Asifa Lahore is a prominent United Kingdom-based drag queen and DJ with a South Asian background and British upbringing. Seen as a global pioneering figure of the "Gayasian" community and a highly visible individual among the new generation of London drag queens, Lahore is embarking on a new venture that seeks to bring visibility to ethnic minorities in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Having produced music videos in the past, Lahore is currently engaged in a Indiegogo campaign for his latest project -- a more serious video than his previous comedy-focused work. The Huffington Post caught up with Lahore last week to discuss his rise to prominence in the London drag cabaret and club scene, why the artist feels this new project is necessary, and his goals in terms of visibility for LGBT ethnic minorities through this music video.
The Huffington Post: Could you give us a bit of background on yourself and the type of work that you've done in the past?
I am a British Asian drag artist on the LGBT London cabaret and club scene. I am a self-proclaimed curry queen, performer, hostess and DJ, mixing together elements of my Asian background, British upbringing and uncanny flair for glamour and comedy. I won the bronze medal at the prestigious Drag Idol UK 2012 and perform regularly in cabaret venues. In addition, I host and DJ at two of London’s most successful World Music nights, Club Urban Desi and Disco Rani.
As a fully out and proud British Muslim, I am seen as a global pioneering figure within the gay Asian community and a highly visible figure of the new generation of drag queens on the London circuit. I use social media to advocate LGBT activism and push the boundaries through my music videos.
What does it mean to be a "curry queen"?
I started going on the London club scene in my late teens and kept being called a curry queen, which is London gay slang for an LGBT person of South Asian descent. At the time, I hated that term because I wasn’t confident and hadn’t reconciled my ethnicity and sexuality -- but the older I got, the more I embraced it. Now I love being called a curry queen!
What are you trying to accomplish with this music video? Why is this important?
Visibility of black and Asian minority ethnic communities is particularly low in the UK on a mainstream platform. I believe we are lagging behind the rest of the world in this respect. In the US, black men like Frank Ocean and Jason Collins are very visible to their peers and India’s globally popular cinema, Bollywood, has recently showcased homosexuality in films such as "Dostana," "English Vinglish" and "Dunn Y, Na Jaane Kyu." However, I genuinely feel that in the UK, despite living in both multicultural societies and having many human rights as LGBT people, visibility is very poor. I would like to change that by showing that BAME LGBT people exist through my next music video and aren’t afraid of being visible -- which I think is the perception out there. This is really important, as I think LGBT ethnic minorities in the UK need to have a reference point and inspire a new generation of youngsters that are coming out younger. I’d like to know I’ve done something for the community by pushing the boundary forward.
How will this video be different from your past videos?
My previous music videos have had a comedy element to them, as they are parodies based on stereotypes of my Asian and Muslim backgrounds combined with my British upbringing. This new video will be my first in Urdu/Hindi and have a much more serious and poetic tone. There’s different sides to every drag queen and this video will show a more thoughtful side to my repertoire. I’m excited to be using my male persona for the first time as well, and I feel this is relevant for this song and message. It’s like I’m coming out all over again!
Why do you think visibility of ethnic minorities identifying as LGBT is so low? Why is it important to provide these groups of people visibility?
I think it’s down to a mixture of reasons. Culture and religion obviously play a huge part, as homosexuality is seen as a very taboo subject. However, so was the subject of interracial relationships 20 odd years ago. Now, if you look in both the Black and Asian communities in the UK, this subject has gotten much better and I believe the same can happen with LGBT issues. I think right now the obstacle is the lack of role models in our communities. People feel they don’t have a reference point and everything is still underground, despite Black and Asian LGBT communities existing for over two decades in London’s club scene.
How do you intend to provide visibility to ethnic minorities identifying as LGBT through this video?
That’s a very simple answer. First, I sincerely believe the need for this video is there because the community want this to happen. I am currently running a campaign to fundraise £3000 for it and so far 72.5 percent has been donated by the community. With 32 days still to go I am very confident the community will deliver, thus conforming the need. Secondly, I will be including real people -- couples and prominent figures -- from all sections of Black and Asian communities to feature in this video in order to increase visibility and generate discussion.
What is it like identifying as a muslim in the drag world?
Challenging but enjoyable to say the least. In my first show in the drag cabaret world I came in wearing a burqa and people didn’t quite know how to take me. They weren’t sure whether to laugh in case they offended anyone. I’ve had to work hard over the last two years to refine my act in order to please my own community, as well as pushing boundaries on the mainstream LGBT scene where all sorts of perceptions of muslims are rife.
For more information on Asifa Lahore or to contribute to his project, check out the artist's Indiegogo campaign.