Sunday, January 29 2017, 08:17:47
  • fatasstic
  • She Says

Jayati Godhawat

IWB Blogger

India’s Own Drag Queen, Mayamma Unwraps To JWB The Life Of A Queer Man

  • IWB Post
  •  January 16, 2017


is bringing to India the art of performing as a drag queen and how! Draped in a saree,  aka Alex sings, dances, and acts to address the issues of gender fluidity and identity.

Drag Queen is a person, usually male, who dresses as a woman and acts with exaggerated femininity and takes up feminine gender roles. However, people who perform as drag queens are often confused as gay men or cross dressers, and this is exactly what Alex is trying to change.

Probably the first Drag Queen of India, Alex’s journey of embracing himself and shattering all the stereotypes that tried conforming him to the societal boundaries is liberating.

In a rather candid conversation, Alex and ‘Mayamma’ bared their souls to us:

JWB: What made you realize that you didn’t want to conform to a specific gender?

Alex: I was 25 years old that I realized one’s sexuality and gender did not have to fall into societal norms and rules. It took me time to draw the strength from within to come out of the closet. I decided to be a drag queen.

JWB: Who did you first share your realization with? What was their reaction?

Alex: When I understood myself completely, I shared this realization with a friend of mine who is a transman. And I remember him saying that I shouldn’t think twice about my decision to perform as a drag queen. 

JWB: Who inspired you to become a drag queen?

Alex: Ahhh! It was Robin Williams who acted as Mrs. Doubtfire in the movie which triggered something in me. And then there were Dame Edna & Rupaul. When I saw their performances, I always thought, this is what I want to do!

Now, Alex himself is inspiring millions of people to own their identity and live their dreams.

JWB: What is the one thing you are tired of hearing from:

Alex: Cisgenders:

When you become gay, you become a cross-dresser also?

LGBT community:

When is sex reassignment surgery scheduled?

You wear saree, right? Are you part of the hijra community?

Family and friends:

I don’t understand this woman who is Mayamma. Can you please stop talking about her? 

JWB: How is Mayamma similar to and different from Alex?

Alex: We are of the same body and mind. There are times when Mayamma is seen fiercer and more outspoken than Alex. And, I think that’s because, on stage, you are given a platform to be a voice to all those people who aren’t able to speak up for themselves for various reasons. Also, Alex and Mayamma, both, love to keep it simple and not complicate matters. 

JWB: What other stereotypes are you breaking through your performances?

Alex: So many! People think that “Men can’t wear sarees or shouldn’t know how to tie a saree.”  Why not? I think all of them should know how to do it. How else will they help their partner wear one?

Also, I truly believe and stand up for issues such as feminism, gender equality, and individualism. And, I think everyone should be bold and liberal enough to speak their mind. Nobody should be scared of anyone. 

JWB: What according to you is the biggest challenge in coming out of the closet and owning your identity?

Alex: The biggest challenge is being able to love the way you are and to be bold. It took 25 years for me to get out of the damn closet. It isn’t easy. It took me 6 months to frame my coming-out email to my parents. 

JWB: Your bridal shoot was one-of-its-kind. What urged you to do it?

Alex: I have made a background story about Maya. She had moved to Bangalore because of her long time boyfriend, Anand. I did this shoot because I wanted the character to grow and inspire people. I wanted to spread the message that it’s ok to dream about marriage and it doesn’t have to necessarily conform to societal norms. 

JWB: As you are a non-conformist, do you believe in the institution of marriage?

Alex:  Yes, of course! I do believe in the institution of marriage. Everyone dreams of settling down. It doesn’t have to be in the traditional way and can be according to one’s individual choice.

I agree! It’s a mutual union of two souls and it should be up to them to decide how they want to commit to each other.

JWB:  What was your reaction to seeing Alex as Mayamma for the first time after makeup? Share with us your memories of the first performance? Were you nervous or excited?

Alex: I thought Maya was the most beautiful person I had ever come across. I was petrified that I am doing something out of the box and was clueless on how people would perceive me as a drag queen. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I was taking the biggest risk of my life. But, I still believe, it’s the most brilliant decision I have taken so far.

JWB:  Your mother gifted you her saree for your first performance. However, they weren’t supportive later. What do you think changed their minds? How did you resolve it?

Alex: We realized that we were hurting each other. Now, they moved into the same city that I live in and I keep resolving the differences by visiting them and making them understand about myself and the art. It might take some time, but, I know they’ll get there someday.

JWB:  One troll or negative comment which hurt you the most? How did you fight it?

Alex: That drag hurts people. I was like it’s stupidity in another level. I even recreated the popular song,’Cheap thrills,’ to fight against such stupid and insensitive comments. 

Come on, come on, turn the radio on
It’s Friday night and it won’t be long
Gotta do my hair, put my make-up on
It’s Friday night and it won’t be long ’til I

Hit the dancefloor
Hit the dancefloor
I got all I need
No, I ain’t that manly
I ain’t that manly
But I am a fierce drag queen

Baby I don’t need your hatred to have fun tonight
(I love drag queens!)
Baby I don’t need your hatred to have fun tonight
(I love drag queens!)
I don’t need no hatred
As long as I can feel the love
I don’t need no hatred
As long as I keep dancing

Wow! I don’t need no hatred. *humming*

JWB: I’m Always Hungry Jayati! If you were to add an adjective to Mayamma and Alex what would it be?

Alex:  Fierce Mayamma and Humble Alex

JWB:  What is that one childhood fantasy of yours that you wish come true?

Alex: Meeting Rekha or Madhuri Dixit in person and performing with them. 

JWB:  What’s your favorite attire to perform in and why?

Alex: Of course, the Saree! If you have a sexy body, sari flaunts it in all the right places. Hahaha! I love it because it represents the style of an Indian woman and of course, I am an Indian drag queen. 

True that!

JWB:  One beauty ritual before you perform?

Alex: Shaving and cleansing my face as I need to serve the illusion of a woman.

JWB: One actress wardrobe you would like to steal a saree from?

Alex: Madhuri Dixit! She and I have so many things in common. I love to be expressive like her.

Are you reading this Madhuri?

JWB:  If you had to depict your life through your performance as a drag queen, how would you show it?

Alex: I would start by the difficulties I faced as a closeted gay man and then how I unleashed the fierce drag queen by breaking down the closet.


JWB:  What are your hopes for 2017 as a Queer man living in India?

Alex: I hope to inspire people, especially Indians. It’s high time that people realize Indian drag queens do exist and shouldn’t be associated with the transgender community. It is an art form like any other and it’s here to stay.

JWB lauds the free-spirited attitude of Alex Mathew and hopes that his story will remind us that each of us is one-of-its-kind with a different set of dreams, hopes, and choices and that the first step to change is to fully embrace our true selves.

Photo Source:

Contact us for your story


Leave a Comment

  • JWB along with the brand Jewel Saga bring you a selfie contest inspired by the campaign AidToMaid.