Here's how the 26-year-old drag artist from Las Piñas City sees the future of Filipino drag
After weeks of dragdagulan, “Drag Den Philippines” now has a champion. During its inaugural season’s finale, Naia Black rose to the top of the competition, bringing home one million peso-worth of prizes and bragging rights as the show's first drag supreme. Clad in a Cher-inspired pink lace and fringe piece by designer Santi Obcena, the 26-year-old drag artist was crowned by host Manila Luzon live during the series’ finale concert at Samsung Hall, SM Aura Premier in Taguig City last Jan. 26.
What sealed her victory was her speech during the question-and-answer portion of the Filipino drag pageant. For her, being an underdog is one of the key factors that made her a true Drag Supreme.
“Coming here to this competition, I did not come here with the biggest budget or the best gowns and the best wigs,” she said. “I only came here with love and passion for drag… I hope that my story inspires young queer artists who are afraid of putting themselves out there, because I was afraid. But thank you, Manila, for giving this platform because I was able to prove that growth is what you need to become the next drag supreme. I hope I made you proud. Thank you, Manila.”
Prior to becoming one of the drag contestants of the series, Naia started exploring the art of drag in her college years at the University of the Philippines. She made waves online after attending her graduation ceremony in drag. After performing in bars, she went on to produce shows online, particularly, due to the pandemic. And in 2022, she was the first drag artist to headline Butterboy Bakehouse’s Drag Brunch.
During a press event, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle got the chance to Ki Ki (drag lingo for gossip, small talk, chatting, or a heart-to-heart) with the young queen from Las Piñas City. Naia shared her ultimate makeup hack, how much she has spent on her drag, and her view on the future of Filipino drag and turning it into a tool for protest.
Hi, Naia! First off, what is your go-to lip-synch song?
I think I’m quite different. When I choose songs, I just choose what I want, what I listen to as Brian (her out-of-drag persona). So my go-to lipsynch song is “Anna Wintour” by Azealia Banks. I think that is a very niche song. Only the gays know and appreciate her.
What is your ultimate makeup hack?
Shave your eyebrows. It takes off so much time. I don't have boy brows now so I do my makeup quickly. I hate blocking my brows. But when I miss my boy brows, I just grow them back until I get bored and then I’ll shave them again. Also, couture harder, guys, especially for people with Caucasian skin tone.
Drop your estimate. How much have you spent on your drag?
Since 2019, around P150,000. The bulk of that is from recent “Drag Den” activities. Nakakaluwag-luwag na ako, nakaka-afford na ako ng designers (I’m doing great financially now that I can afford designer works). I pay designers. Sometimes, I get things for free. But when I get something for free from designers, I like to go back to them and purchase something because they really deserve that as well.
What is your favorite cocktail?
Frozen mojito or anything with tequila. My favorite is a shot of tequila because you don’t want to drink cocktails when you’re in drag. You don’t want to go to the bathroom all the time.
Who is your pop diva icon?
Lady Gaga. I don’t care if that’s Lady Gagita. She is part of my awakening during high school.
Do Filipino queen drag queens that have been in the business for years look down on social media queens?
that kind of condescending attitude toward younger queens . During the pandemic, we all kind of became social media queens. I don’t want to glamorize Filipino resilience but the drag queens really made a way . “Drag Race Philippines” and “Drag Den Philippines” came out during the pandemic, and we only had our social media live money because the bars were closed. Maybe if the pandemic didn’t happen, I would have pursued performing at bars and my trajectory would have been different. Also, younger queens are generally respectful of those who came before.
Does it make a drag queen less of a drag queen if she is not vocal about her political stances?
No. I don’t think anyone can take away your being a drag queen, regardless of your political stance. If you do your makeup and you put your wig on, then you’re a drag queen, technically—only by definition. For me, drag queens without their hearts in the right place, it is quite off-putting. Drag is not just about beauty, there is something you’re fighting for.
For you, what makes drag the perfect protest tool?
People look at you. People would want to listen to what you have to say. So, might as well have some substance with what you’re saying.
What do you think the future of Filipino drag will be after ‘Drag Den Philippines’?
It’s only going to get bigger and bigger and you’re seeing it right now. Before, when I joined Drag Cartel, there are only 20 of us. But now, there are 40 competitors, which are all amateur, baby queens who want to have a chance to be in the spotlight. The future of drag here is looking so colorful. We have more alternative drag queens as well. And we are also having drag kings. Although they are a few, but it is starting. Now, people see us. We’re on the map. People want to listen to what we have to say. It is an exciting time to be a drag queen.
You can relieve the fabulous journey of Naia and her fellow competitors with all episodes of “Drag Den Philippines” on Prime Video.