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Cassandra the Queen leaves her mark on the stage

Cassandra the Queen only started doing drag in 2021, but she’s already made her mark on Sydney’s drag scene.

One of Sydney’s emerging drag legends, Cassandra the Queen has made a name for herself in the queer scene as a multi-talented performer, with regular shows at some of Sydney’s most iconic LGBTQIA+ venues such as The Imperial in Erskineville and Stonewall Hotel.

For a queen who is relatively new to the scene, Cassandra has an impressive track record.

At the DIVA Awards 2023Cassandra was recognized as Sydney’s favorite showgirla testament to her talent and likability in the scene.

As a recent migrant from the Philippines and strong political activist, Cassandra has a unique and fascinating perspective on how drag can be used in activism, and her journey through the queer Filipino scene here in Sydney.

Why is the representation of queer Filipinos in the scene important to you?

First of all, I am a migrant. When I first moved here, it was very difficult to find a community that I could relate to, and where I could just feel comfortable being myself. The other layer would just be queer; it is very difficult to find a good community when you first move somewhere.

So having both of those factors in one community is very important to me, and to – I hate the word, but – assimilate into Australian culture properly.

I moved here in 2019, just before COVID. This is the first country I have lived in, apart from the Philippines.

I’ve never done drag in the Philippines, I only started here in 2021. I really wish I started doing drag in the Philippines because the drag culture there is very different, and bringing that here would have been an added bonus for me.

What is your own opinion on the Filipino gay scene in Sydney at the moment?

I definitely think it needs a lot of improvement, but looking from the outside I can see why it is what it is. I think this is because there are two main types of queer Filipinos (in Australia): a person who migrated here, and a person who grew up here.

They have different sensibilities, in terms of the culture and understanding of being Filipino and being queer.

I definitely want it to gel together more. They wouldn’t be the same, there wouldn’t be a point where they would become one, but I want to see an intersection and appreciation for both sides.

That’s one of the things I want to do in drag. I have friends who come to my shows who are migrants, and I have friends who grew up in Australia. I want to cherish and improve that community, to show that Philippine culture can be more and bigger.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is an all-Filipino cast show. Because most Filipino people who grew up here may not have seen drag in the Philippines.

You also have Filipinos who migrated here and their only concept of drag is Filipino. That’s very different. So I want to create that event where you can see the merging of those cultures.

Why is activism so important to you, and how does it relate to your resistance?

I started my journey in theater and art back in college. I was so focused on learning and developing the art form and its techniques, but then I also saw the importance of messaging in art.

That’s how I became more involved in activism and grassroots organizing.

From then on, I made sure that my art reflects and amplifies the voices of the unheard, the underprivileged and the oppressed. I saw that art is not just a tool to entertain people, but rather a platform that can spread and influence the community on pressing issues.

So when I started doing drag, I made sure I used my platform to raise pressing social issues like the genocide in Gaza, tenants’ rights, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, especially trans rights, and many more more.

What are some issues that you think are most prevalent in our world today?

I believe that imperialism today is the biggest problem in the world. There are only a few countries that control the economy and politics of the world.

And this also transcends our culture and the way we live. As imperialism values ​​capital and profit over people, it is rapidly changing the landscape of housing, cost of living, etc.

Especially around drag, it creates more extreme right-wing, conservative and fascist ideologies. This allows retarded people to spread fake news and hatred towards specific people, like what happens with drag story time.

How do you think queer activism today compares to previous decades?

I can’t speak to what has happened in the past decades. But the landscape has certainly changed.

It’s good that younger generations of queer people are becoming more active in social movements and realizing that we are trying to build a better community for the future.

On the other hand, it’s also sad to see that the older generation of queer people are being co-opted by conservatism and that they tend to become more reserved and complicit.

But one thing I really want to see is that we look beyond identity. Because when we “remove” our queerness, we are still all human.

Activism must first and foremost be a class struggle. When we solve the class-based problems and transform society into something that has no class differences, we will be able to create better conditions economically, politically and culturally to liberate all genders and identities.

I want my drag to not just be seen as an icon or a pillar of queerness. I want it to be seen as an inspiration that drag performers or artists in general have the ability to analyze society in a way that goes beyond our individuality.

I want my drag to be a tool to arouse, organize and mobilize the people towards class liberation and gender emancipation.

What do you hope for the future?

One thing would be full-time towing. That is one of the objectives, but it would be very difficult to achieve.

In terms of queer Filipino culture and my drag, I would like to re-create a space where they can watch drag shows by Filipinos and for Filipinos.

Maybe I’ll end up joining Drag Race, Drag Race Philippines or Drag Race Down Under, but for representation I would love to do Down Under.

I have never seen a Filipino drag queen join an international franchise that showed what Filipino culture really is. Most of them bring some aspects of it, but not the real gay culture in the Philippines.

More interviews with Sydney’s drag queens:

Karna Ford: An Exclusive Interview

The rise of female drag queens

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