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Living the double life as a drag queen

Adam-Ameng-Yeastmonster-drag-queen-singapore

Youth featuresInterviews

Adam Ameng is a student by day, and a drag queen by night.

Adam Ameng's first time dressing in drag was a chance encounter. His good friend Lucas Goh was throwing a party and the theme was drag.

Adam, 23, recalled: "Lucas put me in drag for the first time for his drag-themed birthday party. You could consider it the trigger for my passion for drag."

That first drag experience in 2015 was enough to intrigue the sports science undergraduate.

"It became a way for me to express myself, especially since I don't have a creative outlet in university," said Adam.

With a twinkle in his eye, he added: "I can experiment with a lot of colours when I do drag. My face and body become canvases that I can paint and dress up however I want to. I can become whoever I like as well."

Arya-Dunn-Yeastmonster-Lucas-Goh-Adam-Ameng-drag-queen
Adam (right) with Lucas (left), who is also known as Arya Dunn in the local drag community.
PHOTO CREDIT: ADAM AMENG

Adam started watching live performances by local drag queens at clubs like Peaches, Taboo and Kilo Lounge, and became a fan of American reality competition series, RuPaul's Drag Race.

"I'm also inspired by the queens who compete in Dragula [a show similar to RuPaul's Drag Race] because they can get so creative and experimental with their looks. They're not afraid to try new things," gushed Adam, who counts American drag queen Sasha Velour as his idol.

The student by day and drag queen by night now performs once a month at local clubs and private events, earning about $200 per show.

Drag has even helped him deal with his eating disorder, said Adam.

He revealed: "I used to have an eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, and to face it head on as part of overcoming it, I performed 'Talking Body' by Tove Lo, [while in my drag character]."

Adam-Ameng-Yeastmonster-performance-Peaches-Club
Adam, in character as Yeastmonster, performing at his usual spot, Peaches Club.
PHOTO CREDIT: ADAM AMENG

Adam, who donned a red skeleton body suit for that performance in 2017, explained: "What I wore symbolised the body that I once wanted – just skin and bones – but am now afraid of having."

So, why his drag name? Adam explained that Yeastmonster was given by his friends even before he started performing.

"I really like bread so they suggested I change my Instagram handle to Yeastmonster. From there, I garnered a following as Yeastmonster and it became my branding, so I just stuck with it," he said.

The first-year student from Nanyang Technological University added with a laugh: "Honestly, I'd prefer if my drag name was something simple, like Brenda. Then I'd show up in a fully-sequined dress – an extra element of surprise."

Adam-Ameng-as-Yeastmonster
"Everything about Yeastmonster is extra – she's extra sassy, funny. She's literally taller and is of course, prettier," described Adam.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/WINSTON TAY

So, can he describe Yeastmonster?

Adam, who spends two hours transforming into Yeastmonster each time, said: "When you go for drag shows in Singapore, it's almost always a pretty queen. I've made Yeastmonster the complete opposite.

"She's attractive in her own way, but her makeup is done so that she isn't traditionally pretty. Plus, if I look less human-like, it fits the monster part of my drag name."

Since his drag character is monster-like, he must be very different in real life, we wondered.

"Yeastmonster and I aren't very different from each other, she's basically an elevated version of me. But as I get into drag, I subconsciously make a switch to get into character," said Adam.

Adam-Ameng-in-school-outside-drag
Some of his friends in school expect him to be in his drag personality all the time. "I've had people ask me to tell a joke and I would just say I'm not a vending machine, you know? You can't just put in a coin and a joke falls out, it doesn't work like that," said Adam (centre) jokingly.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/WINSTON TAY

Since 2016, Adam has spent at least $1,000 on customised outfits and makeup.

To support his hobby, Adam worked part-time at restaurants while he was in polytechnic. He saves part of the money he makes from his performances.

Adam Amend-getting-ready-drag-costume-makeup
Yeastmonster's most common wardrobe malfunction? The nip slip.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/WINSTON TAY

As many drag queens tend to be shunned by their family members, Adam kept his hobby a secret for a year.

Adam, whose parents were supportive when he told them he was gay at 17, explained his worry: "Doing drag and being gay don't necessarily come together as a package, so there was still a possibility my parents would be against it."

Adam-Ameng-and-family
Adam's family has always been supportive about his drag pursuits.
PHOTO CREDIT: ADAM AMENG

However, as his collection of dresses, heels and makeup grew, his mother eventually asked him about it.

"I just told her that I was doing drag. When I explained to my parents and younger sister what drag was and why I was doing it, they just accepted it. My mum and sister even helped me do my makeup and zipped me up in the past," shared Adam, who recalled he enjoyed playing with toys like the Ken doll when he was growing up.

Out of drag, Adam prefers to be more masculine.

"I don't feel as comfortable acting feminine as Adam, so being in drag lets me express that part of myself. That way, I'm able to convey masculinity as Adam, and femininity as Yeastmonster," said Adam, who also enjoys running in his free time.

As we watched Adam transform into Yeastmonster, we noticed that his mannerisms got bolder. He spoke more confidently than his usual self, and there was a lot of sass in his movements as well.

He shared that the most difficult part of the transformation process is "tucking" because it's uncomfortable. Tucking refers to the practice of positioning the male genitals, so that it is not easily visible from the front of the body.

Adam Ameng-getting-ready-drag-makeup
Adam learnt how to paint his face from his close friend, Lucas. They also perform together occasionally.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/KAISAH WASIS

He playfully sang along to the music playing in the dressing room while making all sorts of facial expressions. He even walked into a room full of guys just to mess around and to see how they would react. They avoided eye contact with him and the longer we stayed, the quieter it got.

He clearly enjoyed the effect he had on them. However, when it comes to dating, Adam does not get as much attention, he said, with a tinge of sadness.

He admitted that his drag persona have posed challenges, because guys he meet tend to associate him with Yeastmonster.

"They'll come up to me and say 'Oh aren't you Yeastmonster? I love your drag.' and that's all they'll talk about. But I'm more than my drag."

"It's a masculine for masculine society. If they can't separate me from Yeastmonster, they'll always see me as a feminine guy…I'm not considered masculine, so I'm cut off immediately," explained Adam, adding that masculine men are preferred in the gay community.

Adam, who is single, said: "When it comes to dating, Yeastmonster is something I definitely want to hide at first. I want people to be able to see me for who I am."

Adam-Ameng-as-Yeastmonster
Yeastmonster is not afraid to get ugly, as long as it is not boring.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/KAISAH WASIS

But Adam cannot deny he is at his happiest when he is performing, as he believes in using drag as a platform to speak up.

"I think we deserve to perform on bigger stages and in unconventional spaces. We don't have to always be performing in a dark club where only people who are interested in drag will come to see us," insisted Adam.

Adam-Ameng-drag-performance-urban-ventures-2017
Adam performed at Keong Saik Road for Urban Ventures in 2017.
PHOTO CREDIT: URBAN VENTURES

Does Adam see himself pursuing drag in the long run?

Adam, who is thinking of being a teacher or a coach after he finishes his degree, said: "Even though it's difficult, the people I've met through drag are unforgettable. The local drag community is welcoming and we all support each other at the end of the day.

"It's just so much fun to dress up and be someone different. You can be anyone you want. If you love attention, then you'll love being a drag queen. You just have to walk into a room and people will stare at you.

"Plus, I've invested too much to back out at this point," added Adam, with a laugh.

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/KAISAH WASIS