Unbeknownst to most, the Philippines has had a massive growing and thriving drag community for a few years now, with queens that get bolder and braver as the years go by.
With the unprecedented shift towards virtual live shows and purely digital interactions brought about by the pandemic, performers who are used to thinking outside of the box—such as those in drag—have been pushed to innovate even further to churn out captivating and eye-catching content over the noise of social media.
Amidst all of these micr0 video-sharing trends (from Instagram, Snapchat, and now through TikTok), Internet memes, and real-time news updates, a queen sits on her throne in front of her laptop, welcoming an engaged audience to her little corner in the wide, wild, web.
Falsies on, make-up on fleek, vibrant wigs tucked in, high heels secured, with not a single loose thread on her technicolor ensemble, Brigiding “Gigi” Aricheta, who now gets reintroduced to public consciousness as “Brigiding” awaits the red dot to flash, cueing the start of her show on livestream.
As one of the most prominent figures in Philippine drag, Brigiding—who uses both she and he as pronouns—is known for her bold and extravagant looks on stage, and his boyish smiles over a simple t-shirt and denim combo on his days off. Perhaps it’s this marriage between these two, seemingly opposite, personas that makes Brigiding’s performances stand out with limitless possibilities and boundless, unadulterated, fun.
“I think [a] Brigiding experience is the totality of me being gay, fearless, exciting, and energetic while having fun and enjoying every performance.”
It takes a lot to capture an audience online. For one, there are millions of content readily available uploaded on the Internet, each one fighting for a few seconds of the viewer’s attention. That alone poses as a challenge to acquire an audience from the get-go.
But, it’s an even greater feat for performers to grasp the attention of those who’ve logged on to enjoy the show, and still maintain the same amount of viewers from start to finish without the numbers going down.
In a quick catch-up with Rank Magazine, Brigiding shared how this impacted her relationship with performing, the drag world, and her enamored community: “The pandemic has been really challenging for all of us and I admit that I had a time where I almost gave up doing it. [But] I’m so thankful! It was my drag sisters who never gave up on me.”
“I think one surprising thing we get while performing during this pandemic is that there are actual people who really watch and support us. People we never knew and never had a chance to be connected [with] before. Now we’re able to build strong online friendship and support system from these people who really believed [in] us since the beginning of this online performing journey.”
Despite these new challenges introduced by virtual shows and contactless—heck, *faceless—*audience engagements, it takes a real performer to draw in a crowd; and it takes a real Queen to build and engage a committed support system.
However, for Brigiding, performing arts–in all its splendor–is more than just her source of livelihood; it’s a lifeline that offers her a unique avenue to be proud of who she is, and what she’s capable of doing. And, as we can obviously see from watching one of her shows online, she’s capable of a lot.
“Being a drag queen, [in] itself, is the best thing that ever happened to me. It is mostly with performing where you feel the liberty and pride of being the drag queen that you really are. The feeling of joy and fulfillment of putting everything together and finishing with a performance, and making a living out of it.”
In fact, as a way to commemorate her life’s best accomplishments and still-hopeful dreams, Brigiding is hosting a birthday concert on February 26, at 8PM on Zoom, aptly titled “I Am Brigiding.” This is also to celebrate her signing with Cornerstone Studios. On the show, she’ll be joined by her Divine Bar sisters, Precious Paula Nicole and Vinas Deluxe, among other special guests.
She shared that she planned the concert to not only showcase her many artistic expressions, but also show that local drag artists are “a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the whole community—Drag and LGBTQ+ in general. This a big opportunity to show how our drag has evolved in Manila, and how we should be viewed and respected as [the] artists that we all are.”
As she puts it, this show also hopes to leave a monumental mark in Manila and Philippine drag. The road up ahead is surely a tumultuous one, especially for this community that is so heavily impacted by the on-going pandemic, and other societal issues at large, like equal rights and persistent discrimination against their craft and identity as a whole.
But despite these challenges and any difficulties that might arrive, Brigiding believes that it’s only a matter of time before drag across the country truly takes off. Now that shows initiated by the community are more available for fans and potential supporters from the comfort of their homes, she hopes that the reach and overall celebration of drag as a craft will only grow and increase in reach and influence.
Looking ahead to her and her sisters’ dreams for the drag community as a whole, Brigiding shares this enthusiastic response when asked about where she hopes to see the industry in the next few years:
“Soon enough I know it will fly, more opportunities will open and better understanding for drag, and the need for drag [will] happen. I see drag queens, on national TV sharing amazing life journeys, on magazines, billboards and everywhere making more impact and creating social change!”
Her determined answer defiantly strikes a cord of hope in the universe’s endless possibilities, making us, her viewers, see this dream in the way she so clearly views it: a tangible and inevitable destination that seeks no comfort from ifs, but only grows in surety in questions of when. And if a community’s dream is built on the leaders that make it happen, then the drag community is surely on its way to higher flights with Brigiding on its frontlines.
Produced by Rank Magazine
Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin
Interviewed by Leo Balante
Video and shoot assistant: Bhernn Saenz