At a downtown Sao Paulo tattoo studio, drag performer Hinacio King has a six-pack contoured onto their abdomen and their breasts tightly tapped down to transform into their alter ego.
King is participating in Brazil’s King of Kings competition, the first of its kind where 15 drag kings from around the country compete to win the title.
“I just want to cause a bit of a shock. I want to make white cis heterosexual boys feel uncomfortable; that’s my goal”, said King, 33, who, out of drag, goes by Sarah Franchine, an occupational therapist who works with children.
Drag kings are mostly female or transgender performers playing exaggerated male characters, but the contest is open to anyone.
“It’s historic because we don’t have a contest or an event dedicated to drag kings in Brazil,” said 43-year-old drag king Lorde Lazzarus, who organized the event.
“For me, drag came as a gender expression at first because I am transgender, but I didn’t realize that when I was a kid. I established myself as a drag king, and that was a way I found to express myself as a performer and also as a step in my discovery that I was transgender,” Lazzarus said.
The first competition had been planned for 2020 but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was held virtually in 2021. Despite little funding and a few technical hiccups, this year’s contest was held in a small, somewhat rundown Sao Paulo theater on Sunday night and was a triumph.
Contestants traveled from across the country, including a belly-dancing elf with pointy ears and another in elaborate Pope-like attire who was soon half-naked and writhing on the floor with a dagger.
Many of the acts carried messages about social issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community through artistic performances.
King, who sports a glittery blue and pink beard to represent the colors of the transgender flag, gave an energetic performance to a song that talked about the killing of transgender women in Brazil, receiving one of the loudest rounds of applause of the evening.
“Doing a performance where I deconstruct myself, I start from a very macho place and deconstruct myself throughout the performance until I become a very gay character,” King said.
Lazzarus says they want Brazilians to embrace more of the art of LGBT people.
“Embrace LGBT culture and have more affection for LGBT artistic expressions,” said Lazzarus, who plans to grow the competition and get more sponsors next year.
“We (drag kings) have very little space and we are still in the country that kills the most trans people in the world,” Lazzarus said.