strength. “A gorilla is fierce, you know. We don't fuck with them … I want to invoke something fierce and larger than life. That’s how I came up with Queen Kong.”
Her drag started seven years ago, during Halloween. She recalls that this was during season four or five of “Drag Race,” and as a performer, she wanted to try it out as well.
“It lets you live a fantasy by yourself, with the right amount of makeup and hair. And just like, you know, everyone has that favorite pop diva song that they know every single word to,” she explains. “Why, wouldn’t it be great to dress up as them or something equally as fabulous and make a living out of it?”
Harnessing a drag personality
“So definitely, I would consider myself as an introvert. Surprise, surprise!” she exclaims. She tells us that she’s found that drag brings out the extrovert in a person. She also describes that drag can be "a magnifying glass of who you are,” describing how it could magnify anything from the craziness harnessed within to also some less favorable qualities.
What is certain is that having a drag persona allows expression and freedom to express fantasy. It transports the entertainer and the audience to a momentary alternate world. “I always say that drag is such an energy boost and energy drink because they just lap it up, darling, they lap it up! They lap up the fantasy and the glamour,” she purrs.
There are different ways drag performers can express themselves, says Queen Kong. Some impersonators look just like their inspiration and may even go under the knife to achieve a certain look; there are club queens, others that are more artsy drag queens, the sexy model girls and the traditional diva-style queen, among many others. She explains that you need to try different types before you find one that is right for you. For her, she harnesses her natural sexy.
In her past experiences, she used to go for safer looks, but as the years have passed, she’s harnessed more daring, kooky looks. But she’s never shied away from her sexiness. She explains that she wishes to be a beacon for people to know it is okay to dress less, “just because you have less fabric doesn’t mean that your drag is invalid.”
Hurdles and hitches
It took some time before Queen Kong became comfortable in her own skin. She tells us that before Hong Kong, she lived in Vancouver and had yet to come out completely. Although she was legal to go out to clubs at the time, she tended much more toward her shy side. She was more into video games and staying at home than being social at a club.
“If I could talk to my past me and tell this person that ‘Hey, you're doing this now,’ I would not believe myself,” Queen Kong admits. “I would be like, ‘Are you crazy? This is wild!’” Her development into her drag persona and feeling comfortable with the attention that her performance invites took some time.
Diving more into the difficulties of the performance, Queen Kong spills the tea on the challenges that she faces. It turns out being a drag queen is not all glitz and glam. She explains that one of the hardest things about being a drag queen is overcoming the nerves. There are more elements to worry about than we’d think, ranging from scene placements and music tracks to makeup or wardrobe malfunctions, potential hair disasters and more. Making sure to deliver a great, seamless show can be pretty stressful.
Another challenge, Queen Kong explains, is bantering with people. She tells us that not every drag queen has the ability to host. And in her career as a queen, she sometimes feels like the pressure is on for her to do so. If she didn’t actively do her utmost, she explains, she would most definitely be the girl that sits silently in the corner, not saying very much. As a secret hidden introvert, she would much rather it if people came to interact with her rather than vice versa.
Tips for a young queen
Although Queen Kong expresses little desire to be a mother to baby queens, she does have some advice for young queens looking to get into the art form.
“I would say to have the financials,” she says, even though she insists that one doesn’t necessarily need to be covered in feathers and rhinestones to call themselves a drag performer. “It’s always good to have one really thought out, good, conceptualized look that you're happy with,” she shares. “Maybe let’s spend a little bit of money to have someone style your wig or help you with this concept. That you would really be like, ‘Nobody can touch me. I'm the fiercest girl tonight.’”
However, she does have a number one tip. “The biggest one would be your support group … your chosen or blood family, but also the community that gives you ideas.” Having people surround you that have your best intentions in mind can help enrich the drag life that the future drag performer is striving for.
The LGBTQ+ scene of Hong Kong
It was only when she came back to Hong Kong that she found her LGBTQ+ family. “The LGBT scene is great,” she says about the present community in the city. “Everybody has a lot of support.” She expresses her gratitude for businesses partnering with the community to create better awareness, such as offering health clinics and LGBTQ+ events.
“I feel like Hong Kong always blends everybody together … We can see a lot of straight people, and also people that are not that straight, lesbians, gays, trans people, you name it, we have it here,” Queen Kong says, as she talks about the tight-knit, supportive community of Hong Kong.
When asked about what could be done better in the community, the queen ponders a bit before answering. “I feel like there isn’t always many, many, many opportunities … at the market level, we are still a June and November kinda thing,” she says, referencing the pride months.
She wants to see more, like drag and trans features on TV shows – without the satire. She wishes to see more monthly drag events with people trying to understand the performers and help the community debunk misconceptions. And her dream would be to see more drag represented in fashion. “I would love to see models in drag, for like fashion shows. Like, that would be crazy! Because I always felt that drag and fashion, they're never too far apart,” she says. “You know, They’re like stones next to each other in a pond of creativity.”
“I think a lot of it is just education,” she answers when we asked how people can be better allies to the community. She would love to see people bring up the conversation more about drag experiences, whether it be a drag show, brunch or event.
Another point she mentions is that she thinks it’s important to know what kind of response someone should give when they get a little pushback. For example, some people might question why you’d go see a drag show. “I feel like a good response would be, you know, ‘It’s really glamorous, it’s fun. They do kooky shit, they do funny shit, they make you laugh, they make you pee your pants,’” she laughs. “‘They make you take 100-dollar bills out and wave them in the air. You don't know why, but you just do it!’
“It’s always good to make it a light-hearted, fun event because that’s what it is, it is light-hearted, and it is fun,” she says. “But at the same time, I want to give you fantasy, I want to give you fashion. I want to give you rhinestones. I want to give you showgirl that’s approachable!”