“Behind the Drag” aims to showcase the off-stage lives of some of America’s most talented drag queens. The intimate series gives us the opportunity to meet the people behind our favorite over-the-top drag queens.
Drag king Wang Newton is a fiercely flashy MC, captivating audiences with pizzaz and theatrics. And Newton is proud to be that “cheesy, masculine, suited, Vegas-y guy,” finding liberation in performance.
“There is something that we don’t allow ourselves to fully be,” Newton tells In The Know. “I think drag allows you that.”
For Newton, that means channeling masculinity in cheeky and wonderfully over-the-top ways. Newton describes being a drag king as a “theatrical performance of masculinity” — and his performance is heavy on the theatrics.
But make no mistake, this isn’t the masculinity of your father and grandfather’s generations. Instead, Newton — and the drag king community at large — work to “redefine what masculinity is,” flipping the sometimes toxic trait on its head.
“Wang is a superhero — the guy that saves the day because of that positive, joyously mad attitude,” Newton says.
But that optimistic attitude, even in performance, came hard earned after a challenging childhood.
“My tagline is calling everything number one,” Newton says. “But growing up was not number one.”
Before Newton became Newton, he immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan at 5 years old and soon struggled to find a community. Being a queer, Asian immigrant wasn’t easy, as Newton had virtually zero role models to look toward.
“I didn’t see many people around me who were queer,” Newton says. “Coming out of the closet was a slow process. There was a bit of shame. It felt taboo. At the same time, I remember Oprah said it was OK, so…”
With Oprah’s approval, Newton eventually embraced his queer identity and delved into the world of drag in 2004. In creating a robust drag career, Newton is gifting radical representation to others that he never had as a child.
His drag journey has even taken him back to Taiwan, performing for an audience in his grandiose, gaudy tux and signature quaffed hair.
“When they discovered me, I got to discover myself even more,” Newton says of the experience.
And part of the self-discovery Newton found through drag includes embracing duality as a queer, Asian performer — and reclaiming stereotype as power.
“You have gender plus ethnic stereotypes,” Newton says. “So I like to say I ‘culture f***.’ I will switch it up on you. I will do all those stereotypes so there’s nothing left for you to really say.”
If you enjoyed this story, check out this Miami-based queen who is Black, proud and resilient.
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