“Like Kamal Hassan in the movie Chachi 420 — or Avvai Shanmugi — I feel like I’m living a dual life as well,” says Beyonce, a drag queen living in Bengaluru.
Needless to say, Beyonce is not her real name — but she assumes the identity when she is not around her parents, to whom she hasn’t come out yet. “I’m unsure of how they will react,” she tells The Better India.
At the age of nine, Beyonce realised she was different. She liked to dress up, but would do so only when her parents weren’t at home.
“I loved wearing my sister’s jewellery, clothes…I would hang out with girls most of the time. One time, I tried wearing my younger sister’s gown, which mom had bought for her birthday. As it was small for me, I was unable to remove it, and it tore. I still remember the day clearly, as it was the first gown I ever wore,” she recalls.
During a time before the internet, and in a small town in Tamil Nadu, she says she didn’t have access to other people like her.
“I didn’t know what I was feeling. I liked dressing up and felt comfortable around girls. I liked the femininity within me. That’s all I knew at that time. As I grew up, I realised that I am not a boy. Since there was no exposure to the LGBTQ+ community at that time, I had no one to speak to. I had so many questions. Other children would make fun of me as I didn’t play any sports. I didn’t have any friends till I reached Class 10,” she adds.
Beyonce says she was humiliated and taunted for walking and talking differently. These challenges made her a silent child. It was only after Class 10 that she made some friends.
She moved to Bengaluru after Class 12 for college, and to see if there are more people like her.
“My life changed in Class 11, when I met a guy who was gay. He was my first true friend, and we’re in touch even today. He introduced me to two others, and the four of us were inseparable for those two years. This friendship gave me confidence. After moving to Bengaluru two years later, I finally started to feel like myself. I formed good friendships that have lasted till today,” she says.
She worked as a cabin crew member for a few years. Around the same time, someone suggested that she become a makeup artist, owing to her love for the art.
Around 2013, she took up a job with an international makeup brand. Even at work, she faced questions, she recalls. “I used to wear eye makeup, and people who came to the store would ask me, ‘Are you a guy or girl?’ Awareness was low at the time. But I loved my job, as I got to wear makeup proudly,” she says.
Today, she is a professional makeup artist, stylist, and model.
A queen by night
In 2015, Beyonce started watching drag shows. She says that the fact that men would dress up, wear makeup, dance, and express themselves instantly attracted her to the form. She felt she belonged there, and started performing as a drag queen in 2018.
“I loved the fact that men dressed up and performed without any inhibitions. I was instantly attracted to that culture. They are not transforming forever, just for a few hours. And that struck a chord with me,” she says
While she started with the name Sara, she says the audience wanted her to change it to Beyonce.
“I absolutely love Beyonce. I would perform a lot of her songs. People in the audience would call me Beyonce. That’s how I changed my name.”
The 28-year-old does her own styling, makeup, and hair for her shows. She says it’s almost therapeutic for her. “I get ready alone. I find it peaceful. It takes about two to three hours to get ready. I design my clothes and have them stitched by a tailor, or buy them readymade in some cases. I love drag, and finally feel like I found my calling. It allows me to dream, and be myself without the judgement of others.”
Beyonce regularly performs in Bengaluru, at places like Kitty Ko and Dude Party. She has even performed in Chennai. She does a variety of characters, from Cinderella, to Kanchana.
She won the Ms Rainbow Pride of India 2022, held by the Hey (Human Empowerment with You) Foundation.
While she gets adulation and love whenever she dons the role of Beyonce, at home, with her family, she continues living as a boy. “My family loves me. I always help my mom, sister and other relatives when they shop. I help them buy sarees, dresses, and design blouses. I do makeup for everyone at family functions. I’m just looking for the right time to open up to my family, as my siblings are still studying,” she explains.
On social media, she follows no one other than Beyonce, to avoid being discovered by her family. But despite the challenges and the ‘dual life’ she leads, she says she loves her life.
“I feel feminine, but I don’t want to transition. I am happy the way God has made me, and don’t want to change the body he gave. This is not the correct body for me, but I have accepted it. I can be whoever I want, a guy by day and a queen by night. I am comfortable this way,” says Beyonce.
Edited by Divya Sethu