We entered her dressing room located a floor below The Silica Events Place’s penthouse main stage. The South Star Drag homecourt is situated on Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes Parañaque’s food haven rivaling the likes of Maginhawa, and set a chill vibe. Although her win had not really sunk in yet, Naia seemed a bit more relaxed and comfortable enough to really talk about how she envisions her reign.
“Off the top of my head, it would be exciting. We do have plans but they remain plans until we start working [on them.] I’m not too much concerned with my reign in terms of me as an individual. It’s quite lonely if I’m going to think of it [as just me.] It’s more on what we can do as a drag community in lifting each other up. ’Yung win ng isang drag queen. Dapat nag-ta-translate siya sa win ng buong community,” Naia said.
“I hope we do a lot more in terms of bringing drag to the streets. We have started doing that with the baranggayan show, but more in the sense of seeing drag queens at rallies and other spaces where we’re not normally seen. Drag queens are becoming celebrities. That’s an achievable goal now, but what else can we do with drag? With this medium, people actually listen to you. People actually value your opinion, apparently. So use it wisely. Maybe my reign will be controversial. Char! In a good way. The ‘Drag Den’ team is very pro-speaking your truth,” she added.
Looking back, the queen felt that people started appreciating “Drag Den” a bit later than anticipated. “Tapos na ’yung mid-season when people started realizing that it’s a good show. We have a lot to say. At the end of the day, it’s a pageant and ang pinaka-importanteng part ng pageant ay Q&A eh.”
But being the face of “Drag Den” isn’t the only thing on Naia’s mind. She’s still cooking up other surprises in and out of drag. She is, after all, still the artist Brian Black beneath all that makeup.
“[Team Naia] made a short film that nobody knows about. It’s only [Preen that we’ve told.] It’s not yet done. But ang point ko lang naman is, ako as a drag queen, I don’t want to leave that side of me creating art,” Naia said.
“There’s a performer side of me that gets fulfilled in these shows, but the creation… maybe [I can be a] drag queen creating a fashion film. So far, we have 12 minutes of footage and we shot it in film. Oh my god. Let me shut up before I say something [I shouldn’t].”
She ends on that note with a laugh but later spills that the short fashion film in the works features the three-piece collection Naia wore in that unforgettable finale episode.
On the pastoral finale pageant collection that wowed us all
The finale showed us how design-forward Team Naia is. Naia’s boyfriend, artist Miyamoto Shin, called dibs on the three-piece collection challenge and used the triptych as a canvas for his fascination with Philippine pastoral paintings, Fernando Amorsolo’s particularly, and its depiction of the country’s agricultural landscapes.
“I feel like hindi well-represented ang queer community sa old paintings. I kind of wanted to mix that [into a] queer and Filipino pastoral [imagery],” said Miyamoto.
The collection was a labor of love and the pieces were the ones that Naia’s family worked the most on. “I’m so happy it ended up in the finale and I’m happy na umabot ako sa finale. Otherwise, di ko mapapakita. I think that’s what sealed the deal for me to win, TBH. I had a cohesive concept that was executed well,” she said.
Miyamoto shared that there were comments about the national costume’s front-facing patadyong being wrongly placed and they had to explain how it was on purpose and inspired by a more traditional silhouette.
And that critique on the long gown not hitting the floor? “It was late. Hindi namin na-fit,” Miyamoto recalled. “’Yung mga tita niya parang last minute, the day before i-sho-shoot, nag-so-stone pa kami [nung gown.] Around 5 a.m. na, and ipapadeliver [’yung gown] nang 7 a.m., tapos nag-so-stone pa rin kami. Sobrang lala.”
Obsessed with that frame necklace? Miyamoto created it. “Pumunta kami sa Quiapo tapos sabi ko, ‘Pabili po ako ng frame pero wala po akong i-fi-frame. Itong gilid lang po bibilin ko.’ Pumayag naman sila and I put the chains and everything,” he said. We can’t wait to devour all the details in the upcoming fashion film.
The “Drag Den” queens sported a lot of beautiful looks off-screen and onstage during the grand coronation concert. Naia’s favorites among them are her custom sculpted hologram organza dress by Mara Chua and Barbie-Q’s intricate Patrick Isorena gown.
We also got to ask what inspired that slightly unexpected Itzy live concert performance. Performed with her Kiki House of Marciano siblings Canter Mizrahi and Lakan Mizrahi, it was Naia’s way of keeping with her goal of focusing more on her voguing capabilities this year. And she really likes K-pop, simple as that.
Where South Star Drag began
As the recurring headliner of South Star Drag, Naia’s part in helping mount one of the first live drag show viewing parties in the south of Metro Manila was something we wanted to find out.
“I met the main investors of South Star sa isang drag show, before ‘Drag Den’ even premiered.” They went out for drinks after the show and that’s when Naia floated the idea of the group holding their own viewing party for the then-upcoming series.
South Star Drag’s Pam Gueco tells me that the show is a passion project since she’s a longtime drag fan. “College days ko pa lang dinadala na ako ng [queer friends ko] sa O Bar,” she said. “After the ‘Drag Race PH’ hype, sabi ko [kay Naia,] ‘It’s your time.’ Pero medyo alanganin because [‘Drag Den’s’ premiere] was in December and no one wanted to take a chance kasi everyone was spending money [on different things.] But I said, let’s do it.”
“Si Pam ‘yung pinaka-nagvouch sa akin because she saw me sa Instagram Stories ni Manila Luzon noong nag-au-auditions pa lang. Manila reposted my audition reel on Instagram and TikTok and that’s how they found out about me. And now, I’m here and apparently I won,” Naia added with an effusive laugh.
When they were already discussing mounting the show, Gueco was hesitant to take charge because she wasn’t really familiar with what happens backstage. But Miyamoto offered to help out and was the stage manager for the South Star Drag’s first few shows.
The drag audience of the South and establishing queer spaces on this side of the metro
Most drag events in the past have been held north of Metro Manila so drag addicts of the south have been the ones doing the adjusting. But is there any difference in the reception from south show crowds with relatively more drag show virgins?
“Yung drag audience kasi dito they understand my South references, some things that only people living so far from civilization—charot—can relate to. They’re very hospitable and maraming tulad ko na conyo-conyo. Ganun. Simply honest observations. I love the energy of the South people. They’re just there for a good time,” Naia described.
As a U.P. Diliman girlie, Naia had been spending most of her time in places like TodayxFuture and Nectar Nightclub. Now, she’s able to reacquaint with her city and get to know its offerings a bit more. “It’s only now that I’m realizing the temperament of the South. They’re typically very chill but they love a good drag show as well. I mean, who doesn’t?”
But is a stronger drag presence in the south an indication that there’s a growing number of advocates and allies of drag queens and the LGBTQIA+ community among local establishments and groups?
Naia admitted that there’s still a struggle. “Honestly, the ones that are pushing for more drag shows and queer events here are the production teams like South Star. Not exactly establishments that truly want to have a drag space dito. Right now, medyo pahirapan pa maghanap ng space that will accommodate us,” she said.
“There are some south-based businesses na sobrang allies ng drag queens like Magpatina Hair, [run by] hair colorist and stylist Hilda Regina from BF Resort Village, who colored my wigs for ‘Drag Den.’ She also does my normal hair din. We’ve become very good friends,” the queen happily added. “But I think there’s still a long way to go in terms of establishing the queer spaces in the south.”
I quipped about how I’m thinking about emailing the people at city hall to print out a tarpaulin congratulating Naia on her win. Looking back, I think I really should have. Historically, us queers needed to give local and national governments an often-aggressive push to become vocal and genuine in their support for the community.
Luckily, Naia is able to get much-needed support from her fans because she is prone to impostor syndrome as a young queen who’s been able to achieve so much in a relatively short period. “They’re the ones who believe in my story as a queen and as Brian. My win is really for my family and my fans,” she said gratefully. “Kung wala sila, sino si Naia? I’m so happy that I brought home the crown for them.”