“Voguing allows me to be whatever I want to be. I know I can trust my feelings and bravely embrace who I am”– AZXULA –
From its origin in the queer black underground ball culture in the 1960s, voguing has become an indispensible vehicle for free self-expression and a means of resisting societal norms for today’s LGBTQ movements around the world. Today, we checked in with a group of seasoned voguers to talk about the scene both here in Thailand and elsewhere.
AZXULA – THE VOGUE DRAG QUEEN
AZXULA is a drag name of Franky, a Chiang Mai native who moved to the Netherlands at the age of seven. Growing up in two very different cultures, he always struggled to fit in and felt uncomfortable expressing his queerness. It wasn’t until he relocated to Amsterdam that he found the city’s LGBTQ community and was able to finally be himself.
“Growing up, I wasn’t really good at communicating and people would tell me not to be gay. Voguing allows me to express my faminine side. It lets me pursue my passion and take pride in myself.”
Having moved to Amsterdam by himself when he was 18, Franky was essentially homeless and jobless until he met Amber Vineyard, the founder of House of Vineyard who would later become his drag mother. Amber accepted him into her house, taught him to dance, introduced him to the art of drag, and took him to parties and ballroom competitions. Franky told us that his drag persona was inspired by the badbitchery of The Last Airbender villain.
“House of Vineyard was where I learned all I know about drag and voguing. I went from being homeless to having Amber Vineyard accepting me into her family. Thanks to her, I was able to debut as a drag queen and make a living out of it.”
Being in Europe with a huge ballroom scene meant that AZXULA always had a chance to participate in competitions and hone her voguing skills. In 2018, she was invited to audition for season two of Drag Race Thailand in Bangkok. Even though she didn’t make the cut, AZXULA decided to stay in Thailand because of its culture and diversity. Here, she hopes to foster ballroom culture and build a voguing community for local queer kids.
“I want ballroom culture in Thailand to be as fabulous as anywhere else. It’s such a fun scene! Every time you compete, you get to improve your skills. It constantly motivates and inspires you.”
SUN – THE PIONEER
The ballroom scene in Thailand wouldn’t have been possible without the help from Phitthaya “Sun” Phaefuang, an internationally known Thai voguer. Born in Phetchabun, Sun moved to Norway when he was three years old. After having graduated from Modern Dance from Oslo National Academy of the Arts and competed in various voguing competitions all over the world, he’s now back in Thailand to teach Thai kids how to vogue and spread ballroom culture. For him, queer expression is extremely political because it represents the LGBTQ’s fight for equality and freedom from oppressive society. Sun sees the future of voguing culture in Thailand as a safe space where the new generation of LGBTQ kids can come together to express themselves. It will go down in history as part of Thailand’s LGBTQ movement.
VASH – THE RISING VOGUE STAR
Hailing from Taiwan, VASH KANG is an up-and-coming voguer who’s been voguing since they was 15 years old. VASH sees voguing as a lifestyle — a way in which he can live his life freely. It’s an LGBTQ community where like-minded people can make friends and share their passion. He’s glad to be part of the driving force behind the Thai voguing community, which is growing steadily everyday.
Despite coming from different cultural backgrounds, AZXULA, Sun, and VASH’s mutual love for voguing brought them together. They’re queer and they’re here to push the boundaries for the Thai LGBTQ community. For those interested in ballroom culture and voguing, AZXULA has this to say:
“Just do it! Get into drag and come join us! Taking the first step can be intimidating, but once you’ve gotten over that, you’ll thrive and grow exponentially!”