By JOHN LEGASPI
The category is fashion realness meets overly accessorized queen. Aquaria spreads her big drag energy as she visited her Philippine fans at the SM Fashion Hall in Mandaluyong City. Wearing a black latex bodysuit and a bright yellow faux fur coat, the season 10 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race took the city by storm with her electrifying sass and high kicks, leaving everyone in total awe of her unique sense of visual poise and bold makeup looks.
“It stemmed from the SM Store looking for a representative,” says senior marketing manager of The SM Store Fiona Araneta. “There was no competition. She was on top of our list because of everything that she’s done at a young age.”
Breaking records is not new to Aquaria. At the age of 23, she was hailed among the youngest winners of the reality drag show, took part in Mac Cosmetics’ 25th anniversary Viva Glam campaign, and also became the first drag queen to ever walk the red carpet of the Met Gala wearing Maison Margiela by John Galliano.
I think the collaboration is important because it definitely highlights things for the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community, love, and acceptance throughout the Philippines and the world.
The SM Store took a bold move last August announcing their first ever drag ambassadress, marking its history in the retail landscape.
“The SM Store is adaptive and it also listens,” says Geo Custodio, marketing manager of The SM Store. “The world is changing and this is the SM Store listening to and changing with them. I think having someone like Aquaria as the face of our company at this moment helps kind of get that message across.”
To celebrate the coming of the queen, SM Megamall opened its doors to a spectrum of shoppers with a two-day extravaganza of all things Aquaria. With a huge A-shaped runway at the center of the fashion hall, 35 stunning local drag queens stomped, Vogued, and sashayed down the runway and bowed down as queen Aquaria set foot on the runway. Fans went wild as she performed her own song “Burning Rubber” and “New York, New York” by Lady Gaga.
“We really want to tell people that the SM Store is a safe place and we welcome everyone regardless of gender, race, and nationality,” says Fiona. “You can shop here and be safe. There is always something here for everybody.”
“I think the collaboration with the SM Store is important because it definitely highlights things for the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community, love, and acceptance throughout the Philippines and the world,” says Aquaria. “I think that’s the message that always needs to be shared across. Until everybody else is equal that message will continue to be passed on. So I’m grateful to the SM Store for trying to make that social change.”
For a treat, Aquaria sits down with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle as she talks about style, drag inspirations, and her stand on LGBQIA+ community issues.
When did you first decided you wanted to be a drag queen?
I think, unknowingly, my first experiences with drag were through cartoons. I love Pokémon and Looney Toons and other cartoons like Sponge Bob. I saw Bugs Bunny dressing up in some crazy costume, Sponge Bob dressing like a lady, and James from Team Rocket in Pokémon doing the same. They are definitely a few of my main influences. Team Rocket will try to disguise themselves into something else, like Jessie will go on for the male role and James will always be the female role, often at least. I thought that was so funky and funny that I never thought about it much as a kid. But it just seems so natural. It seems like a normal thing. And then, as I was interested in fashion and exploring things online, I kind of Googled things and came across my own answers.
Why are drag queens relevant?
I think people are starting to really come around. It is the golden age of drag when people are coming up with ideas and coming around that they love drag. What’s nice is they don’t have to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community to love drag. More than half the people at my show are straight women and men. There is something about drag that everyone publicly or secretly loves. I think that in 2019, people are becoming more and more accepting of what they are like on the inside.
Is Aquaria always a happy person?
I try to be. But this year, I’m a lot happier. Last year, 2018, was such a fabulous year for Drag Race and stuff, but with all that came craziness like schedule and a million different other things. So this year, now that I’ve had my time to breathe and, like, calm my mind, I’ve just been so positive, so much more happy instead of trying to subject yourself more to being happy.
Do you have any regrets?
I guess not taking as many opportunities as I could when I was younger. But still, I am where I am today. I’m pretty pleased with and proud of what I have achieved and the position I find myself in today.
What’s your advice to the local LGBTQ+ community?
Keep doing what you’re doing. I have seen so many drag performers here and there’s just so much passion and love for the community and drag in general. Stick to that, it’s very important. I know that for the past couple of decades, the LGBTQ+ scene in the Philippines has been fighting for all these equality bills. I think that remaining brave and going strong when it comes to political things like these is what’s going to help achieve a more equal and a more understanding community.
What is your top styling tip to looking fabulous?
To become fabulous, I love a good jacket and I love crazy accessories. Pick a couple of things that are simple and pair them with a couple of extravagant pieces and make them your own.