About half of the seating in MSE 104 was filled by students eagerly anticipating the start of “Fierce, Femme, Asian: A Night with Kim Chi,” hosted by Asian Pacific Student Programs last Wednesday night. The event, which was originally meant to begin at 7 p.m., began late, giving attendees the opportunity to converse and share their mutual appreciation of Chi while waiting. Kim Chi is a Korean-American drag queen and reality television personality, who originally gained recognition for her time on the eighth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” where she made top three, while also drawing attention for her representation of Asians in the drag scene; Chi was the first Korean-American participant on the show.
Entering fashionably late, Chi performed a song for the audience in full drag. As soon as it ended, those in the front row eagerly pulled out dollar bills, which Chi promptly collected; tipping cash is a practice adopted by the drag community as a means to offset the high prices of the makeup, fabric and wigs that make drag performances possible.
After her performance Chi took a seat and began the Q&A segment, where she spoke on her experiences on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” as well as the show’s impact on her life and career. “Before ‘Drag Race,’ I was so poor,” she began. “It got to a point where to feed myself I would scoop out quarters from my couch hoping I had enough to buy myself a burger from McDonald’s, but now I’ve been able to pay off my student loans so thank god.” Chi now has her own makeup line with Sugarpill Cosmetics and has performed around the world, including South Korea, where she was raised as a child.
Chi explained that performing drag in South Korea was one of her lifelong dreams, and shared some insight on her time spent there. “After the episode (of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’) aired, where I spoke about wanting to perform in Korea, one of the coordinators reached out to me and within 24 hours the show was sold out. And I’ve since been back five times.” Chi also commented on the drag scene in South Korea, which she described as small but growing.
When asked how her ethnicity influences her drag, Chi explained how she draws from Korean fashion trends that she feels reflect in her outfits. “Korean clothing is all about dynamic silhouette, it’s not always very form fitting but it takes up a lot of space and it’s always monochromatic,” she explained. “I feel that really contributes to my aesthetic because I like to wear things that are larger than life and take up a lot of fabric.” While on the topic of ethnicity, Chi was asked about her thoughts on Asian representation on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to which she responded: “Them being Asian wasn’t always the focus, but they were all fierce, so I can’t complain.” She went on to express her hopes that an Asian queen would one day take the crown.
Once the Q&A segment was over, Chi took questions from the audience, where she gave advice to prospective drag queens, makeup tips and answered general questions from fans. Afterwards, the audience was welcome to step down and meet Chi, who greeted every individual with her glowing personality and a smile.