Making herstory Pangina Heals fights for the 'Queen Of The World' title in RuPaul's Drag Race's latest spin-off

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Making herstory  Pangina Heals fights for the 'Queen Of The World' title in RuPaul's Drag Race's latest spin-off

Corona can't keep a good queen down. That seems to be the case for Pangina Heals, aka Pan Pan Narkpresert, who's about to make herstory as the first Thai contestant to compete in RuPaul's Drag Race UK VS The World, the first international edition of Emmy-winning reality competition show RuPaul's Drag Race where nine queens from around the world compete for the title of “Queen Of The World”.

The original show became a global phenomenon that catapulted drag culture into the mainstream and spawned many foreign editions, including Drag Race Thailand, which Pangina Heals co-hosts with fashion veteran Art Arya.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Always striving as a tattoo on her left chest suggests, Pangina Heals keeps persevering despite Miss Rona. With more than a decade of drag decadence under her rhinestone belt, she keeps her drag bar House Of Heals running, albeit intermittently, despite lockdown and just came off a pop-up party series late last year. However, her biggest milestone to date is representing Thailand against eight drag queens, who are past contestants of the UK version and other editions around the world, in RuPaul’s Drag Race UK VS The World, which premieres on Feb 1 on BCC Three. The first RuPaul’s Drag Race International All Stars, if you will. Channelling Joan of Arc in her promo look the self-proclaimed dark horse bitch-slaps her way through the show and she spills behind-the-scene tea.

Condragulations! What was your reaction when they approached you for the show? What did you do to prepare for the big league?

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They contacted me last year. It was a complete surprise as I had no hunch about it. When I was first approached [to be on the show], I screamed so loud my boyfriend thought my grandma had died. I’ve watched RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise all my life. The show is the reason I become a drag queen and so for them to give me this opportunity was so surreal. I said yes immediately and I attended different classes to help me prepare for the show. Because I have a tiger mum, whenever I go into a competition or an exam, I know to prepare. I took about 11 classes to make sure that I was ready for the competition, from modelling [with Metinee ‘Lukkade’ Kingpayom] to meditation. I packed as much as I could before I flew. In terms of costumes, I wanted to represent the best culture within me. I worked with Thai designers and hopefully, during the show, you will get to see the best of my favourite Thai designers. Definitely expect big names in the Thai fashion scene. I watched the show all over again and watched the other spin-offs to see who were my competition. To see their strengths and weaknesses. I did some R&D and I learned how to sew. I prepared for staple challenges that come with every season such as making your own costume or acting. I rehearsed different styles of runway walks based on the costumes and so on.

Making herstory  Pangina Heals fights for the 'Queen Of The World' title in RuPaul's Drag Race's latest spin-off

(Photo © BBC Three)

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How did you keep such big news to yourself?

There were awkward moments when people asked me about the show since it was rumoured many months ahead of the official announcement. I just changed the subject or pretended I’m Meryl Streep and acted like I didn’t know what they were talking about. When people asked about my absence, I told them I went to a Buddhist meditation camp. I’m so glad the cast announcement and the premiere date are out now and the weight has been lifted. It was like I’m holding poop in and now I’m not. Nancy Drews on Reddit were responsible for all the rumours about the show back then. They watched who was absent on their social media and speculated who joined the cast. If you need to find a missing person, I recommend going to Reddit.

You have a unique position going into the show because, unlike the other eight queens, who are past contestants of the franchise, you’re the co-host of Drag Race Thailand . What was your mindset going into the show?

People may see me as the reverse Brooke Lynn Hytes [who competed in RPDR season 11 before hosting the Canadian version of Drag Race] because I’m the co-host and judge who’s now a contestant. Officially, officially a Ru Girl, if you will. There may be a notion that if I don’t win or do well, it’s gonna look bad but, personally, this is the biggest drag platform in the world so who am I to say no to that? The show is literally the Olympics of drag because it’s like an international all-stars edition. I went into the show with the mindset of a contestant and did my best, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted. I had wanted to compete in the show even before I became the co-host of Drag Race Thailand. I definitely want to represent me but not only me. I have my culture and Thailand to show the world. To be the first-ever Southeast Asian queen to compete, it’s such a big honour. I’m humbled by being asked to be part of the show.

What did you bring to the show?

People have already seen my fashion as the co-host and how I conducted myself as a judge but people outside Thailand may not know that I’m a well-rounded queen, who can let loose and be bats*** crazy [eg performing as Pennywise to Crookers’ That Laughing Track]. I don’t want to be put in a box. I hate it when people ask ‘What kind of queen are you?’. Are you a dancing queen, look queen or comedy queen?’ I’m all of the above. Let the audience decide who they want to see me as. With every reality show that I’ve been part of, they tell me to market myself as one thing but I’m not that. I want people to see how I’m affected by the culture that I grew up in. With Thailand having a history of drag in some form or another, it’ll be so nice to get that across the world, too.

Making herstory  Pangina Heals fights for the 'Queen Of The World' title in RuPaul's Drag Race's latest spin-off

(Photos courtesy of Surachai Saengsuwan)

Can you compare your experience as a judge versus a contestant?

When I went to the set of Drag Race Thailand, I felt comfortable and in my element as a crazy sister to the girls, but when I went to a set as a contestant, it’s more stressful. I had sleepless nights because of the pressure I put on myself. It’s nice sometimes to have the role reversed so I can understand what I put the girls from Drag Race Thailand through. Karma is a b-word [laughs].

Do you feel the pressure of being the only contestant from Asia?

I don’t know about the other girls, but I do feel the responsibility of representing my country. Some countries have more than one contestant but I’m the only one from mine and entire Asia. The day before I went into the competition, I had this thought in my mind and I cried a lot. Am I going to make my country proud? You know how enthusiastic Thais are about global beauty pageants so this show’s gonna be the same especially for the LGBT community in Thailand. I definitely feel the pressure to do well for my supporters. This is the big-league and I’m such a control freak, type-A person anyways so I put a lot of pressure on myself, too.

What was it like being part of the show?

Competing [in the show] is the most rewarding and friendship-building experience. Both stressful and amazing. During that short amount of time, the emotion ran high and intensified. It was such a mixed emotion while flying back. I miss the girls so much. I feel inspired seeing different drags at high calibre on the show ’cause everyone brought their s***. They already know what to expect but I’m a first-time contestant so, in a way, I’m the dark horse because they didn’t know what I have in my drag arsenal. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out during the show. Some of the contestants are my idols so the fangirl in me gets to interact with them. I became close to some of the girls. Jujubee [American-born Laotian drag queen], for instance, because we speak similar languages.

What do you think about the local drag scene?

I believe Thai drag is among the best in the world. And the show will be my opportunity to show that. Thai drag queens are so talented. Although drag culture is growing in Thailand, it hasn’t been fully embraced yet. I would like to see fans of the Drag Race franchise enthusiastic about Thai queens as much as they are with foreign queens.

Any messages for those who are interested in watching the show?

It’s going to be the best season ever from the franchise, besides having me in it. Seriously though, it’ll be the first Olympics of drag as different countries will be rooting for their girls to find out who’ll be crowned ‘Queen Of The World’. You’ll fall in love with legendary queens from other countries as I have. And I hope my fans in Thailand and abroad will be rooting for me! You’ll also see me in a new light as a first-time contestant. In the words of Laganja Estranja’s, let’s get sickening!

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