Despite what some may say, Drag Den is no copy cat. Unique as it is, the original show is championing Filipino drag in its special way.
More than a year ago, the world was blessed with the announcement that Manila Luzon was part of a drag reality show in the Philippines called Drag Den. Since then, it’s been quite a wait for the show to come together following its open auditions. And after more than a year of waiting, the doors to the Drag Den have finally been open, and let’s just say we don’t want to leave.
Drag in the Philippines was already having its moment thanks to season one of Drag Race Philippines, and now Drag Den is here to further elevate Pinoy drag in its unique way.
While some haters out there choose to compare the two shows, often lifting one over the other, it’s clear from the first two episodes of Drag Den that both shows operate on their own planes. And besides, there’s more than enough room to celebrate shows that spotlight Filipino drag without throwing shade. And that’s the real tea. With that being said, here are just a few reasons why Drag Den has us even more addicted to drag.
NO ELIMINATION MEANS MORE TIME FOR THE QUEENS
Manila Luzon really gagged the girls in episode one when she said that whoever lost the Dragdagulan segment would go home. It turns out though that there would be no eliminations during the season, which means we get to see all eight queens every week. This changes the whole game with the fact that there’s no pressure of getting sent home. But still, the queens need to serve every week because they are given scores.
Since none of the queens will be sent packing, it gives us an entire season to get to know them, watch them grow, and see all the looks they prepared. The eight queens that were chosen to compete in season one are a diverse group of performers who all represent different aspects of drag, from Aries Night’s horror-inspired aesthetic to Pura Luka Vega’s bearded queen camp. There’s no “Porkchop” of the season, just queens who we slowly fall in love with every week as they flex their talents in the weekly challenges.
THE QUEER PINOY CULTURE IS FRONT AND CENTER
Drag Den is not a show that’s aiming to attract international viewers. But why should it? Drag Den is all about unapologetically celebrating Pinoy culture and the local LGBTQIA+ community. Already, the show’s name and titles given to the judges: Drag Den, Drag Lord, Drag Runner, Drag Dealer, and Drag Enforcer, are all tongue-in-cheek references to drugs and its ever-pervasive presence in Filipino society.
The show takes inspiration from Filipino pageants while the Dragdagulan showdowns are done in the spirit of the barangay showdown. Each of its challenges is themed around a certain aspect of Filipino culture with episode one being pageants and episode two being comedy and novelty songs. Even the reading challenge in episode two was done through the May Nag-Text segment made popular by Vice Ganda. Drag Den proudly wears its influences on its sleeves. It’s kooky, campy, sentimental, and a bit off-kilter in the best way possible.
IT’S NOT AFRAID TO GET POLITICAL
Despite what some may say, Drag Den is not getting political too hard and too early. Drag was, is, and will always be political. Aside from the enjoyment of seeing the queens do their thing, the show isn’t afraid to say what needs to be said. By episode two, the show challenged the queens to do a comedy skit based on Philippine politics. Meanwhile, Manila’s closing spiels in every episode are everything. At the closing seconds, Manila shares a summary of the theme of that episode while connecting it to an anecdote about Philippine society.
In episode one, she mentioned how the country is home to the greatest robbery by the government while in episode two, Manila Luzon referenced how politicians treat their constituents like a joke. Exactly Manila. In a time when speaking up for your beliefs is discouraged, Drag Den is here to remind us that we should never silence ourselves and the truth.
THE HOSTS ARE *CHEF’S KISS*
While Manila Luzon has never won a season of Drag Race, she definitely is winning in the hosting department. Her years as a drag queen allow her to speak with confidence as the main host of the series all while channeling moments of Pinoy culture into her spiels and outfits. Coming from the pageant world herself, Nicole Cordoves has so far proven to be a more than fitting judge and mentor to the queens. Sassa Gurl meanwhile charms her way to our hearts as she helps guide the queens on the show.
The resident Drag Runner’s humor, wit, and charisma translate so well on screen. Sassa has always been funny, and Drag Den amplifies that further. She can easily gel with the other queens while her commentary during the Dragdagulan showdowns is a highlight of every episode. (Whoever had the idea of having Sassa Gurl be a host on a drag show needs a raise immediately.)
THE RUNWAY PRESENTATIONS ARE SOMETHING ELSE
Drag Den describes itself as a pageant made by Filipinos, for Filipinos. So, the queens aren’t just going to walk on the main stage showing off their looks. Instead, each episode is split into two segments, the theme wear, and the main challenge. The theme wear portion isn’t just for the queens to dress up, they also need to prepare skits and spiels as if they were competing in a real Filipino pageant.
May nag-TEXT! — Drag Den Philippines (@dragdenph) December 13, 2022
Comedy challenge agad?! Sinetch ang havey at sinetch ang waley sa mga baklur?#DragDenPinoyComedy this Thursday, 7pm PHT only at Prime Video! #DragDenPH #PrimeVideoPH pic.twitter.com/2iz8tLZyxB
And they do this all in a place that looks ripped straight from a comic supervillain’s lair. One thing we love about this is how there’s a box that pops up whenever a new queen comes out that has information on their look as well as who made their clothes, shoes, and wigs.
Drag reality shows do not do this, so it’s appreciated that Drag Den not only helps inform the viewer more but gives credit to the talented individuals who helped bring the look together. Even during the showdown, the queens are dancing to an original song that series director Rod Singh calls the Dragdagulan song all while trying to avoid a giant spiked ball in the middle of the stage from hitting them. There really is nowhere else on TV you’ll see something so unique as this.
A new episode of Drag Den drops on Prime Video every Thursday night at 7 PM.
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