Drag is an art form. Possessing a magical allure, the creativity behind every look and every performance remains boundless. With such a rich cultural history, drag has long maintained a powerful presence in popular culture. And, more recently, developed a strong foothold in the art world as well. One could say that this specific art form has currently placed itself while having a mainstream moment. Drag artists challenge and deconstruct rigid social and sexual archetypes. One of these queens is a glamorous and daring individual. She keeps this art form alive while living her best life — Marina Summers.
Marina Summers: Queen Things
Just like many queens of this generation, Marina fell in love with the art of drag because of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Hosted by America’s most famous drag queen, the show has been on-air since 2009. For eleven years, the iconic RuPaul has given us LGBTQIA-themed content that we have always craved for. Marina, on the other hand, started giving us queer content when she started working for one of the biggest entertainment corporations in the Philippines, ABS-CBN.
“I worked as a TV producer for ABS-CBN before. It’s been a dream of mine to be able to produce queer content — and that includes drag and I was fortunate enough to be given a chance to feature some of our local queens from Nectar Nightclub in BGC (The Nectarines) in one of our TV shows. I was very moved and inspired by their stories. And from then on, my love for local drag grew more. And around April of 2019, I met some friends who later on became my drag sisters. I was lucky enough to be finally introduced to the world of drag first hand. They have helped me bring Marina Summers out of her shell.”
The inspiration behind Marina Summers.
There’s nothing quite synonymous with summer as the beach. According to science, the surf and sand does the mind (and the body-ody-ody) good. Psychologically speaking, the smell of the ocean breeze contributes to one’s soothed state. Her drag persona is an extension of who she is as a person and as an artist. She gets the inspiration behind Marina Summers from the place that she finds peace and quiet — the beach.
“In an instant, I knew where I wanted my drag to draw inspiration from. Out of drag, I am a total beach bum. So I wanted to bring the sea to the city through my drag persona because I always find solitude and peace when I am at the beach. So there goes the birth of Marina Summers. Marina for “marine” and my ultimate childhood gay icon “Marina” the Pinay Sirena, and Summers for the summer season.”
Drag is an art form.
Drag is usually where glamour meets comedy. Many prominent drag artists present themselves in exaggeratedly feminine ways as part of their performance. Sometimes compared to clowning, drag is so much more than that. Sure, they dress in exaggerated costumes and makeup to perform a show. However, everything accentuates features that will make an act funnier and make the performer more beautiful.
“Marina Summers is an extension of who I am as a person and as an artist out of drag. She is an image of my genuine hard work and passion for the arts. She also represents a new wave of drag artists with a fresh vision of the art form. Before, I saw Marina as an escape and as a way to further express myself. But later on, through the people, stories, and experiences I’ve encountered along the way, I found a greater purpose. And that’s to hopefully help elevate the craft and bring more light to the local drag scene.”
Marina Summers’ self-expression.
It’s hard to deny the skill required for the meticulous stroke of an eyebrow line. Or, the calculated application of makeup in a drag transformation. As drag gets more and more popular, the line between drag and fine art starts to blur. Drag is more than just the glamour or humor that people can see on-stage. It’s an accumulation of artistry and self-expression. Whenever she dresses up as Marina Summers, it’s like someone has given her a confidence booster. Feeling herself whenever she sees fit, drag gives her a determined enthusiasm within the drag community in the country.
“Drag is a very transformative art form. Whenever I’m in drag, as cliché as it may sound, I feel a lot more confident. I feel like anything is possible. But more than wearing heels, wigs, makeup, and dresses, drag gave me a higher purpose for my sole existence in the local drag scene. I was able to learn more about the community since I started doing drag through all the people I was able to meet and share beautiful stories and struggles with. And I would say, I have grown internally as a person because of that.”
She is the fantasy.
Drag culture is simply the art of self-expression. Everyone uses an escape from reality. Many people believe that singing, dancing, and basically, performing in front of a crowd helps them escape from the present to a fantasy world where they find their peace and joy. Drag is an art form where people forget their real selves and become a part of a fantasy.
This could go hand in hand with the lack of acceptance from a drag queen’s family. Marina Summers, on the other hand, experience her family and friends’ full support which is surely a breath of fresh air. It affects her performance as she bathes in such a positive ray of light. She doesn’t have to create her own fantasy — she is the fantasy.
“It’s liberating. It’s precious. And, it’s heart-warming. I don’t actually know how many words it would take me to actually describe the feeling but to keep it simple, I feel loved. I can’t express how grateful I am for the genuine support of the people around me especially my family especially my mom, sisters, and brothers, and of course my friends and colleagues. This is something I wish everyone could experience. Some people had to hide their truth because they don’t want to compromise their relationships with their loved ones.”
“And it’s heart-breaking that individuals within my community had to go through that. I wish for nothing more than a world where we can all live our lives freely… It makes me feel alive to live my truth. It gives me a chance to express myself in all ways possible without inhibitions, doubts, or regrets. Not having to hide and be ashamed of the fluidity of my sexuality and gender, especially with the help of drag, allows me to discover more about myself as well.”
Breaking the stereotypes.
Drag often attracts those that feel marginalized and misunderstood by their family and society. These queens are hyper-creative people. However, sometimes, they can’t create or perform within the realm of what’s appreciated in the towns and cities where they’ve grown up. Aside from being deprived of acceptance, there are people who misunderstand the queens’ sexual orientation and gender identity. Just because they dress up, it doesn’t mean they want to be identified as female. They don’t dress themselves up just to look like women, they dress up as drag queens.
“People often misunderstand what drag is. Some people think that drag is equal to our SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression). And that’s one of the hardest things to explain to people especially because sexuality and gender is still somehow a taboo topic in our very own households and educational system lalo na in a Christian country like the Philippines.”
“And I think that’s a big reason why people misjudge drag. Drag is a form of art. And just like any other art form, it can be done and enjoyed by everyone regardless of their SOGIE. And hopefully, in the future, we get to see more representation in the media as well to further elaborate on this topic and educate more people regarding this matter. As we all know, the media is a very powerful platform for us to touch more people especially at this time where we are living in the digital age.”
Penetrating the mainstream media.
RuPaul’s Drag Race has been on-air for eleven years, giving us queer content and representation that matters. With a show like that, it lets people know how skillful the queens are. However, the Philippines has yet to have a show like Drag Race that displays a huge amount of LGBTQIA-themed scenes. Thankfully, the popularity of drag queens has grown exponentially among Filipinos over the years. With their campy outfits, hypnotizing stage presence, and fierce talents, even straight men and women are now die-hard fans. Aside from being total performers, drag queens play a vital role in the LGBTQIA+ community. They send a message of acceptance, equality, and social relevance.
“Honestly, it’s beautiful to see how drag penetrates the local mainstream media today. The global phenomenon that Rupaul’s Drag Race has created gave endless opportunities for drag artists across the globe. It just shows that we have a pool of amazing talents that are just waiting to be seen and heard. And we need more of that. Here in the Philippines, I hope that our local media outlets would continue to see the great potential of drag to be a reason for people to express their creativity, freedom, and love for the arts. Drag is such a powerful tool that could touch and connect lives and inspire people through our colorful stories.”
Drag queens amid pandemic.
They usually perform in bars and clubs. However, due to the COVID-19, watching them on stage would be next to impossible. There are different performance styles when it comes to drag — there are ‘look queens’ who are recognized for their fashion, there are ‘comedy queens’ who are recognized for their ability to make a crowd double over in laughter, there are ‘dancing queens’ who can kick and flip effortlessly around the stage, and so much more. But, there’s something all drag performers have in common — the ability to quickly adapt.
“We honestly couldn’t go back to the clubs/ bars until it’s safe for everyone, so imagine how many livelihoods and dreams of actually starting to do drag were put on hold because of what’s happening. Gladly, our local drag performers were able to shift to virtual drag. And fortunately enough, through our virtual gatherings, we were able to meet a lot of young artists who are full of talents and passion for the craft. And it’s very humanizing to see all of these individuals help support each other during this trying time.”
“We are very thankful for the perseverance of our local drag artists in pursuing their crafts during these trying times. The amount of color and joy that our local performers were able to share with the world during this supposedly dark time is commendable. Through their online performances, live shows, podcasts, vlogs, etc., they were able to bring more visibility for our community that actually gave us more opportunities to still make a living outside the nightlife setting. And I think it’s very humbling to see how the community lifts each other up for us to make it through this crisis.”
Keeping drag alive.
Drag performers had to quickly learn to navigate a new world of performance throughout the pandemic as it introduces us to local artists who have become “the queens of adaptation.” Thankfully, drag queens have started to come together where technology allows people to be seen wherever they are. Now more than ever, people are adorning drag and showing the world what they can do.
“One of my proudest moments was being able to help build Drag Playhouse PH with like-minded people who aim to make something meaningful out of our time during the pandemic. Drag Playhouse PH aimed to be a virtual space for local drag artists and enthusiasts through its virtual parties and events. Together with Eva Le Queen, OV CUNT, and Prince, with the help of Kris Nuevo, we had this vision to help #KeepDragAlive because the drag/ entertainment industry is one of the most directly hit industries during the pandemic.”
“Right now, we, local drag artists, are very passionate about our vision to use our platforms to help #KeepDragAlive particularly at this time of crisis. It’s been at the very core of everything that we do during this pandemic and it’s very beautiful and humbling to see how we were able to connect with more local artists from places around the Philippines we never thought drag existed. With that, we were able to see a tighter bond that served as a support system for everyone.”
“And we, at Drag Playhouse PH, would like to offer our resources and time to make that happen as long as we could. And personally, I would also like to be able to help bring more drag visibility in the media by using every possible opportunity to do so. That’s why my most recent project, my debut single “I Have Arrived”, means a lot to me and the people behind it. Extracting all possible efforts for drag to be seen by more people has always been the goal for me and my colleagues.”
Marina Summers is classy, one-of-a-kind, glamorous, daring, and ethereal. As a person with such intense passion, she is willing to share a piece of advice to the younger generation who would want to create queer content just like her.
“You’re never too much of a person for dreaming big. But what will set you apart is when you treat your dreams as goals. Because if that’s how you see them, you will actually put hard work and passion into the things that you want to achieve. And if you surround yourself with like-minded people who have the same vision as yours, you will live a life that’s full of inspiration and authenticity. Soon enough, you will arrive at your destination without even knowing it.”
Produced by Angela Baltan
Photography | Rxandy Capinpin
Assisted by Mila Renaldi
Hair and Makeup by Prince Marell
Shot in Rxandy Capinpin Studio
Angela Grace P. Baltan is a Communication graduate from Colegio de San Juan de Letran. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, and mental health among others.