It goes without saying that the pandemic has aggravated the ongoing challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community all over the world. Here in Singapore, it has also shed light on the work that still needs to be done in order to achieve equality for all—reaffirming the importance of this year’s Pink Dot event, in particular.
“From a Pride flag being ripped from the countertop of a local eatery and thrown at staff, to the Reddit post that documented the traumatic experience of a transgender student in our school system—these events serve as a reminder that there is still work to be done to foster love and understanding for everyone in Singapore,” reads Pink Dot’s most recent press release.
Pink Dot 13: Let Light Lead The Way is the second digital installation of the event amidst COVID-19, and brings with it a host of familiar faces and performers. Joining the line-up for the third year running is drag queen and theatre-trained wig extraordinaire, Salome Blaque, alongside Vanda Miss Joaquim, Becca D’Bus, Sapphire Blast, Femme Fatale, Ambika Raichand, Vyla Virus, Opera Tang and Elnina. Salome will be wearing local fashion designer and multi-disciplinary artist Samuel Xun’s pillow ensemble piece from his FEMBUOYANT! collection.
Thirty-year-old Fadli Rahman, who started drag full-time in 2018, describes it as freeing: “Drag to me is playful liberation. It gives me a sense of satisfaction similar to when one gets a taste of chocolate.” Approached by an organiser at the now-defunct LGBTQIA+ club Peaches to perform at club night BlaqueOut, Salome Blaque—formerly known as Felicia Blaque—would go on to perform in Berlin, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Drag to me is playful liberation. It gives me a sense of satisfaction similar to when one gets a taste of chocolate.
Today, the Mother of drag collective House of Blaque and “look queen”—who counts local and international drag queens Mama Rima S and Shea Coulee as mentors—is a seasoned pro and owner of Wigs by Salome. She is also synonymous with her striking neon wigs, piercing contacts and “classic glam diva from the streets” aesthetic. This year, she adds Xun’s designs to the mix. And given that the buzzy 27-year-old designer’s work is rooted in themes of irony, camp, queerness and humour—that extend to lush accent homewares and bespoke pieces—we’d say it’s a match made in drag heaven.
Ahead of Salome’s performance at Pink Dot 13, the influential local creatives chat to Vogue Singapore about visibility, personal activism and their hopes for the LGBTQIA+ community in the future.
Salome, what made you decide to wear a local designer for Pink Dot this year? And Samuel, why was it particularly significant for you to dress Salome?
Salome: The Father of House of Blaque used to coordinate my looks from head to toe but this year, it just felt right to wear a local designer. What better way to support local than to have it showcased in front of thousands of people who are watching the livestream?
Samuel: Visibility. Salome could have gone with anyone else. Everyone loves to float this idea of supporting the local fashion scene but few are willing to do the legwork. Salome did the legwork alright, in heels too.
Everyone loves to float this idea of supporting the local fashion scene but few are willing to do the legwork. Salome did the legwork alright, in heels too.
This is Pink Dot’s 13th year running. What’s your personal relationship with the movement and why is it important to you?
Salome: As queens, we are loud, we are in your face and our voices matter for those who are silenced or aren’t ready.
Samuel: I’m more a behind-the-scenes, “let’s-invade-through-my-work-type” of person. But I’ve steadily kept up with Pink Dot’s growth and am also grateful we have it here. It’s great that I’m finally a part of it this year in a small way.
Salome, describe your look this year.
Salome: I’m wearing hair from Wigs by Salome with a clean pulled back beat to balance it out, along with a mesh bodysuit that compliments Samuel Xun’s piece and a pair of snakeskin booties.
Samuel, tell us about the inspiration behind the pillow ensemble piece.
Samuel: The piece is from my FEMBUOYANT! collection and was inspired by tropes of Euro-American campness through the lens of Asian queerness. In the spirit of irony in campness, I was toying with this idea that inanimate campy objects (like a pillow) could combine to be an ensemble.
There is a certain level of activism and authenticity drag brings to queer culture and that has informed my work to a great extent.
How has drag culture influenced your work?
Samuel: I actually did a thesis that focused on campness in the locale of Singapore where I interviewed local queens, one of them being Farrah Shamrock. There is a certain level of activism and authenticity drag brings to queer culture, and that has informed my work to a great extent.
Since fashion and drag are so interconnected, how do you think the local fashion and drag scene can continue to work and support one another?
Samuel: I think support can come in many ways, not just designers customising or loaning a garment. A simple social shoutout and proper crediting goes a long way.
Salome: It is interconnected but it is also a question of pushing the envelope rather than playing it safe with brands.
Salome, COVID-19 has also affected the livelihood of the drag community. How have you and others navigated this?
Salome: Wigs by Salome has helped me through this pandemic. I changed my target market from being just a performing artist. For others, they either got booked for online shows or found a 9-5 job.
Additionally, how can one be a better ally?
Salome: If you don’t tip your queens, it’s fine, but go support the shelters. It will help them in ways you can’t imagine.
What would you like to see change with regards to LGBTQIA+ rights in Singapore?
Salome: I hope to see the repeal of 377A in Singapore soon so people like me get to love openly with no judgement.
Samuel: Non-queer people making decisions for the entire queer community.