Over the weekend, New York was lit up with Chinese New Year's celebrations -- from Ezra Williams' beautiful dinner at his New York restaurant, Wayan, to the look-turning Bubble-T party at MoMA PS1. But despite all the Year of the Pig festivities here in the city, the most compelling celebration may have been held in the Chicago apartment of 23-year-old Andy Zhang, a local drag queen who was experimenting with buckets of glitter and brand-new prosthetics. Zhang (better known on Instagram as Eva Young) turned out a face so compelling it would leave Miss Piggy shaking. We hopped on the phone with Eva to get the full scoop on her look, and find out what her plans are for the Year of the Pig.
When did you start doing drag?
I started drag when I was 12, that's when my best friend and I went to Halloween and we wanted to zombie hookers, and that's how this entire mess started. We were wild 12-year-olds, watched all the Rated R movies, and we were into horror flicks and watched bunch of old Halloween movies, old Friday the 13th movies.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the suburbs, in Orland Park, Chicago. My parents actually don't know that I'm gay, let alone being a drag queen. They're super old-fashioned and very traditional, so they don't have any social media or read American news. They're from China, and I was born in China, as well. I came to America when I was four years old, it was a big culture shock.
So how did you find drag as a way to express yourself?
I was always big into drawing, art, and anime. I was a huge nerd, and I still am. But I love different art styles and ever since I was little, I'd try to create my own anime characters, and I'd draw all the time at lunch. Somewhere along the lines, I became my own canvas. After that Halloween, I just loved doing different makeup looks and trying different things, evolving my style.
Did your family observe the Chinese New Year?
Normally, we would all get together and have a big dinner. Either my mom or dad would cook for us. We used to own Chinese restaurants in my family, so we'd host at our restaurant and have a bunch of family come. And there's always that red envelope, which had money that signifies luck and everything, and that was always my favorite part.
Similar to the American New Year, the Chinese New Year is about family and trying to reminisce on all the family and friends you've made over the years -- especially that year -- and all the significant events that happened. In a way, it's a reflection on the year. Chinese New Year's is very family-based, even if you're a son who lives very far away and not close to home, you'd travel home just for Chinese New Year because it's the one day everyone should be together. Since we don't have Christmas or Thanksgiving, this is our amalgamation of all those holidays.
What's special about the Year of the Pig?
Year of the Pig generally represents wealth and luck. A lot of different animals signify that, but they say the pig is supposed to be rolling in money and really wealthy, which is why there's a bunch of little pig cartoons or sculptures or piggy banks, or just pigs holding a bunch of gold coins. I was actually born in the Year of the Pig, as well.
So how did you get into the pig look?
It took five hours. One of my drag sisters, Kahmora Hall, said, "Oh my God, we should do a Chinese New Year look together and become pigs!" We usually do looks together to push ourselves to do new things, so Kahmora got these pig noses and she did her drag at my place. We just spent hours on different makeups, and she was doing a Miss Piggy look, taking it into more of a cartoon interpretation. We tried so many things.
What direction did you go in?
When I was little, I had a piggy bank that was literally a gold, glittery pig and it was holding money. For some reason, every Chinese New Year, my parents kept getting more of them! There were also golden pigs with money on Chinese calendars, so it's what I pictured the New Year to look like.
What are you wearing on your head and body?
The gold pieces on the head are actually traditional Chinese jewelry or headwear, but they'd mostly be used during weddings. The bride would wear these fancy gold pieces with red tassels -- a lot of the times, these are for celebrations in our culture. And then, I'm wearing a lace bodysuit, which I had one of my designers make for Chicago Pride 2015. I wanted it to have long sleeves, kind of like a traditional Chinese gown.
How did you do the face?
I still have glitter on some parts of my face! To apply it, I did a base coat with sticky foundation and patted the glitter all over. Whichever parts didn't stick, I would put eyelash glue right on my face and then re-apply the glitter. I went through two jars of Ben Nye glitter. I actually glued the tassels to my head because I was basically wearing a bald cap.
And those are prosthetics on the nose and ears?
I experimented with prosthetics a couple of times -- once for Halloween, I did a series of Asian Horror Tales, where I was different monsters from Asian folklore. This time, the prosthetic was a full pig nose, so I didn't realize how hard it would be to breathe out of the pig nose and how strange it smelled! It smelled kind of like a chemical? Since I couldn't find the glitter I wanted to use, I had to go to the drugstore with my full pig nose and ears without the glitter and ask for some more. The person at the store was so confused.
What did people think when you went out?
I just did this for a look. I didn't even go out that night! It was a long-ass time, just for a photo. I just wanted to make sure I did something for the Chinese New Year. I actually had an exam the very next day -- I'm a pharmacy student, as well. I'm in my third year, so basically I do drag at night.
Wait -- you're a pharmacy student and a drag queen? How do you juggle the two?
It's not too terrible, but it's worth it! Drag is my passion and what I love doing. The only thing is, the pay for pharmacy is a lot better than drag. But, maybe one day I can make drag an affordable living.
Who are some of the queens you love?
I would have to go with Kim Chi, we got to know each other pretty well. My sister, Kahmora Hall, and Soju. And, of course, Manila Luzon. Manila inspired me to do drag when I was younger -- she was what I envisioned Asian beauty to be. There wasn't really an Asian presence in the media at the time, so she was the one who got me into drag and I try to imitate her and become that inspiration for future generations of Asian kids.
I found your look on Aquaria's Instagram, actually.
Aquaria and I knew each other before she got on Drag Race. We both started drag around the same time, so we both knew each other from social media, and we've seen each other a couple of times at DragCon and other events.
Who do you think is going to win All Stars 4?
I'm rooting for Naomi Smalls. She moved to Chicago a while ago, and she's really sweet.
Even though she booted your idol, Manila?
It's part of the game! You can't blame her for trying to win, even though I think Manila would've made great TV if she made it for a couple more episodes.
Finally, what's your New Year's resolution?
My New Year's resolution is to continue inspiring future generations of people about what Asian beauty and Asian culture is. I've got a lot of messages from fans and people on social media, asking how I'm able to do pharmacy and drag at the same time. To be able to tell them and inspire them to follow their job and their passion has been really rewarding for me.
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