• Alex Mathew, performing as Maya the Drag Queen. (Instagram / @mayathedragqueen)Source: Instagram / @mayathedragqueen
Meet Maya the Drag Queen, the sari-sporting "Mother of Illusion" and one of only a few working drag performers in Bangalore, India.
Chloe Sargeant

15 Mar 2018 - 1:47 PM  UPDATED 15 Mar 2018 - 1:47 PM

We live in a time where hyper-popular drag reality show RuPaul's Drag Race has won an Emmy Award - but that doesn't mean that drag is now readily accepted everywhere. 

Bangalore man Alex Mathew is 29 years of age, and is one of only a handful of working drag performers in India. 

In drag, Mathew goes by the name of Maya the Drag Queen. He originally named himself 'Mayamma', which means 'Mother of Illusion' or 'Mother of Magic', but tells SBS he decided to adapt the name due to many people in India mistaking his drag persona as a transgender identity. 

Despite loving his craft and performing on stage as a drag queen, Mathew explains that his journey to becoming Maya the Drag Queen was not an easy one. 

He says that he first dressed in drag in September of 2014, after he faced difficulty landing roles in theatre productions, where he was regularly told that he was 'too effeminate'. 

"So I converted those supposed weaknesses into my strengths by building a drag persona," he says. 

Mathew, whose biggest drag inspirations are RuPaul and Drag Race season 6 winner Bianca Del Rio, says that his first time in drag was a simple transformation: "I started by wearing my mother's sari and blouse, with a cheap wig and literally no makeup," he laughs.

He says that after his life-changing first time in drag, he decided to come out to his family and friends, but it sadly didn't go as well as he initially hoped.

"A month after my first drag performance, I came out to my family and friends as a gay man," he says. "I wasn't accepted then. My family made a big issue out of it, and I lost a lot of friends."

Mathew says that drag is still not widely accepted in India, explaining that he also received negative reactions from audiences when he first began performing. 

"There are major misconceptions in [Indian] society about drag queens," he explains. "It isn't taken seriously as an art form. [...] But I focused on my art and moved forward with whatever opportunities that I was getting."

These misconceptions about drag culture mean that there are still very few queens in India to this day - but Mathew says he is proud to be one of them: "Right now, in India, I can proudly say that there [are] about seven drag queens."

Mathew now performs every Thursday night at Bangalore club Kitty Ko as Maya the Drag Queen. 

He says that the message he wants to send with his drag is, "Believe in yourself and only give love - that's what we need in the world these days."

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