Yuhua Hamasaki is working to bring drag back to what it once was: an art form that was bold, unapologetic and authentic. “Somewhere along the line, drag became a vessel for achieving fame, getting attention, and making money,” she says. “All that is great, but drag used to be about making a statement. The original queens didn’t care about being liked. They didn’t watch what they said. They were not concerned with gaining or losing instagram followers. Those queens only cared about projecting their true selves, expressing their true feelings, and in doing so, they inspired others to do the same.” Yuhua Hamasaki stars on the tenth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality show where drag queens compete to be the last contestant standing and the right to be called America’s Next Drag Superstar. She intends to use her time on the show as a platform to open minds and break antiquated stereotypes, and she’s not wasting time. Her first music video release, “The Ankh Song,” releases today. Set to the children’s nursery rhyme, “Old Macdonald Had a Farm,” its funny but the meaning behind it is no joke, especially to Yuhua. Available on iTunes, the song pays tribute to the ancient symbol of life with a non gendered soul and it’s an emblem that is very near and dear to her heart.
Yuhua was seven when she and her family landed at JFK from China. No one in the family spoke English. She remembers looking out the window, seeing snow for the first time and realizing she wasn’t in China anymore. Yuhua found solace and an escape from American culture by watching Chinese soap operas. The actors and actresses often wore rich, imperial clothing and she loved how grand, dramatic, and brilliant the colors were. Yuhua incorporates many of those same designs in her drag today because she’s proud of them and wants to glorify that part of Asian culture. But she wasn’t always so proud. Growing up, Yuhua believed the only culture worth being proud of was Caucasian. She remembers being ashamed at her face and olive complexion. She wouldn’t speak Chinese in front of her friends, or eat Chinese food or do anything at all that might remind people she was different. It wasn’t until she was older, when she began experimenting with first, gender bending, then drag, that she began to recognize her unique beauty.
“Drag represents freedom and power,” she explains. “When I’m painted, I am the narrator and the protagonist of my story. I can do and say anything I want. I can dress however I please. Drag shields me from judgement. It gives me confidence, happiness, and determination to be a better human being, in and out of my drag persona.”
She’s heaped many awards from her drag, including winning pageant titles and being named Miss Fire Island and Miss Stonewall. She’s also appeared on television in “The Carrie Diaries,” “Blue Bloods,” “The Mysteries of Laura,” and on “Saturday Night Live,” performing with Katy Perry. An important distinction about Yuhua is that she identifies as gender-fluid. A genderfluid drag queen may sound like a new concept, especially as most people still think drag queens are gay men dressed up as glamorous women. But just as there are trans-queens (transgendered men and women who perform in drag), bio queens (cisgender females who perform drag) and drag kings (females that perform male drag), there are queens who don’t define themselves by male or female. They feel the conventional structures of masculinity and femininity —created by people from generations ago, that we still follow today because we were raised to believe them — do not apply to them. They certainly do not apply to Yuhua. “I have a lot of myths to dispel during my time on RuPaul’s Drag Race,” she reflects. “In addition to educating the world about gender neutrality, I aim to prove that Asians in America can have a voice. The preconceived notions that we are quiet, obedient and vulnerable and only suited to be lawyers, doctors, mathematicians and scientists are all wrong.” “I, for one, am none of those things,” she contends. “I am talented, funny and a multifaceted entertainer who is making her mark in music, film, comedy, fashion, and anywhere else I want. All those bitches better watch out,” she laughs.