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3 Aug 2010

Meeting Ms Magnolia

Fridae’s drag queen-in-training, Alvin Jenny Talia Tan, twirls his way to Taiwan to find out more about the Taiwanese drag scene (yes, there’s one) from the magnificent Magnolia La Manga!

Ever since I saw the movie Monga, I have made it my life mission to sleep with either Mark Chao or Ethan Ruan – preferably both. But as the two Taiwanese tenderloins are reportedly straight, the only way I can entice them to the bedroom is to do a convincing Crying Game.

Unfortunately, since I resemble Wesley Snipes’ Noxeema Jackson in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar more than the devastating drag goddess Rupaul, I decided to be more realistic and made a vow to be the next Mrs Wilbur Pan.

As I prepare to travel to Taiwan to ensnare my Pan shuai (Mandarin to mean handsome), I decided to find out more about the country’s drag scene from one of Taiwan’s most notorious, I mean, celebrated drag queens – Magnolia La Manga!

æ: Be honest now, is it difficult for an English Rose such as yourself to bloom in Taiwan?

MLM: Across the board, the Taiwanese are extremely drag-friendly, everyone wants photos, and Taiwan is a safe and welcoming environment, from the streets to the venues – gay, straight, and mixed. So far, it has been truly wonderful, and I feel honored to serve the citizens of one’s of Asia’s most vibrant and tolerant democracies!

A case in point, a few years ago, I was stumbling through my local park just after dawn, on my way back from a club, ostensibly. As you can imagine, I didn’t look my best what with the cigarette butts in my wig, and one of my tits having gone AWOL. But as I staggered past a large crowd of middle-aged women doing tai-chi, they burst into spontaneous applause. That’s what it’s like being a drag queen in Taiwan. The Taiwanese appreciate anyone who makes an effort; even if you actually look like something the cat threw up. It’s perfect!

æ: That’s heartening to hear – especially for drags with atrocious hair and makeup skills such as myself! Now, how would you describe Magnolia’s signature look?

MLM: Well, ever since a local newspaper had the audacity to describe my look as “linebacker in a skirt”, I’ve worked extra hard to play down my Krystal Carrington shoulders and have been moving towards a more retro-kitsch look, inspired by Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame but in effect more trannie-ho-meets-Dame-Judy-on-crack.

æ: I love it! “Damaged beauties” is THE look on the catwalks this season!

MLM (shoots Alvin Tan a look that could curdle milk): As I was going to say, I’m not like those Asian drag queens who can simply tuck their junk away and suddenly they’re Lucy-ladyboy-Liu. Oh no. My signature look is one that works equally well both on the stage and in the gutter. It’s performance art with cocktails. In fact, I bring some of that uniquely English pub landlady glamour to the streets of Taipei, fused with a touch of Eurotrash sparkle, and just enough indefinable familiarity to make you want to buy me drinks. Lots of drinks, ideally.

Ms Magnolia at the Taipei Pride Parade

æ: A signature look that relies on the beer goggles effect! Sheer genius! But how have the gay citizens of Taiwan taken to the presence of Magnolia?

MLM: Why, everyone simply adores me, darling, of course! Why would you even ask such a thing? Did somebody say something? Give me the bitch’s name! No, really... The gay community in Taiwan is amazingly diverse, and incredibly mixed. I generally get a good reaction from everyone – gay, straight, Asians, and westerners alike.

æ: So besides a warm reception for drag queens with the bone structures of the Russian women’s swim team, what’s the drag scene in Taiwan really like?

MLM: Well, if you call getting dragged up, shit-faced, and posing for photos a “scene”, then YES, and it’s GREAT! But, actually, despite what my Facebook photos might suggest (Magnolia La Manga – add me!), the drag scene in Taipei is getting more and more creative. Most of the hot-drag-mess action happens in the bars and cafes of the Red Square (紅樓) Gay Village in Ximenting, such as Dalida, but there are many venues scattered about Taipei where you just might be unlucky enough to catch an impromptu drag performance.

While us western girls tend to specialise in the old mix-and-mingle kind of affair, we’ve done a few performances, and on an actual stage, too, not just in the alleys where the drunks urinate. There are local drag performers, also, that put on great fun Chinese language shows in some of the 2F bars at Red Square. The thing to remember about the drag scene in Taipei is that most of us are not professionals and we don’t get paid – unless people want to pay us to leave.

æ: So when’s the best time for Jenny Talia and other aspiring drag queens to make our debuts in Taiwan?

MLM: Mommy Magnolia would suggest during the Taipei Drag Season which runs yearly from September to Chinese New Year or thereabouts (the remaining months being too humid for makeup and boned undergarments) and encompasses big events at Taiwan LGBT Pride, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve, interspersed with scattered birthday parties, one-off promotional events, and any other excuse we can find to drink copious amounts of champagne whilst wearing fabulous frocks.

In fact, this year’s Taiwan LGBT Pride (30 October) looks to be the biggest yet, and we are hoping to put on an especially spectacular bilingual drag show on the Main Stage after the Parade. While it will certainly be hard to top the unabashed shambles of our “Mags and the Slags” show last New Year (sponsored by Singha Beer, no less), we are going to try. So book your flights now!

The magnificent Ms Magnolia will be making an appearance at the Tokyo Pride Parade on 14 August 2010 and can be contacted at magnolialamanga@yahoo.com.


Reader's Comments

1. 2010-08-03 20:14  
Alvin! Ignore the trolls! Interview more hunks and less drag queens.
2. 2010-08-03 22:11  
Magnolia, you're gorgeous! And so right about Taiwan being a great and welcoming place. Nice piece, Alvin. Brace yourself, Tokyo!
3. 2010-08-04 07:52  
hey, buy a nice big hat and welcome to our Polo Tournaments this fall
4. 2010-08-04 19:11  
Gawd, the Taipei drag scene is outlandish! Ms. Magnolia (Mags) is practically a landmark. I wouldn't miss seeing Mags and her entourage at Dalida in the Gay Village during their drag season. Their theme nights are a hoot!
5. 2010-08-04 21:15  
seriously, will anyone date a drag queen?
Comment #6 was deleted by its author on 2010-08-04 21:15
7. 2010-08-04 21:31  
can we have more hunks instead of drags? Are we creating an image that this side of the fence is nothing but pink and limp, falsies and feathers? Why not have more of suits and ties, boots and blue jeans? All sexes go for these.
8. 2010-08-04 22:20  
doesn't matter where in the world they're always pretty horrendous ah! lol ... it's all so last century
9. 2010-08-04 22:43  
I suppose it's like a straight guy understanding a gay one. I don't get it. But good for them. Live your life.
10. 2010-08-04 22:56  
@5 It's a costume - they're actors/entertainers. They don't live in drag offstage. Would anyone date one? Well if they look as good as Wesley Snipes or Guy Pierce (Priscilla QotD) out of costume, probably half the planet would.

As for being so last century (atzlan_oz), I know what you mean but maybe things have evolved since the days of smokey pubs and stale beer, but even if not, why not just let those that enjoy the shows do just that without censorious carping from the sidelines.
11. 2010-08-04 23:04  
a lot of topics abt discrimination treatment in gay community. sometimes i see certain people in gay community has discrimination itself - toward drag in this case.

V r living in an ironic society i guess.
no make-up coating, shit happen!
Comment edited on 2010-08-05 02:09:00
12. 2010-08-05 09:32  
Well spoken #11.

Fridae is open to all and if some think that they only want to see a certain kind of 'category', it's best that they join other sites that fits their fancy and not come here and disparage the wider spectrum of the PLU world for their own short term interests and give the impression that we are cruel/mean to our own PLU kind whilst raving/ranting/expecting fairness from those that marginalise us.

Worst part is that the real drags have to endure a set of double standards where they are tolerated and laughed at for entertainment value on stage but once off, they are deprived and hunted down from a decent life in some countries and forced into prostitution or illegal livelihoods to make ends meet as they are seen as not meeting/toeing the political, social and religious correctness/line.

I do not recall compassion, an intrinsic human quality, having a selective eye, does it?
13. 2010-08-05 12:54  
maximillian has the right stance on the topic. (comment #9)

glad you made it to the fridae spotlight, magnolia. well done.
14. 2010-08-10 16:08  
Tickled pink by Ms Mag. Very fun read, the Taiwanese sound great, and makes me want to go Taipei soon!

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