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Queer Artists in Their Own Words: LaWhore Vagistan Is Your Favorite South Asian Drag Auntie and Academic

LGBTQ Pride Month is now. Every day in June, we are celebrating the community by featuring one queer artist and letting them speak for themselves.

The month of June is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community and reflect on the advances of queer people to strengthen civil liberties around the world, even in a moment of great political uncertainty. It’s also a good opportunity to spotlight the richness and diversity of culture we have within the community. Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one contemporary queer artist per day on the website and letting them speak for themselves. Click here to participate.

LaWhore Vagistan emceeing the Explode! Queer Dance Festival at Jack Theatre in Brooklyn (image courtesy the artist, photo by Al Evangelista)

LaWhore Vagistan

Age: 36

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Artistic Medium: Drag

Who are you and what do you do?

LaWhore Vagistan is everyone’s favorite South Asian drag academic auntie. She brings the nightclub to the classroom and vice-versa by teaching critical race, postcolonial, and gender theories through lip sync and lecture. Her “Lessons in Drag” solo show enacts the pedagogies of queer nightlife by turning the lecture hall into a nightclub and the cabaret into a classroom. With critical theory and costume changes, she engages her audiences with Sufi music, Disney imagery, Bollywood tropes, and auto-ethnographic research. She has performed in the United States at the Austin International Drag Festival, Queens Museum, Jack Theatre, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Austin OUTsider Fest, and in India at the Kitty-Su nightclub franchise. LaWhore is the alter-ego of Kareem Khubchandani, Mellon Bridge Assistant Professor of theatre, dance, and performance studies, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Tufts University.

What are the top three greatest influences on your work?

Hindi cinema, Paris is Burning, and my aunties.

Describe your coffee order.

Regular coffee with a tiny bit of milk and a tinier bit of sugar.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Teaching a semester-long undergraduate course called “Critical Drag” that birthed 21 new baby drag artists.

What constitutes a perfect day?

Four hours of writing. Cooking at least two meals myself. Two hours of TV. One hour of yoga or boot camp. Three hours of friends. A full night’s sleep.

What was your favorite exhibition from last year?

Perverse Pleasures – Queer Digital Shorts from South Asia and the Diaspora in Providence, Rhode Island, curated by Lakshmi Padmanabhan

What would your superpower be if you had one?

Invisibility

Tell us a lie about yourself.

I know how to drive.

What is one question you wish somebody would ask about your work?

How did you select your music?

What is the greatest threat to humanity?

The police.

What did you make when you first started making art?

I was choreographing Bollywood dances for my friends.

Do you prefer spilling the tea or throwing shade?

Spilling the tea! I love a good gossip session, so don’t tell me your secrets.

What is your all-time favorite work of art?

The song “It’s All Coming Back to Me” by Celine Dion

What are your plans for pride month?

Boston Pride, Providence Pride, a conversation on queer photography in NYC, and performing in two different queer dance festivals.

What is the future of queerness?

I wish for trans and non-binary inclusion, fat positivity, an investment in pleasure and excess, and fewer white bodies and western histories in queer discourse and visibility.

Back in my day…

Cruising happened in person and not through digital platforms.

Name one guilty pleasure.

Law & Order SVU.

Greatest queer icon of the internet: Babadook, Momo, or a pervading sense of existential angst?

A pervading sense of existential angst.

Is there enough support for queer artists where you live?

Not at all, especially for artists of color! Our queer community spaces are closing due to corporate gentrification.

How do you stay cool during the summer?

Short shorts. Very short shorts.

What is your favorite type of milk?

Half-and-half for my tea.

“Queer Artists in Their Own Words” is an ongoing feature happening every day in the month of June. For prior posts in the series, please click here.

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