It’s here and it’s queer: “Drag Race Philippines” has finally arrived. It’s been a long time coming, what with the country’s rich history of drag and so many drag artists brimming with talent and hungry for recognition.
One of the queens on everyone’s frontrunner lists is Marina Summers, the producer-turned-drag star who’s been consistently turning out looks with her beach-ready style (“Marina is my way to bring the sea to the city,” she says) and killer performances. She’s a funny queen as well. Her talking heads in the show are some of the most entertaining—and prior to “Drag Race,” she was the queen in the once-viral Nectar photos, where she looks on forlornly at couples making out.
Though she’s relatively new to the scene—her drag journey started in her bedroom in 2019—she already has so much under her belt. Aside from participating in the inaugural season of “Drag Race Philippines,” she won local queer bar Nectar’s Drag Cartel in 2019, and then its All Stars version in 2020. She also co-founded drag entertainment provider Drag Playhouse with fellow drag queens Eva Le Queen, Prince, and OV Cunt; the first two of which also ended up competing on “Drag Race.”
“We kind of expected it,” she said about them taking part in the reality competition. “We started dreaming about it during the pandemic and after a year, we got to live that dream na. It’s like a full-circle moment, for us three specifically, but for OV as well… Collectively, we’re very, very proud of this milestone. It’s proof na we’re something talaga, what we did together is worth something. A dream of one is a dream of everyone for us.”
Marina Summers had a unique start. She went from being a producer of a Nectar drag queens feature in 2018 (after watching a clip of Sasha Velour’s “So Emotional” finale performance, she was hooked on “Drag Race” and knew she needed to do a feature on the local scene), to becoming a performer herself a year later. And this was after she declared to herself that “hindi ko gagawin ’yan ever.”
Hailing from Nueva Vizcaya, she recalls the repercussions of hosting a school event while dressed as a girl. “Pinagalitan ako ng mom ko kasi binubully daw ’yung kuya ko because of that. Parang dalang-dala ko na hindi na ako magdadamit ng pambabae kasi ayaw kong pagalitan ng mom ko. Ayaw kong mabully ’yung mga kapatid ko.”
She’s quick to point out though that her family “turned out to be the biggest supporters naman in fairness. My mom is actually the one who encouraged me to join ‘Drag Race’ talaga.”
“Tawag sa kanya ng LGBT community, Mommy Summers,” she says about her mom.
In this Preen exclusive, we talked to the queen about her journey from a producer to a drag star, her childhood dream, and what she loves most about drag.
So who is Marina Summers?
So generally, Marina Summers is a tropical Filipina bombshell queen. My aesthetic is based on my love for the beach. Prior to doing drag, one of my jobs was producing a travel show. Doon ko parang na-finesse ’yung love ko for the beach. There are times na I have to work in Manila and I don’t have the time and energy—siyempre, may work nga—so hindi ako makapunta sa beach. So Marina is my way to bring the sea to the city. At first, she was just an escape for me. But then things flourished for her and it became a career. I’ve been doing it professionally for two years now.
What’s your style of performance?
I’m very particular with the looks I bring out when I perform. There’s a lot of skin. There’s a lot of legs, body. My silhouette is very tight and sleek and small. So when I perform, malalaki ’yung dance details, if that makes sense.
She’s very sultry when she performs. Sultry, fierce, and diva, very that when I perform. Very superstar-pop star energy lang. Every now and then I like to go a little bit slow with the song choices, pero definitely most of the time [I do] dancy, tropical, diva beats. Beyonce, JLo, Doja Cat. That’s what she brings every time she does a show.
I know at the Bekenemen show at Pride, you did a Didith Reyes song.
Yes, you guys were there nga when I did “Bakit Ako Mahihiya”! There was a time na I was very, very inspired by classic Filipina ballads like “Ako Ay Nagwagi” or “Bakit Ako Mahihiya.” Mga Pilita Corales, Didith Reyes.
That night, I wanted to pay tribute to queer couples or throuples. ’Yung essence kasi ng song, diba, is bakit ako mahihiya na iniibig kita. That was the main concept of that performance. Every now and then very conceptual naman ’yung performances ko. Kahit magsasayaw lang ako, kailangan may story siya. I just love telling stories through music, and that’s why I chose that song.
I was actually also at O Bar [when you did “Woman” by Doja Cat].
Hello, yes! That’s my go-to, actually. Feeling ko anthem ko ngayon. It was made for me. That song was made for Marina (laughs).
Can you expound a bit on your drag journey?
When I was growing up, I watched a lot of Miss Universe. [And Miss Universe], if she’s not in a swimsuit, she’s in an evening gown. When she’s not in an evening gown, nasa national costume siya. So very bombshell woman ’yung vibe that she gives off. When I started, I knew what I was going for. [But] when you’re starting, wala ka pang resources. You don’t know how to do everything pa. It took me a bit of a journey to stamp [out] my brand.
And for me, brand is very, very important. When your brand is distinct, people will remember you. I don’t think there’s other drag queens that do the brand that I do yet here in the Philippines. I’m very proud of the work that I was able to put out and make a name for Marina.
When I was starting out, hindi pa fully realized. I was a hot pot. So ’yung performances ko, it ranged from Beyonce to Whitney, biglang mag-Do-Donna Summers, biglang mag-JLo, alam mo ’yun? That first year was the year of exploration for me and Marina. But later on I was able to find what works for the brand, what works for Marina and her audience.
Where have you been performing?
First year ko, I was in a club. Second year ko, I was doing virtual. Third year ko, I was doing tours, different venues to do drag. So parang tatlo siyang magkakaibang journey for me.
Magkakaiba this year, which I like because I get to meet a lot of people. Hindi lang siya circulating crowd who just want to get drunk. What I love most about brunches, dinners, pop-up events, viewing parties, is that they really come for drag.
“Hindi lang pang-intermission ’yung drag. Hindi na lang palamuti, hindi na lang siya fanfare sa shows. Now we’re really seeing that drag is the focal point of most shows.”
It’s about time. I mean, hindi lang pang-intermission ’yung drag. Hindi na lang palamuti, hindi na lang siya fanfare sa shows. Now we’re really seeing that drag is the focal point of most shows. Well, O Bar ever since naman talaga [does that, and] what they give is really full production drag. And ’yun ’yung maganda eh, na people go there to really watch drag. We’re seeing more of that this year, which I like, and we hope to see that more in the future.
We love to see it. You were one of the co-founders of Drag Playhouse PH. Can you talk about how that started?
So Drag Playhouse consists of four drag artists: Eva [Le Queen], the matriarch. Marina, myself, I’m the creative director. Si Prince ang social media manager namin. Si OV Cunt is our fashion and styling director.
We started Drag Playhouse during the pandemic. Siyempre walang clubs, lahat sarado. The goal [then] of Drag Playhouse was to bring drag outside the clubs and provide more options for people to watch and experience drag.
Usually online parties ’yung ginagawa namin, pero ’yung pinaka dragcentric na una naming ginawa, which we are very proud of, is House 628. It’s a virtual drag ball that happens on the last Saturday of the month. Everyone can come in drag, may competition, may categories that they could join. ’Yun ang naging one of our proudest works and most successful events nung pandemic. Hopefully in the future we can [make] House 628 a live event. That’s in the works na. Everyone’s invited.
We feel we were able to, in a sense, bring drag to more people and really engage the drag community itself with each other. Na-realize namin na sobrang laki pala ng drag community here sa Philippines. We were able to meet a lot of queens sa Davao, Cebu, Bacolod. And now, close na lahat kami.
Which show or project are you most proud of?
“’Pag RuGirl ka na—for doctors nag-Ph.D. ka na, ’pag accountants, CPA; ’pag drag queens, ’yun eh. ’Yun ’yung promotion that you’re waiting for.”
Honestly, “Drag Race Philippines.” That’s my proudest moment to date. ’Pag RuGirl ka na—for doctors nag-Ph.D. ka na, ’pag accountants, CPA; ’pag drag queens, ’yun eh. ’Yun ’yung promotion that you’re waiting for. And to be able to be part of the first season of “Drag Race Philippines” is such an honor. I just can’t wait for people to see collectively how the queens were able to showcase their talent.
Yeah! It’s great to be one of the first drag queens in the Philippines to venture out to music. I’ve always loved music and music is a very big part of my drag because I like to perform. And during the pandemic, you know, you constantly look for avenues to put your creative juices in and that’s where I wanted to go nung 2020. I wanted to create my own music. I released it on my birthday that year. That was my birthday present for myself.
I have arrived not only in the music industry but in the international scene. I am here.
Usually kasi, ’pag drag queen ka, may birthday show ka eh. It’s hard to celebrate your birthday on your own with your camera. So why not just release the music that everyone could enjoy? That was a very big project for me. I’m very proud of that work and I wish to continue that legacy. There’s more to come. There’s a lot of things planned for me this year and next year, including music.
I just want to note that you declared “I have arrived” in your single. It’s such a serve that you declared that in 2020 and then 2022, you’re in the “Drag Race PH” inaugural season.
Very that. I have arrived not only in the music industry but in the international scene. I am here. You need to see her. Parang ’yun ’yung anthem ko going into the competition. I have arrived and it’s about time. Actually, not only me—the Filipino queens have arrived.
“I think we have some of the most talented, most hardworking drag queens here in the Philippines. I think it’s high time that they get to be exposed to a larger audience because it’s what they deserve.”
Do you feel like this recognition of the local drag scene should have come way earlier on?
Way, way earlier on. I think we have some of the most talented, most hardworking drag queens here in the Philippines. I think it’s high time that they get to be exposed to a larger audience because it’s what they deserve. And these queens not only perform well, not only are talented, but they also have stories to tell. They’ve been through so much. And as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s our duty to not only share our story, but send a message and inspire other people through our journey.
Especially for me, I grew up in the province. Looking back, I [didn’t] have someone to look up to that much. In the media industry, pagkabakla kailangan nagpapatawa ka lang, kailangan pangit at nakakatawa ’yung suot mo. Very comic relief lang eh. That’s what [I used] to see in the media and we really want to change that.
Especially drag. For some people ang notion sa drag is nagpapatawa lang, sinong ginagaya mo, ganyan. We really want to change that. We want to bring drag to a higher ground. We want to uplift local Filipina talent, especially drag and queer art. That’s always been the mission. Kahit man lang isang brown gay boy na nanonood sa television or nag-scroll sa Facebook, makakakita siya ng someone na he could look up to. [Someone] to inspire them to be a better, bigger versions of themselves.
“Drag in itself is political. Like what I said sa “Chasing the Sun,” it’s a big f*ck you to the gender norms and the social norms that society imposes to us.”
And drag is powerful!
Biruin mo, three minutes ka lang tatayo sa stage pero the amount of impact you will leave to the people is hindi lang pang isang araw, hindi lang pang dalawang araw. Dadalhin ng tao ’yung experience na ’yun, ’yung three minutes na nag-pe-perform ka sa stage. Binuka mo lang ’yung bunganga mo, alam mo ’yun? That’s how powerful it is. It leaves a mark on people’s lives.
Speaking of drag being powerful, in the first episode of your show “Chasing the Sun,” you described being discriminated against at an establishment during Pride Month and how drag can be a powerful tool to push back against that. Can you talk more about drag’s power?
Drag in itself is political. Like what I said sa “Chasing the Sun,” it’s a big f*ck you to the gender norms and the social norms that society imposes to us. Actually, the mere fact that you’re dressing up into something else na hindi usually nakikita ng mga tao, hindi siya pang every day, it’s already a protest. I can be who I want to be if I want to be, parang ganun.
“When you’re in drag, you’re seen. You get the attention of people.”
So the power of drag in terms of bending gender, creating discourse [like] on SOGIE: when you’re in drag, you’re seen. You get the attention of people. The power you have when you’re in drag, it’s unlimited. It’s way, way, way, way, way bigger than what you have when you’re not in drag—but that does not mean you don’t have that power out of drag. It’s just that drag brings it out more, especially for queer people like us na naka-experience ng discrimination, naka-experience ng unfortunate situations and events just like what happened to me in Poblacion. I was denied entry into a restaurant for what I was wearing. I wasn’t even in drag, that’s the main thing. So to be able to do drag the next day and to be able to wear what I want, it’s such a powerful redemption for that night.
For some people, drag really saves them. For some people, it’s very personal, it’s not just a performance. For some people, it puts them back: It puts their confidence back, it puts their power back after being discriminated against. Especially for people, a lot of people na hindi out sa family. Hindi nila ma-express ’yung sarili nila.
Also for our seasoned queens natin, drag is their way to put food sa table nila. It saves not only themselves but their families financially, not only emotionally. Maraming naidudulot ’yung drag for a lot of queer artists.
What’s your favorite thing about drag and being a drag artist?
My most favorite thing about drag is I get to live a fantasy that’s [been] within me since I was young. It’s like fulfilling a childhood dream. As I said kanina, I’ve always watched Miss Universe and [saw] how these powerful women empower young kids like me to really stand tall. ’Yung stance pa lang nila, there’s power na. That’s how I feel when I’m in drag. ’Yung childhood dream ko, na-li-live ko na siya ngayon. Masayang-masaya ’yung inner child ko doing drag. As simple as that. [Being able] to live that dream na ako ’yung star, ako ’yung rumarampa, ako ’yung nag-pe-perform, is making my inner child kilig.
And [my other favorite thing is being] able to share my story, the story of my people, the story [of] my community.
Miss Universe is so queer.
Sabihin man natin na cis hetero woman ’yung nag-co-compete, pero ’yung team behind her is always queer ’di ba? Produkto siya ng queer talent.
You were already a producer before you started doing drag. Do you think this gives you an edge when crafting content, like with your docu series “Chasing the Sun”?
Definitely. That’s always been my edge. I edit my own stuff, I write my own stuff, I direct my own stuff. In terms of quality control, I know what I want to put out. And I just enjoy it, doing drag and producing drag content.
Marina is my creative outlet as a producer, especially “Chasing the Sun.” I’ve always loved celebrity documentaries like [Taylor Swift’s] “Miss Americana,” “Five Foot Two” ni Lady Gaga, “Moving Parts” ni Trixie Mattel, “Werq the World” by Wow Presents. I really like [that] type of content and I haven’t seen any[thing like that] in the Philippines yet featuring drag queens documenting what happens behind the scenes, explaining what drag is, what happens behind the performances, and that’s what I wanted to portray.
Of course, ultimately I wanted to create more drag content not only for myself, not only for Marina, but for people to see and inspire them not only to do drag and do content but also tell their stories, inspire others, touch lives. That’s ultimately the goal.
Something I noticed about “Chasing the Sun” is that even if ultimately it’s about you, I end up learning about your sisters and the drag scene in general as well. I remember in the first episode you mentioned meeting a drag king. It gives a picture of the drag scene to the people who don’t really see it.
I just want to use Marina and “Chasing the Sun” as an instrument to really touch base with the local community [and show] what happens [in] the community. For example, sa episode one, we got invited to a ball with [mainstream] celebrities. Sa second episode naman, we showed how we started doing pop-up events outside the clubs, bringing more options for people to watch drag and highlighting [ang] mga na-meet naming starting queens and kings and artists. Sa episode three, the touring, you don’t have that much in the Philippines and I really want to show that as well as paano [ang] pag-accept ng mga tao sa drag. Para siyang POV sa drag community through Marina.
So what can we expect from you in the coming weeks, months, years?
Definitely still pushing for local drag in the mainstream media. A lot of things [are] happening in the future, especially “Drag Race Philippines.” More music, probably more tours, touch base with different local communities that support drag. And hopefully soon, pick things up internationally. That’s always been the goal, [to] put the Philippines on the drag map around the world.
I’ve always been very ambitious so [I have] a lot of plans ahead. When I have plans, I really want to make it come true. Hopefully things align for me. Big things ahead, hopefully.
Yeah, fingers crossed. Hopefully in the future, more international recognition, more international gigs. Filipino talent should be appreciated all around the world.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photos by Neal Alday Story by Zofiya Acosta Styling by Edlene Cabral Makeup by Marina Summers Hair by Abigaile Montgomery Creative direction by Neal Alday Produced by Zofiya Acosta and Neal Alday Assisted by Levenspiel Sangalang