Each year on March 31, people around the globe celebrate the transgender community for International Transgender Day of Visibility. We celebrate their journey and the courage it takes to live openly and authentically, while also raising awareness around the discrimination that this community still faces.
Thailand Insider had the pleasure of catching up with one of Thailand’s most renowned and admired transgender figures- Angele Anang, winner of Drag Race Thailand Season 2, and the first transgender winner of an international reality TV show. You might have seen her on our float and across our social media for World Pride Day last summer when she slayed the NYC streets alongside the other Drag Race Thailand Season 2 contestants, Kana Warrior and Kandy Zyanide.
Now we get an inside glimpse into her life in an exclusive Thailand Insider interview with Angele herself:
At what age did you first feel like you identified with a different gender?
I would say at 18, since that was when I first became aware of the word “transgender”.
What was that experience like?
I have so many experiences because I live my life freely and they have made for so many complicated situations before I was able to identify at age 18.
It all started when I was 5 years old. I went to the supermarket with my mother to choose my birthday gift and instead of robots or cars, I chose a little cooking set that my mother bought for me. At that time I was just a shy little boy and there was a time when a girl had a crush on me at school. She was so pretty and I wasn’t really into her but I didn’t want to break her heart so I played along. There was nothing serious about that since we were so young and innocent. Until I had a crush on a boy. He was the cutest boy in the class and the news spread. Then my girlfriend took him from me to be her boyfriend. Kinda sad, right? So that’s when I decided to live my life without care of anyone’s opinions.
I became more feminine, played and was happy at school and entertained people like the students, seniors, and teachers. I had occasional crushes but of course, I did not go too deep because I was scared. I loved being with my girlfriends and being happy and having fun! It was such a wonderful time. I can say it was the best time of my life.
And it all was over when my mother died from cancer and I got up to high school. It was a very hard time for me because I could not adjust to the new school and the Internet came into my life. I got an internet boyfriend, so I become gay and I tried to be a man for him and for my father, then for everyone. Until I was heartbroken, so I freaked out and got frustrated. I quit school and then I kept my hair long and became transgender.
When did you start your transitioning?
I started when I got a job in Bangkok at a transgender cabaret show theater. I decided to do the operation for my breasts since it was good for my work and my life was going so well at that time. I worked so hard, and I earned enough money, so there was nothing to stop me from shining and being a woman, with all the support from my transgender sisters and mothers in the theater, too.
Who would you say were the most supportive people in your life?
Everyone really! Everyone’s so supportive and I feel and absorb that support anywhere I belong. All the people that I trust, like my friends, my family, my drag mothers, my sisters. But especially my mother who died when I was young. She supported everything I did. Every event at school. She paid for everything from the costumes, to the makeup, to my teacher to make sure that I could show off all my talents- even at her workplace parties! I would go and dance on the stage and she even danced with me, too. She is the one who inspired me to never stop fighting for what you want.
What got you into Drag?
After I quit theater, I became a freelance showgirl around town since it was much more fun since I could change characters as much as I wanted. I got a lot of bar performing events and some TV shows until I got the opportunity to enter RuPaul’s Drag Race Thailand.
Who is your favorite performer to impersonate?
Of course, Beyoncé is my job! I actually do impersonate a lot of black female artists like Toni Braxton, Brandy, Solange, Mary J. Blige, and even Nina Simone and Josephine Baker. But Beyoncé is one of the biggest inspirations in my life. In Thailand, there are a lot of Korean artists and white Asian people in media, but I found her on the internet when I was young and she’s black and she’s very powerful which lit up my soul to be who I am and after that, I looked in the mirror and I thought that I kind of looked like her. So after that, Beyoncé became my favorite character for me to do every day until it became my job.
I also like to do multi-lingual songs, too, like Filipino, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian. They are very challenging!
How was the experience of Drag Race Thailand as a whole?
It was incredible! It led me to a dream that I have never dreamed of – to be on the set of the show and the television was crazy. And the competition was very tough because there were a lot of very, very talented Queens as you could see and the judges also had very high expectations. It was unbelievable that I got through everything up until my win. Because I got to town during the competition, I felt unbrave and insecure, but Drag Race Thailand brought out the best of me. I’m very grateful and so thankful!
What’s one thing you’d like for everyone to know and understand about the transgender community?
I would say that being a transgender is our choice to live our life. There are 7 billion humans in the world, with different goals of their lives and different styles of living. We are one of those humans that lives in the world in this way to be happy. Forget about all the races, forget about all the religions. Deep down inside everyone has the same red blood, no one is different. We are people, not animals. We are smart, we can talk, we can think, we can obtain knowledge. So please stop fighting, makeup, understand and respect each other as human beings.
Sending all my love to you guys!
Angele was able to visit the US and celebrate World Pride with us through TAT’s Go Thai Be Free initiative that promotes LGBT+ tourism to Thailand as one of the most LGBT+ welcoming countries in Asia. No matter how a person identifies or who they love can feel free when traveling to Thailand.
Acknowledging International Transgender Visibility Day is just one way that Thailand is working on obtaining full gay rights and equality legally. Nowadays, transgenders (including gays and lesbians) have become more and more accepted in the workplace and in Thai society in general.
Angele Anang is currently based in Bangkok, Thailand and performs at The Stranger Bar (House of Drag Queens) every day and hopes to return to the US soon!
You can learn more about Go Thai Be Free through their dedicated LGBT+ travel resource website at www.gothaibefree.com; the first dedicated website for LGBT+ travelers. You can also follow them on social media at the links below:
YouTube: Go Thai Be Free