Naia soars to ‘Drag Den’ supremacy 

PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF PRIME VIDEO Naia crowned as the Drag Supreme.

Twenty-six-year old drag performer Naia is the Drag Supreme, winning Drag Den on the finale episode of the drag reality competition series, which streamed on 26 January on the streaming platform Prime Video. A finale show was also held on the same night at the Samsung Hall in SM Aura Premier in Taguig City.

Naia’s fellow finalists, Shewarma and Maria Christina, were declared first and second runners-up, respectively. The three finalists went through five rounds of pageant-style challenges.

The eighth episode, “Round 7: Drag Encounter,” started with a performance by RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Manila Luzon, the main host of show, designated as Drag Lord, of the Drag Den theme song.

Before the first challenge, the three finalists recalled their journeys as drag performers and on the competition.

The first challenge was on national costume. As Karagatan, Maria Cristina wore a glittery terno, designed by Jobert Cristobal, inspired by the sea. With lobster accents on the hair and at the back, she wanted to highlight the crustacean’s survival abilities. On the other hand, Shewarma, as Bumba, wore a furry, bomb-inspired costume designed by Kian Pascual with a hairdo shaped like a fuse. As Myrna, Naia came in a look inspire by the baro’t saya with a salakot on her head, holding a sheaf of rice stalks. The dress, designed by her boyfriend Miyamoto Shin, has prints of Fernando Amorsolo paintings depicting bucolic rural scenes.

The finalists wore their swimsuits —Maria Cristina as Kalangitan, Shewarma as Fireball and Naia as Elnora — for the swimsuit round and also for the Dragdagulan challenge which was a three-way
lip-synch battle to the song “Kilometro” of Sarah Geronimo.

For the long gown portion, Maria Cristina came out as Kalupaan, whose beaded gown depicted two roosters. Shewarma came out as Phoenix Rise in a black mermaid gown accented by yellow and orange ruffles and with a phoenix headpiece. Naia as Aura continued her tribute to Philippine art with her gown and a frame as neckpiece.

Drag Runner Sassa Gurl, Drag Dealer Nicole Cordoves, and the rest of the queens — Aries Night, Barbie-Q, Lady Gagita, O-A, and Pura Luka Vega — served as annotators.

The final segment was a question-and-answer challenge in which the three must answer one question in one minute: “What is the one and only one quality that makes you the true Drag Supreme?”

Maria Cristina answered: “The one quality that will make me the one Drag Supreme amongst all the other queens that are in here this competition is my ability to be selfless. I have experienced all the challenges that anyone could possibly experience in anyone’s life, and I believe that everything that I have learned throughout my life are the exact main reason why I’m standing here right now. And those challenges and those learnings that I have been able to learn throughout my experience are the exact thing that I’m willing to share to the entire world — my passion, my art, and my journey — and I’m standing right in front of you as a symbol of resilience, of hope, of faith, and of dreaming, that if you would not stop keeping and dreaming and believing in yourself, you can achieve the impossible things this life has to offer.”

The three finalists, Maria Cristina, Shewarma and Naia at the finale show at Samsung Hall.


On the other hand, Shewarma said, “Ang isang quality na mayroon ako para maging Drag Supreme is pagiging masipag. One year and eights pa lang ako nag-da-drag, and sobrang proud ako sa sarili ko and ‘yung family ko proud sa ‘kin dahil nakapasok ako sa Drag Den Philippines. And alam kong kaya ko pang galingan at alam kong may ibubuga pa ako. Hindi pa ako ‘eto ‘yun pero proud ako kung anuman mayroon ako ngayon. And as isang drag queen, marami rin akong napagdaanang pagsubok sa buhay and nilaban ko ito. Like a phoenix, Shewarma rises from the ashes. And sinubukan ako ng sitwasyon pero ‘andito ako, head held up high at patuloy na lalaban (The one quality that I have to be a Drag Supreme is being diligent. I have been doing drag for one year and eight months only but I am very proud of myself, and my family is proud of me because I was able to enter Drag Den Philippines. And I know I can be better and I have more to give. This is not yet the real me but I proud of what I have achieved now. As a drag queen, I have undergone many challenges in life and I kept fighting. Like a phoenix, Shewarma rises from the ashes. I was tested by the situation but I am still here, head held up high and still fighting).”

Shewarma performing Katy Perry’s ‘Rise.’

Naia was able to impress the judges the most with her answer.

“Coming here to this competition, I did not come here with the biggest budget or the best gowns and the best wigs. I only came here with love and passion for drag,” she said. “And when I auditioned, I knew that Drag Den was for the underdogs. And I have that quality of growth that I have exhibited ever since Day 1. I’ve stumbled and I’ve gone through so much hardship, especially in this competition. And Manila, you’ve opened my eyes to what drag could truly be. It is freedom of expression and I can’t be more happy to be here.”

She added, “I hope that my story inspires young queer artists who are afraid of putting themselves out there, because I was afraid. But thank you Manila for giving this platform because I was able to prove that growth is what you need to become the next Drag Supreme. I hope I made you proud. Thank you, Manila.”

Supporters came to the finale show to cheer for Naia.

The judges — Manila Luzon, Cordoves, and the eliminated queens — deliberated on the three’s performances. Before announcing the winner, the show paid tribute to three older queens who paved way for Philippine drag — 53-year-old Pie, 62-year-old Letlet, and 67-year-old Bobby.

“Your presence here tonight means so much not just to me but to everyone here in the Den, because your blessing to the queen who wins tonight means so much,” Manila said. “We believe that you as the pioneers of Pinoy drag deserve the respect and the recognition for your bravery, for your love of the art of drag. You were here when drag was just confined to small underground clubs and barangay fiestas. You were here when Pinoy queens were considered freaks. But in the end, you proved everyone wrong. You thrived. And without queens like you, a show like this wouldn’t be possible. Maraming salamat from the bottom of my Pinoy drag heart.”

The three finalists were presented for the last time and Naia was crowned the Drag Supreme. She will take home over P1,000,000 worth of prizes.

During the live crowning at Samsung Hall, Naia delivered a brave speech, saying, “Honestly, the one message that I want to impart to everyone, especially to young queer artists like me, is never give up on yourself. We have much to do in this country, in a country that silences dissent. We have so much to do. And as drag queens, as queer icons, we could use our voice to empower others, and to lift our spirits up… Should I have said that? Bawal ba ‘yon? Wala tayong pake (We don’t care)! Drag is political! Drag is comprehensible!”

Special awards were also given to the other contestants — the Panlasang Pinay Award or Miss Photogenic to O-A; the Aling Puring Award or the Best in Merch to Lady Gagita; the Miss Understood Award or the Look Queen to Aries Night; the Miss Fortune Award or Ranked Last But Still Served to Pura Luka Vega; and the Grand Mother Award or Dead Mother Dead All to Barbie-Q.

Wearing fabulous outfits, they also performed in a mini-concert — Pura Luka Vega lip-synced to Ella Fitzgerald’s “Cry Me a River;” O-A to “What Does The Fox Say?”; Aries Night to a Filipino song; Lady Gagita to Lady Gaga’s “Applause;” Maria Cristina to “I Have Nothing;” and Shewarma to Katy Perry’s “Rise.” Naia performed an Itzy song.

Sassa Gurl sang “Sulutera,” while Manila Luzon performed “Drag Den.”

Manila Luzon crowning Naia during the finale show at Samsung Hall of SM Aura mall.

Hailing from Las Piñas, Naia, whose real name is Brian Black, graduated from the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Mass Communication in 2020, and immediately pursued doing drag with a punk-glam aesthetic and as Tanya Sativa before choosing his present drag name. He has performed at Elephant, Bekenemen, Butterboy Bakehouse, O Bar and Nectar Nightclub.

Residing in Bulacan, Maria Cristina, or Maria Cristina Black dela Merced or MC, is a choreographer and a stage director, who has been doing drag from 13 years. He is the founder of Drag Academy and one of the hosts of Drag Playhouse’s “Love, Sex, and Drag” talk show. He works for Spaces MNL.

From Parañaque, Arab-Filipino Shewarma is the drag daughter of Maria Cristina. He was into theater during his school days. He became junior artistic director of Teatro de Letran of Colegio de San Juan de Letran. He started doing drag during the lockdowns because of the coronavirus pandemic. He is a regular performer at Nectar Night Club, Butterboy, Empty Stomach and Baksilog.

Created and directed by transgender woman filmmaker Rod Singh, Drag Den is considered the first Filipino-produced drag reality competition series. Produced by CS Studios and Project 8 Projects, it started streaming on 8 December 2022. All eight episodes are available for streaming on Prime Video site and app.

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