Drag queen Yuhua Hamasaki opened up about learning to love her Chinese heritage, despite feeling cultural shame upon moving to America.
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly in honour of Asian Heritage month, Chinese-born RuPaul’s Drag Race queen Yuhua Hamasaki, who is now based out of New York, has learned to truly appreciate her heritage, and has encouraged others to celebrate where they come from, despite having once feared parts of her culture.
When Hamasaki came to America, she experienced a culture shock that shook her to her core. She was ashamed to eat Chinese food, and step out in public in Chinese attire. She attributes some of her fears revolving around her culture to society’s portrayal of Asians in media. “They were a deliveryman, a geek, or a loser in the school, and when I saw an Asian girl, she was a prostitute or a slut,” Hamasaki explained to EW.
It was drag that made her feel confident and proud to embrace the Chinese culture. “The only way to experiment with drag wasn’t through YouTube or TV, it was through people you saw in the clubs or people you hung around with, and the people I saw weren’t Asian. So, I wore brown hair and blonde wigs; I wanted to emulate that aesthetic,” she explained. “As I got to do drag more and more, it helped build my confidence. That led me to be more prideful about who I am and my ancestry and heritage and culture. I wanted to be prideful about being Asian.”
In fact, the Asian drag community is rapidly flourishing. In China, drag performance was an obscurity before RuPaul’s Drag Race was its vessel to reach mass audiences. Today, Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is noted as “Asia’s most LGBTQ-friendly city, attracting queer people from all around the world.” In the RuPaul Drag Race world in particular, it is now Asian queens that blow past the white queens after calculating fan base and social media followings.
The first time Hamasaki ever saw an Asian queen on RuPaul’s Drag Race, she rooted for them regardless of if they were the best competitor or not. What really mattered was the fact that there was a new layer of representation and individualism on the show. “Now, you have Crazy Rich Asians, Fresh Off the Boat, more singers, but, 10 years ago on the first season, I wanted Ongina to win just because she’s Asian! Representation is so important, because if you don’t see somebody on TV who looks like you, it makes you feel worthless and under-appreciated.”
Asian Heritage month is all about celebrating the Asian culture and traditions, and to highlight those of Asian descent who have greatly contributed to our society. Despite feeling shameful and embarrassed of her background for many years, Yuhua Hamasaki is not only now fully embracing her identity, but is inspiring others to find ways in which they feel just as comfortable to do so, too.