Black and Asian drag artists take centre stage at glittering Clapham cabaret

By Anetha Sivananthan
January 29 2020, 11.25

Clapham’s Two Brewers showcased the finest Black and Asian drag talent last week at Batty Mama’s sing along of the musical classic Dreamgirls.

Batty Mama’s co-founders Ama Josephine Budge, Hakeem Kazeem and Lasana Shabaz met in September 2015 and held their first event in July 2016 with the aim of creating a space where queer people could feel safe.

Hakeem Kazeem said: “The idea is to invest in performances, so we do not rely on gate keepers and other people.”

The name Batty Mama derives from the derogatory term ‘batty boy’ used for gay men in the Caribbean and also refers to anal sex.

DREAMGIRLS REINVENTED: Drag artists take on the characters of the musical’s girl group

Contrastingly, ‘Mama’ maintains and encourages a nurturing stance towards LGBTQ+ identities.

Drag Queen Son of Tutu, 51, who did not reveal his real name, described a drag queen as a person of any gender presenting a persona different to their own.

He said: “A drag queen, like a drag king or non-binary drag act, represents and portray the hopes, desires, fear and weakness of the LGBTQ+ experience and puts it into art whether it’s joy, pain, merriments, desires or social commentary and delivers it back to our people and beyond.

DRAG FOOT FORWARD: The audience participate and compete in Dreamgirls sing along

“Drag has now blown up so much now that all different people do drag, even though a particular television programme may only allow one kind of gender on their programme.”

In a Twitter poll, 66.7% of voters said they have never attended a drag event, while in a similar Instagram poll out of 18 voters, 72% stated they had never attended a drag event illustrating overall similar trends for the attendance of drag events in the UK.

The launch of American reality competition television series RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2009 pushed drag culture further into mainstream culture as it became Logo TV’s highest-rated television program.

The US show will begin its 12th season in February, while the UK version commenced in October 2019.

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK crowned The Vivienne as its first season’s winner. However, on Channel 4’s Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2019 she was accused of being transphobic after agreeing that ‘fishy’ (a reference to the smell of a woman’s vagina being associated with fish) is a way to describe a drag queen who could ‘pass’ for a real woman.

Tutu noted there is an ongoing issue of misogyny in the gay community among cisgender gay men.

He said: “It’s not as bad as it was, but it still exists as does racism.

“It’s up to everyone else who believes otherwise to correct them and make them see that it’s no longer tolerated.”

WOMEN IN RED: Batty Mama promotes diverse drag talent

Dreamgirls reclaims black female narratives, by shifting attention to non-Eurocentric beauty ideals when the group lead’s singer is replaced after fears her plus sized body and distinct voice will not appeal to a white audience.

The 2006 musical comedy, starring Beyonce and Jamie Foxx, was the most expensive film to feature an all African-American cast.

Tutu said that plus sized bodies are fully represented in the drag community and it is something a lot of drag acts are immune from because they are representing someone else.

He said: “In a sense, we are in a position of privilege. The Pit Crew on drag race is one kind of representation of an impossibly muscular body. It just conforms to one kind of body, which I think needs to change.”

Dreamgirls is Tutu’s second drag event with Batty Mama to showcase talent within the BAME community.

AUDIENCE VOTES: Son of Tutu asks the audience to vote for their favourite performer

He said: “It is key because we are underrepresented. We do not get as many platforms to show what we do, what we are capable of and in many of the platforms we do have, we are meant to assimilate and present a particular narrative of who we are, rather than our own voice.”

He remarked organisations like Batty Mama, The Cocoa Butter Club and a few others allow people of colour to express themselves from their own point of view and there is an appetite for it as seen in the sold-out Dreamgirls’ event.  

He added: “All the narratives that we have been fed for years that it is not commerciable is false and it is now being proved by organisation like Batty Mama there is an audience for us. “

For more information on upcoming events with Batty Mama, click here or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Timeline chronicling drag history

Related Articles