Learn how two Kuala Lumpur drag queens get ready (and unready) for their fabulous shows!
“Drag queens have been in Kuala Lumpur for so long yet it’s only known by people in our own community,” says Carmen Rose, who also name-dropped fellow drag queen, Kumela Kumslut as one of her inspirations. We chat with the two most-talked-about drag performers on the scene and community, their makeup routines and best beauty secrets. Read on!
How did you come to be a part of the drag queen scene in KL?
Carmen Rose: “The drag scene in Kuala Lumpur is small and growing compared to our neighbouring countries. I started drag in 2012 but made my first public appearance on a Halloween night in 2017 as encouraged by my friends. Prior to that, KumelaKumslut is the only queen I knew of and she was the one who inspired me to start performing.”
“After mustering the courage, I started going to queer parties in drag and introduced myself to the community. 2018 saw a lot of firsts from making my first Pride Month debut to attending my first ‘Berlin Is Burning Ball’ in KL, and later going on to winning its 5th instalment just over a year ago. My career went to new heights after being approached by Jonnyvicious to join his brainchild – an underground party which combines both drag and techno. Along with other queens like Kumela Kumslut, Cik Teh Botol, Just Acne Scar, and Peter, Shagrilla was born. Since its birth, we’ve hosted 5 themed parties and that’s when more aspiring drag queens started popping up. Social media helped us connect with each other through our creativity; be it looks or performance, you’ll see various types of drag queens here in KL because there is never only one type.”
Kumela Kumslut: “My debut as Kumela Kumslut was on Halloween 2016. It started as just a one-time thing for the party but then later in the year, I was asked to join Rainbow Rojak (a monthly queer friendly party in Kuala Lumpur) as a performer and host. Ever since then I’ve continued performing and had other parties such as Spectrum and Shagrilla.
How did you choose your alias?
CR: “Carmen Rose was supposed to be part of the imaginary characters I’ve created since I was 14, but I decided to use it as my drag persona. Carmen comes from my admiration of Lana Del Rey and hence, that’s where the name came from. I relate a lot to her lyrics and it was certain at the time that Lana was singing about me. Rose came from her constant usage of roses in her self-made music videos when she first started. I was obsessed with Lana and I still am. And that is how Carmen became Lana’s long lost daughter.”
KK: “When I decided to do drag, I wanted to use this persona to speak of things that I’m passionate and feel important to talk about. As a young boy, growing up talking about sex always seemed taboo and I questioned that. As I grew older and knew the importance of sex education and practicing safe sex, I wanted to speak more of it especially for the LGBTQA community. Hence, the name Kumela Kumslut; personally, I feel talking about sex helps break down a certain wall that we all hold up. I guess it’s my way to break the ice.”
Can you describe the drag queen scene in Kuala Lumpur?
CR: “The community here is still growing, and I’m happy that it is. It’s about damn time! The reason why we introduced Shagrilla is because we believe that there isn’t only one type of drag queen, and that anyone in the community can express themselves however they want in their own creative way. Social media has really changed and shaped the way we choose to showcase ourselves, be it via Instagram or TikTok or other platforms, and I think that’s a really positive thing. It creates some sort of safe space for us queens to constantly create and be ourselves in a country where it isn’t still safe to be.
KK: “In the span of almost 4 years being in the scene, I’ve never felt so much love and joy. I’ve met some of the most beautiful, brilliant, brave and loving people. When you come to our parties you’ll feel free, a space with no judgments, just LOVE.”
What is the process of preparing for a drag queen performance for you?
CR: “Speaking for myself, it takes a while. I usually would like my performance to have a storyline based on the music I choose. And from there, I start deciding the concept for the entire look, hunting for outfits or borrowing them from friends, depending on the concept, etc. I also mix my own music for the performance. All of these are done a week prior to the performance and if I have the time, I would also do a makeup rehearsal. I also go on to YouTube sometimes to look for any simple choreography for the number and try to learn them. I would say the prep could be hectic, or it could be just really chill.”
KK: “Every performance I do is like me writing my diary. When I’m on stage, I’m my most honest self; it’s where I choose to express my authenticity. I start by choosing the songs that I want to perform to, then picking out my outfits. Every performance is a personal story I’m telling.”
Do you have a specific beauty routine prior to a performance?
CR: “First, I would cleanse my face thoroughly. I would then put a charcoal mask on my face to remove the impurities and allow my skin to have a new canvas to paint on. After that, moisturising and priming your skin is really important because you’re going to be putting tons of products on your face. Only then I proceed with my makeup and some calming music to keep myself focused on the look.”
How do you get ‘unready’ after a performance?
CR: “The best part about being a drag queen is removing the makeup and also everything else. I would use an oil-based cleanser to remove the makeup about 2-3 times, then thoroughly cleanse my face. Of course, before that, nothing is more satisfying than taking your false lashes off!”
KK: “Facial makeup remover wipes and makeup remover oil is a must. Wash off your make up before going to bed no matter how tired you are! Love yourself and your skin.”
What are your must-have beauty items?
CR: “Cleanser, toner, moisturiser, lip-balm, and a semblance of sanity.
KK: Apart from the products I mentioned earlier, I’d say eyeliner and my 10-inch Beyond-1020 Pleaser shoes.”
Who are some of the drag queens that inspire you?
CR: “Aquaria, Kam Hugh from France, SiraMaNdonna from Thailand, Shea Coulee, Eva Young, Kameron Michaels and a lot more!”
KK: “Aquaria, Sasha Velour, Bianca Del Rio and the young and upcoming drag queens of Malaysia. Ultimately for me, even though she’s not a drag queen but she’s my main inspiration for my drag and art – LADY GAGA!”
Reported by Aina Izzah