After a successful first season, Drag Den has officially made a resounding comeback with a new set of contestants ready to be hailed as the next Drag Supreme of the Philippines. But adding to the table is an elimination system that brings the competition to a whole new level, with the queen who has the lowest score each episode sent home, and the queen who manages to win the Dragdagulan lip-sync battle with three other queens chosen through draw lots gets to have immunity.
Aside from new Drag Enforcers, a new den for the Drag Cartel, there’s a new theme song for the series performed by the Drag Lord herself, Manila Luzon, featuring drag runner and social media superstar and freshly-inducted urban musician, Sassa Gurl, entitled “POM POM (Take Me High)”, easily encapsulating the magnetic energy this show has in store for fans, past and new, for its anticipated second season.
In an exclusive, Manila Luzon talks about the creation of “POM POM (Take Me High)”. Deliberately meant for the new season of Drag Den, they declare wanting the theme song to reflect what the show is all about. The goal of creating the song is to make it “psychedelic, a little trippy, and quite addicting,” says Manila Luzon, “like a little earworm that keeps drilling into your head, you can’t stop singing it.”
Having Sassa Gurl featured on the song with her rap adds so much more to the track and to what Drag Den represents. She adds, “You have me, this Drag Queen, that’s super glamorous—and then on the other side, we have Sassa Gurl who’s like raw, gritty, and kind of goofy, and so mix that together, it really shows what Drag Den is.”
Sassa Gurl, whose career in the music industry is beginning to flourish, including releases like “Maria Hiwaga” and “Panaginip”, Manila Luzon channels the drag mother in her in taking pride in seeing this journey firsthand, praising Sassa Gurl not only as a well-known star in TikTok, but an amazing person, comedian, and versatile artist.
Her enthusiasm goes the same with collaborating with the writer and producer of “POM POM (Take Me High)”, Silas, and being able to infuse some of her ideas to the song, a slight but welcome departure from the first theme for Drag Den where she has writing credits for. This time, though, knowing how good the song is, Manila Luzon’s artistic instinct still found a way to help out, from correcting English, learning Filipino, and see many of her “too many ideas” be married into the song’s final product.
She shares, “It’s really cool to collaborate with someone because we get something that I wouldn’t have thought of, or they wouldn’t have thought of, and to have so many people working on some project together from the song, to the way the music video comes out, it’s really [great] to see everything come together.”
Manila Luzon also highlights the help of home music label Republic Records, with which she has just signed into, that opened up doors in getting to work with her friends to have the track be the theme song of Drag Den, which helps her in kicking it up a notch every time and for her to have both her artistry in drag and music be entwined with each other.
It’s no secret how the renowned Manila Luzon is passionate about the art of drag. Her affection for the craft shines and reveals itself as she tells us how she loves every aspect of it such as doing her make-up, designing her costumes, and coming up with how she’ll do her performances. So, to say that having music be incorporated with her drag delights her, would be a huge understatement.
She describes it as the “soundtrack” to her drag experience and fantasy that she’s giving. However, more to that, having the chance to do original music and do what hasn’t been seen before is what the ‘Drag Lord’ of the show really revels in. Transitioning from lip-syncing a song from a radio to singing her own tracks, is, in itself, an expansion of what drag is for her.
We see the incorporation of her prowess for drag and music in the making of the music video for “POM POM (Take Me High)”, where apart from doing her own make-up and hair, tasks that she’s usually accustomed to doing alone, the end result is a confluence of artistic collaboration with her wig stylist, make-up artist, style team, directors, and everyone included in the process. “It’s such a creative medium (music videos), and all of that interests me as an artist,” she says.
No small thanks to her record label, contributing to the development of her artistry as well, giving her a great team that carries out the vision that she wants to exude as an artist and to do things that she wouldn’t be able to do on her own.
Although there hasn’t been concrete plans yet for her next release, safe to say, that an ever-evolving artist as Manila Luzon is, is looking forward to creating another single, album, perhaps another theme song, and collaborating with other talented Filipino artists.
Recognized initially as the runner-up for the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and later on becoming a contestant for the first and fourth season RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, Manila Luzon has significantly made a name for herself as a distinguished drag queen globally.
Now, as a host and judge for Drag Den, she continues to bring all the glimmer and attention to drag artistry here in the Philippines. “I’m a Leo so I like the attention. I am a drag queen, so you know I like the attention. [But] I’m really, really thrilled that I’m getting to share the spotlight with so many amazing and deserving Filipino drag queens,” she expresses, noting that she wants to make sure that she’s always bringing positive attention to Filipino Drag.
While strides have been made, given that we are in a traditional and conservative country, it’s challenging to open the eyes of prejudiced minds to the brilliance of drag. Hence, the influence of an acclaimed drag queen who brandishes her heritage and craft to the whole world is the boost that we need in order to get our name out there without anything holding us back.
With Manila Luzon’s charisma and dedication in not only drag, but in music, it’s no wonder that her presence continues to make noise all over the globe and leaves a trail of success on her path. Good thing for us, she’s all about not only having everyone’s eyes on her, but on Filipino drag queens who are alongside breaking onto the scene.
Watch the second season of Drag Den with Manila Luzon: Retribution on Thursdays, 7PM, on Prime Video.
Additional text: Leo Balante