Dyan Tai, the self-described “Gaysian Empress of Sydney,” is a trilingual Malaysian-born classically trained musician, singer, performer, cabaret artist, DJ, and fixture of the Sydney Queer arts scene.
In a conversation with Star Observer, he spoke about showcasing and cultivating Queer Asian excellence, the importance of music in his life, and his memorable first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The Gaysian Empress Is Born
Speaking about the moniker “Gaysian Empress Of Sydney”, Tai explained, “It’s a funny thing that I always use when I introduce myself on stage because I feel my music can be quite serious.”
He continued, “A lot of my shows are about empowering the Queer Asian experience, so I just started to own that and found the Gaysian Empress.”
A Call To Queer Worship
Tai is the founder of Worship Queer Collective, a community initiative led by Queer Asian creatives to champion local Queer Asian excellence.
Started in 2021, Worship Queer Collective aims to highlight the unique vision and talent within Australia’s Queer Asian community.
“We have a lot of really talented LGBTQI+ Asian artists in Sydney, but we don’t see a lot of them on stage,” Tai said.
“So it’s part of our mission to diversify the arts and cultural landscape in Sydney, as well as providing these really talented artists with a nurturing space where they can perform, and they can create shows that speak about their Queerness.”
Worship Queer Mentorship Program
As a way to achieve this, Worship Queer Collective, in collaboration with Queer collectives Big Thick Energy, Club Chrome, Bindi Bosses and Scary Strangers, announced the launch of a Worship Queer Mentorship program.
“It’s a very passionate project of mine,” Tai said
“Worship is about creating opportunities for new and emerging Queer Asian artists to experiment and perform.
“We’ve taken it further and managed to get funding from the City of Sydney to put together the first Worship Mentorship program, in collaboration with five of the leading QTBIPOC arts collectives.”
According to organisers, the mentorship is open to artists who identify as Queer Asian or QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Color).
The mentorship provides an “invaluable opportunity” to be mentored by working creatives through one-on-one coaching.
Tai explained, “We’ll help them create their first performance. We’ll spend one-on-one time coaching them how to perform pole, how to DJ, how to put together a comedy set, and help them create performances based on dance or burlesque.”
Finding Queer Joy In Australia
Tai started his musical training when he was a preschool student in Malaysia.
“I was classically trained as a pianist, and I played the violin as well. So first and foremost, music is the most important thing to me,” he said, stating that DJing, singing, performing, and cabaret are an extension of his love of creating music.
Originally from the Malaysian city of Ipoh, Tai moved to Sydney in 2009, finding his community and being able to express Queer joy.
“As an artist, I knew I wouldn’t be able to express myself authentically if I remained in Malaysia,” he shared.
“Queer joy for me is the moment I moved to Australia and was able to find my community and start expressing my art the way I’m currently expressing it.”
Soon after moving to Sydney, he experienced his first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
“Growing up in a very conservative part of Malaysia,” Tai explained, “it was like nothing I’d ever seen before.”
With a laugh, he added, “I remember going to Fair Day and I made out with a drag queen.”
Tai: Living My Best Life As Full-Time Creative
A surprising bit of info that people may not know about Tai is that he graduated with a science degree and used to work for a pharmaceutical company.
“I did a science degree when I first moved here – I don’t really talk about that much.
“After that, I worked as a pharmaceutical sales rep. So I was a pill pusher for a few years until I was made redundant last year,” he said with a cheeky giggle.
“Now I’m just living the best life, my dream life, as a full-time creative. I make a lot less money, but it’s very fulfilling.”
“The most rewarding part is seeing the spaces, that I’ve helped create, grow,” he added.
Favourite Queer Spaces
When asked to name his favourite Queer spaces in Sydney, Tai named The Bearded Tit, a bar in Redfern.
“We put on our [Worship Queer Collective] Dynasty Social nights there. It’s a space for anyone who identifies as Queer and Asian, if they’re new to performing or have never performed before. That’s a safe space for them to come on stage and just do whatever they want.”
The Bearded Tit has been really supportive of our Queer Asian movement, being a Queer and Asian-owned bar.
Tai also named Red Rattler Theatre, a Queer creative space in Marrickville.
“We’ve put on our sold-out yum cha events and a lot of our Queer Asian events – It actually started at the Red Rattler Theatre.
“They have been championing our movement since the very beginning and providing us with the space to experiment, to try something new, and they’ve been there for community.”