A lot of people ask what’s my fascination about drag performers…
Oh well it all started on a Tuesday, 3rd of march at 03:30am during the Carnaval of 1981.
The night where I was removed from my comfortable underwater home, slapped, pricked, had my feet used as a stamp and got presented to my biological parents.
For a few moments I was just known as ‘the baby” as my parents obviously didn’t have time to pick a name during the previous 9 months… you know busy people who sign papers and stuff.
As every story has 2 sides and, in my family, I would say 5 or 6, my mother and father gave 2 completely different explanations for why they named me “Marcela”.
According to my father, he carefully chose it thinking of me not being bullied in school ( kids rhyming and nicknames) and obviously has to be Italian but my mother has a different story…
She told me that my father entered the room and asked:
“What are we calling the baby?”
Apparently there was a soap opera on TV at the time called “Plumas e Paetês” (Feathers and Sequin) and that the main character was called Marcela. The soap was on when he popped the question so she said:
“Why don’t we call her Marcela?”
And that’s how they picked my name.
You might be asking yourself what one thing has to do with the other?
Well I guess it’s a good start for an explanation for the question and subject being explored in this particular post.
My dream job as a child was to become a witch, I think the first time I told my mother that i wanted my older brother to become a Drag Queen I was 9 or 10, the fascination about the way they dress came from an early age but there’s the other side as well, which is not particular of them but the whole LGBTQ community.
I always felt different and was never particularly part of a specific group, you know that kid that gets along with everyone but doesn’t belong anywhere?
That was me.
Trying to figure out what I wanted from this life.
Weird taste, weird hair, weird sports, weird clothes, weird wishes that people couldn’t really understand… is still happening don’t worry but the difference is that now I know how to deal with and who to talk to if I feel misunderstood.
It was very confusing to be pushed to always tell the truth no matter what but, at the same time, my truth self wasn’t valid.
And they were on TV! There was a talent show on TV on Sunday Nights where Drag Queens would come and perform ( TV host was the same dude who created that stunt with the ghost in the elevator), they were called “Transformistas”, which means the ones who transform themselves.
They would come and lip sync to a song while a panel of judges would give them a verdict in exchange of a cash prize.
You can watch it here
If you ever felt misunderstood and pushed to not be who you are because society wouldn’t get it or, as a kid, your family and school environment, you know what I’m talking about.
I don’t think, from the people I’ve met through the years, a single gay/queer/trans person who had a coming out party thrown by the family when they decided to speak their truth. There are many cases out there, true but unfortunately, it’s a very small percentage.
The initial connection came from fashion and music and make up as we all know that, without them, pop culture would be a very strange place to navigate but later on, from when I started talking and exchanging stories I understood that there were close similarities about the fight to be who we wanted to be.
Different scales, different proportions but the same moto, let me be who I am, respect me for who I am, accept me, that’s when it clicked.
Some people call me that.
I don’t take it as offensive per se but the way I see it is more them wanting to place me in a category where they will feel comfortable as they “know what they are talking about”.
The unknown is scary, to normal society ( as if such thing exist) freedom is scary, revolutionary, wrong or whatever negative word they want to use. And is those guys guts and freedom that fascinates me.
Guts and Freedom
You need guts to take a train from Harlem dressed as a fabulous creature all the way into town to perform and make some money.
You need guts to leave your house in São Paulo to do the same every night, and luck to not be beaten up.
Be on stage, in front of people, showing who you are, your art your way of expressing your vision, this is power.
Power that through many encounters made me feel more human and at ease, made me feel accepted as the battle’s name is different but all involves acceptance and be who we are.
We accept, support, understand and love each other and this is power.
They want to be seen and I want to show them, I want to sit with people who make me that same question that mede me write this post and explain it to them, soften them up and make them think.
A quick example happened while I was in LA a few weeks ago, I met a friend for lunch and he popped the question, I explained and he got it so well that a few hours later we were both in West Hollywood trying to get some good drag portraits.
So I guess question answered 🙂
Thank you so much to everyone who supported me personally and also with my ideas, I’ve had the chance to photograph some amazing performers in Brazil, UK and US and I hope to keep doing it and also expand it to a few other countries.