“I developed Lilly as a western stereotype of south-east Asian women”

BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE BY CAPTURED BY CORINNE

Co-founder of pan-Asian drag collective The Bitten Peach and talent showcase LADS, Lilly Snatchdragon is taking the drag world by storm. Exploring her south-east Asian heritage through comedic tropes, Lilly is pointing out both systemic racism and exploring her own internalised stigma in her work. Hosting Christmas drag extravaganza The Grotteaux at Woolwich Works, the show features drag royalty Cleopantha, Cyro, Mark Anthony, and many more. It’s now been pushed back to May 2022, but this isn’t one to miss. Why not indulge in some mid-year festive joy?

You’re hosting the cabaret-filled Christmas soirée at The Grotteaux at Woolwich Works. Exciting! Can you tell me a little bit about it?

It’s going to be a Christmas cracker queer explosion of a variety of different performances. We’ve got working-class burlesque, live vocals, theatre fused in with cabaret and drag. It’s incredible.

Amazing! And what has it been like to work with the likes of Cleopantha and Mark Anthony?

I’ve known Cleo for a really long time. It’s so wonderful to see her in a show that highlights her not just for her incredible burlesque talent but for her other talents. I don’t think a lot of other people would have seen her otherwise. Mark Anthony and I actually got engaged over the first lockdown – he proposed. This is our first big show together and it’s really exciting. To be able to work together is amazing, but it’s also quite nice to not just be in the show because we’re a couple.

How did you and Mark meet? I’m really living for this little love story.

We met about three-and-a-half years ago. They were in Another Drag Competition, run by Me The Drag Queen and I was the head judge. As I was getting in my taxi to leave, Mark ran up to me and asked me out for a drink. I was really confused, and thought they were just drunk on power, so I said yes. I was super busy, didn’t have time for dating and I wasn’t really looking for anything. But they absolutely stole my heart.

You’re a woman-identifying drag queen. How have you found it navigating the drag scene which is typically quite male-dominated?

I have been very privileged. I never really knew that there was an issue because I was never discouraged. I didn’t realise until I saw line-ups and bookings that I wouldn’t be included in, or that my fellow AFAB queens wouldn’t be included in. I always had to work harder. I cannot just turn up in a store-bought dress.

The outside world often perceives that women who do drag perform as a drag king rather than as a drag queen. How do you think your drag plays with these interpretations?

From my own personal experience from being mixed race south-east Asian, I was brought up being told that women should be seen and not heard. It was a release mechanism for me, when I started embodying this hyper-femme, loud, outspoken human being in the form of Lilly. Being able to put on makeup and a wig and perform and host as Lilly has allowed me to release things that I feel like I’m not permitted to when I’m not Lilly.

How do you play with your own relationship with femininity when in drag?

I’m quite a curvy human and stereotypically, Asian women are incredibly slim and toned. I’m not that. Being told that you can’t be sexy is not just an Asian thing, it’s a global thing – people are told that if they’re fat, they’re not sexy. When I am Lilly, I get to dress up in beautiful things and I like to show that I’m a curvy woman. I bring out my femininity more.

You enjoy “controversial” south-east Asian stereotypes. Could you tell me a little bit about these and how you play with them?

Growing up, I had so much inner racism within me – being half Lao, I refused to acknowledge my Asian side. My mum came from a very poor family, and she was the eldest of eleven siblings. Her kids speaking English was her main priority. I developed Lilly as a western stereotype of south-east Asian women. In my acts, I come out of a Chinese laundry bag, I play the role of a Thai bride, and I’ve had a dog-eating act. I like to play on things that people have said to me – I want people to see how ridiculous it is. It helped me to express my own anger.

What’s next for you? Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

The Bitten Peach is doing a show in Manchester – it’s going to be one of our first big shows. I’d also love to have a solo show, and I’d love to plan a duo show with Mark. Let’s see.

The Grotteaux is now taking place in May 2022 due to COVID-19. Interested? Book now! To keep up with Lilly Snatchdragon, follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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