Queen of the Universe: In conversation with Grag Queen
By Jay Darcy
Whilst I was supposed to interview Brazilian drag queen Grag Queen backstage at Drag Fest, the timings did not work out. All is not lost, though, for we managed to find a time that worked for both of our busy schedules – and a 7-hour time difference! Grag Queen is a a Latin drag queen – two of my favourite things – so how could I possibly turn down the opportunity to interview her?
Grag Queen is best-known for winning the first ever series of Queen of the Universe – a drag queen singing competition. People generally associate drag queens with lip syncing; many do not realise that a great number of drag queens are also singers – some of them serious singers, like Grag Queen.
Grag Queen was thrilled to be performing at Drag Fest in Manchester and London. She said that the fans “appreciate drag on a form that is so elevated” – and it was especially great to return to the UK because this is the country where she found stardom.
Grag Queen: Queen of the Universe
Grag Queen said that starring in the first ever series of Queen of the Universe was a “crazy” experience. Whilst most famous drag queens are alumni of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Grag Queen had nothing to go off, nobody to ask, and no idea what to expect.
However, she saw Queen of the Universe as a brilliant opportunity for drag queens from all around the world to showcase their talent. She also enjoyed getting to know other cultures, especially because all but one of the Queens were foreign to the UK.
Whilst she has already won one drag competition, she would love to take part in Drag Race because it’s “a very good platform, and I’m sure I would go far!”
Talking about going far – whilst she is confident and sassy, she did not expect to win Queen of the Universe. She told me she never even had that conversation with herself during filming. “I was never playing to win; I was really [just] having fun,” especially after having been denied that during lockdown. She said that she was thanking the universe for the opportunity – “I think that’s what made me win”.
Grag Queen told me that she is first and foremost a singer – she just found drag along the way. She refers to it as “the perfect combination”: drag was an armour of sorts; it gave her “all the confidence, all that bootiness, all the self-love that my boy singer, at that point, never had experienced”.
I asked her about the difficulties of being both a drag queen and a singer. I told her about a drag queen I spoke to who finds it difficult to be taken seriously as a singing drag queen – because people often expect drag queens to just lip sync. Grag Queen admitted to the struggles of being a singing drag queen – or, in her case, a drag queen singer: “I’m just a drag queen because I was a singer. That was the possibility, I saw, to add performance to my singing, and so that’s what I do”.
Grag Queen said that the situation is different in her home country of Brazil – a country that has birthed uber successful drag queens with “more followers and money” than a lot of American pop stars. “We big there; we got this opportunity, this chance, to grow up this big”.
“Grag Queen just came to show you guys [Americans and Britons] that drag queens are the new superstars – yes! If you sing like you can sing, we [don’t just] lip sync. It’s like a culture, you know? Lip syncing is amazing, but now the drag queens are gonna show they know how to deliver a speech, to sing, to be the CEO of a company, to be on the news, to be inside hospitals or stuff like that, so we’re gonna be everywhere because we own it!”
One of the Brazilian drag superstars that Grag Queen alluded to is, of course, Pabllo Vittar – the world’s biggest drag queen (with 3x as many Instagram followers as RuPaul), who headlined Drag Fest in Manchester (Raye headlined it in London).
Grag Queen has long looked up to Vittar because “she is one of the icons that give us possibility to dream about being a queer artist here in our country, and this is revolutionary. Like, I have lots of brothers and sisters that are working hard… They are rocking, and that’s because of these bitches that are just here, telling them, ‘just don’t give up; it’s still worth it; dream it, bitch!'”
Grag Queen and Vittar first met when fellow drag singer Gloria Groove invited the two of them to lunch at her house. “We just fell in love with each other at the same time because our energy is so high”.
She elaborated, “There are a tiny, little group of people that really understand our shoes, what we do, like being all these cuts: Brazilian, drag queen, femme and singer… That was a reunion to get together and express our feelings and talk about jokes that nobody in the world will understand… We just built, like, a connection, and I love them. They were doing drag, they were snatching noses and cutting creases, before I even, like, finished high school!”
Vittar actually brought Grag Queen out as a special guest during her headliner slot at Drag Fest. They performed Vittar’s first hit, ‘Open Bar (Lean On)’ – a Brazilian Portuguese cover of Major Lazer and DJ Snake’s ‘Lean On’ (featuring MØ).
Of the experience, Grag Queen said: “We were exploding the Brazilian power, and two Brazilian drag queens singing together to an English crowd – that was so powerful.”
Indeed, it is amazing to see queer Brazilians – and Brazilians, period – carving their own identity because, in recent years, all we have begun to hear about Brazil is what a state it is in with Jair Bolsonaro and climate change – and Bolsonaro’s response (or lack thereof) to climate change.
Grag Queen said that having Bolsonaro in power “is very bad for people like us” – especially because he represents and empowers likeminded people. She belongs to two cultures struggling because of Bolsonaro: the queer community and an artist (Bolsonaro cut funding to the arts). She referred to him as “not healthy, mildly speaking,” before outright calling him an “asshole” (in all honesty, that’s still putting it mildly)!
Grag Queen, whose real name is Grégory Mohd, admits to not wanting to have to use a stage name, for she does not have a separate drag persona; it’s just him! “Grag” is a play on “Grégory” and “drag” – it was a way to keep a part of himself in his drag.
One thing I love about drag is how varied it is – especially country to country. Most noticeably, whilst American drag is often grotesquely glamorous (e.g.taking Old Hollywood glamour to the extreme), British drag tends to be more cabaret and slaptstick; it takes itself less seriously. Brazilian drag queens, meanwhile, are often dazzling divas and singing sensations.
When asked to describe her type of drag, Grag Queen joked, “naked”, before professing, “My type of drag is, like, ‘I’m not a drag queen; I’m a luxury cross-dresser!’, I would say. Just kidding” (she was totally not kidding).
She added, “I just want to feel beautiful and cause some effect on people. I don’t know, I just want to have fun”. However, she admits to “feeling the fantasy of being a superstar”. She wants to take singing and dance lessons – and everything to be “a fierce performer” and “keep making my mama proud”.
Grag Queen’s got some new music coming soon, including a duet with Christian Chávez and a song that is going to be on the soundtrack of the new season of Love, Victor! When I asked if she hopes to work with more mainstream and non-drag artists, she said, “Yes. I would like to do everything. Us drag queens, we are so free; I just wanna be free. I don’t wanna do drag music. No, bitch, I do music.”
You can follow Grag Queen on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter @gragqueen.