Polynesian Representation In Drag Inspires Me: Aunty Tamara
Sydney-based drag performer, Aunty Tamara, is no ordinary aunty – she is a powerhouse performer bringing her talent, energy, and emotion to any stage she’s on.
Being inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race, Tamara began utilising drag make-up and wigs as a “creative outlet” back in 2019. It wasn’t until seeing fellow Māori drag performer, Domino Trixx, that Tamara was inspired to bring their perspective and art to the stage.
“There was something about seeing someone who I could closely relate to doing what I’ve been practising in the bedroom, but on a professional level. That made me want to pursue drag,” she says.
Tamara credits much of her artistic inspiration to the “strong women” in her personal life, including their mum, nan and sisters, as well as the “strong leaders” of the Māori community.
Coming onto the Sydney Drag scene, Tamara has brought the “soulful likes” of Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Tina Turner to their performances.
She also credits many within the Australian drag community; including their now Drag Mother, Trixx, as well as Kween Kong, Coco Jumbo, Les Beau Fierce and many other BIPOC queens, who have continued to support and inspire her.
“Polynesian representation inspires me heavily because I see myself in them and we relate on a lot of levels,” she explains.
Since making their stage debut in April 2022, Tamara has constantly brought their heart to their performances saying, “Audiences can expect to FEEL my performances.”
“My aim when performing is to make the audiences feel something, whether I’m dancing the house down, or lip-syncing ballad boots, I always want the audience to feel a part of the performance and walk away feeling GOOD!” says Tamara.
Representing Māori Heritage On Stage
Tamara has also incorporated their Māori heritage to the stage, sharing their personal connection and “deep passion” towards Māori performances.
“Similarly, to how dancers/ gymnasts begin doing drag… I come from a background of cultural performing, so like them, I got up and done with what I know best,” she explains.
“To my surprise and long behold, this was not commonly seen in the drag scene – the cross-over between Drag and Māori culture being performed. To me, it was not that significant, but to others, it seemed to have a huge impact and show an important point-of-view and perspective for Māori representation.”
Recognising the space between drag and culture, Tamara began creating and incorporating their cultural performances throughout their drag performance – including poi choreography to songs such as It’s Raining Men or Stand Up.
Whilst continuing to proudly feature cultural performances, Tamara explains, “I’ll never want to box myself into this space.”
“Although I have built Aunty Tamara up with showing who I am and performing impactful cultural numbers – These are very special performances, and I only perform them when I deem it necessary to do so. You won’t catch me at your local drag bingo, doing a haka or poi, just ‘because’” she says jokingly.
Tamara has proven her performance versatility throughout the past year.
During her first pageant at Universal Sydney’s Miss Universal 2023, Tamara placed second – a “special moment” which she is very proud of.
She also featured in Kween Kong’s, Klub Village, a part of Marri Madung Butbut: The First Nations Gathering Space during Sydney World Pride.
“Any time she invites me to perform for her show, we always shut it DOWN!” says Tamara, speaking of her work alongside her now good friend and drag Aunty Kong.
Tamara has also shared the stage with Jinkx Monsoon, Monet Xchange and Trinity the Tuck at the Legends Ball earlier this year.
More recently, she also met and performed for one of her “biggest inspirations,” Sasha Colby. “A moment I’ll never forget,” says Tamara. Whilst being an absolute powerhouse performer at night, Tamara continues to work during the day as a full-time Program Coordinator.
Facing the challenges of “time and distance,” Tamara explains, “I know the solution would be to quit my job, move closer to the city and pursue drag full-time, but in this economy, NO MA’AM!”
“I’ve continued to persevere because [drag] is something I am very passionate about, so I work hard to make it happen,” she says. “It takes a lot of juggling, a lot of sacrifice and a lot of focus, but it has paid off at the end of the day.
“It’s important to have balance, and that is something that has been my focus lately.”
With so many accomplishments, Tamara plans to continue “riding the wave” with their drag career. Whilst she is unsure of what is to come, Tamara is aware of her purpose within the art form. “It’s to inspire and represent BIPOC, Polynesian/Pasifika/Māori queer people,” she says.
“I’m just going to trust the universe to point me in the direction I’m meant to be heading and continue doing what I’m doing for now.”