Indigenous Drag Queens Are The 'Fabulous' Face Of Resilience
They've come from all around Australia.
They're born to different mobs, different families, and at different times, but there's one thing that unites the finalists in the Miss First Nation competition: boundless resilience.
Miss First Nation is a competition for Indigenous drag queens, who are -- as one finalist put it -- a "minority within a minority within a minority".
That's from the fabulous Zodiac, an Anaiwan queen from Melbourne who travelled to Sydney to take part in the finals week.
"To have spaces like Miss First Nation really creates safety for us and gives us this visibility."
Zodiac told ten daily that she had a supportive experience coming out as queer and as a drag queen, but that's not the experience for many.
Lasey Dunaman, another finalist who hails from the "dusty plains of the Kamilaroi nation" in Lismore, was given a choice when she came out: be straight, or leave. So the day before her 21st birthday, she left.
"I grew up in quite a religious-based family, so there was really a lot of negativity and misunderstanding towards that," she said.
"I'm hoping Miss First Nation might change things back home, I know there's some supportive people out there but there is still some negativity attached."
It's been 15 years since she came out, and in that time she's built her own family network.
"My adopted community in Kempsie, in Dunghutti country, has just been overwhelming with love and support."
MadB, another of the seven finalists and who identifies as nonbinary, took the hate being thrown at them and turned it into an expression of love.
They hail from Canberra, which was the "front line" of the Safe Schools debate, and one day, an abusive video about their former drag name was uploaded.
"Our family went through a whole lot of fun times from that," MadB told ten daily. But then one day, their 12-year-old daughter asked them: "Dad, can't I just call you mum and dad both?"
"I went, hold up," said MadB. "Mum and dad both. M-a-d-B. Oh yeah, that works."
It was "born out of hate to bring love to the world", they said -- and that love is desperately needed. Suicide is a huge issue that disproportionately affects Indigenous communities, and even more so among Indigenous LBGTIQ people.
"Unfortunately, our communities are suffering," said MadB.
It's one of the reasons Miss First Nation has partnered with Black Rainbow, a national volunteer-advocacy program working towards suicide prevention among the LGBTIQ community.
Felicia Foxx, a trans Kamilaroi and Dhungutti queen got into drag when she dressed up for her school's year seven formal as Tina Turner.
"It's incredible to be here as a trans sister and still be accepted in the drag community," she said.
She hails from Campbelltown in western Sydney, where she said they'd never seen a drag queen before.
"Some reactions [when I first got into drag] were negative, but--." She shrugs. "oh well."
She's also hoping to use the Miss First Nation platform to show her community back home, as well as queer Indigenous youth, that there's an incredible acceptance of culture.
"It's important that we have places that accept all of us," she said.
"We're here, we're queer, we're fabulous, and we're not going anywhere."
The Miss First Nation competition will be on all week, culminating in the Grand Final drag show at Sydney's Imperial Hotel, where last year's winner Josie Baker will hand over her crown. You can buy tickets here.
To access support for issues around mental health, contact Black Rainbow or speak to Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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Lead photo: ten daily.