Yukiro Dravarious: ‘Before, drag queens were feared. Now, we’re celebrated!’

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Yukiro Dravarious is a Swedish-born model, musician and drag queen. She has been entertaining Tokyo audiences for the past decade under the name Die Schwarze Frau and runs the horror drag event “Casket of Horrors,” which aims to showcase the talents of drag performers from Japan and abroad.

1. How did you first come to be a drag queen? I watched “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and thought it looked like fun! I created my drag persona from what was already close to me: Evil queens in fiction; horror movies such as the works of Brian De Palma (“Carrie”) and Dario Argento (“Suspiria”); and 1980s alternative music.

2. Did you look to anyone in particular for inspiration? Yes, Sharon Needles from the fourth season of “Drag Race” really got me into doing drag shows.

3. How has “RuPaul’s Drag Race” impacted the drag scene? They’ve given so many opportunities to drag performers; the past decade has been like a drag revolution! Before it seemed like drag queens were feared, but now we’re celebrated. However, it’s unfortunate that the show has also set certain barriers on what a drag artist is supposed to be.

4. How did you choose your drag name, Die Schwarze Frau? My German sister Annika and I came up with it. There’s a ghost story about a widow in black that is the main inspiration, and the German “die” is pronounced “die” (as in death) by people who don’t know the language. I think German sounds rough, so it’s perfect for a villainess like myself.

5. Is it hard to become a drag queen? It’s not difficult nowadays because there’s so much information on how to do drag, and a bigger commercial market for it that didn’t exist when I first began dressing like a girl in high school.

6. What is a Die Schwarze Frau performance like? Traumatic in the best possible way. It’s a bit of horror and camp mixed with fabulous garments and killer tunes.

7. How do you prepare? I come up with a concept of what I want to portray first and then think about outfits and songs to fit the theme, along with dance moves, gimmicks and any props that I’ll need. From coming up with an idea to executing it, that can sometimes take months.

8. What’s the biggest difference between drag in Japan and overseas? The audience. In Japan, we don’t usually get tips while performing. The audiences here are usually calmer and not as in-your-face.

9. What should people keep in mind when they go to a drag show? Be respectful. Don’t touch without asking, and never touch a drag performer’s hair. Try to avoid talking to your favorite queen right after a show because she’ll be drenched in sweat, but do tell us we look gorgeous!

10. How has the pandemic affected drag? Drag was starting to really take off in Tokyo in early 2020 with the Werq the World tour and some big-name Ru-girls (performers from “RuPaul’s Drag Race”) coming here for the first time. Things have kind of gone downward since then.

The members of Haus von Schwarz perform at drag events in Tokyo. | ALEX EHRENREICH

11. Is Japan accepting of drag in general? Yes, we’ve been a part of Japanese culture since men started playing onnagata (female roles) in kabuki performances in the 17th century.

12. What is drag’s connection to LGBTQ culture? To me, drag is a celebration of LGBTQIA culture and an expression of gender and sexuality. Drag performers have always been on the frontlines, fighting for our right to be who we are.

13. You’re in a group called Haus von Schwarz. What is the purpose of a drag house? It’s like a family in that you help and care for each other, but you can also fight a lot. Historically, drag performers would be kicked out by their real families and so drag houses would give them the support they needed.

14. The head of the house is a “mother” who teaches younger performers the ropes. Do all drag queens have mothers? No, I didn’t. It’s more popular in America.

15. Yet, you’ve taken on the role. Who are your drag children? Currently, they are Le Horla, Angel Heart, Stefani St. Sl*t and Summer Balenciaga. Our house also includes drag father Verik, and our maid/grandma Julia YMIT (Your Makeup is Terrible).

16. So I guess all drag performers aren’t “queens”? No, Verik portrays more masculine manifestations and is therefore more of a drag king. Julia YMIT is a bioqueen or AFAB (assigned female at birth) queen, meaning she’s a female impersonator who is a woman herself. Le Horla is a nonbinary performer who takes on both masculine and feminine creations.

17. What are your goals as a drag queen? To get more overseas drag artists to come and experience the shows here in Japan, and have our performers do shows abroad. I want to connect more with alternative drag performers from around the world, and reach those less interested in mainstream drag. We want to be Tokyo’s answer to the TV show “The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula.”

18. What are your interests outside of drag? I create and star in B-movies. I’m working on one right now called “Spoiled Identity.” I sing in an electro-pop band called Denanoma, play video games, read books and watch old horror movies.

19. How would you like to see Japanese drag change in the future? It would be amazing to see drag take off here so that Japanese queens could make a full-time living off of it.

20. It’s Halloweekend, and you’ll be doing a Casket of Horrors show on Oct. 30. What’s in store for us? If you’re looking for a scare this Halloween while social distancing, then look no further! “Haus of Vax” will include live singing, ventriloquism, robot girls, a bathtub full of blood and headpieces beyond your wildest imagination. Everything your dark heart could desire!

“Casket of Horrors 6: Haus of Vax” will be livestreamed free on Oct. 30, from 8-10 p.m. For more information, visit casketofhorrors.com. Yukiro Dravarious is also on YouTube and Instagram.

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