When Chicago-based performer Abhijeet Rane launched a photo series earlier this year with the hashtag Bad Beti, their imagery viral, featuring the queer Indian artist paying homage to South Asian femme icons through drag recreations.
Conceived alongside Dash, a queer South Asian woman, Rane’s Bad Beti project addressed the lack of queer South Asian references in Western pop culture. “It started with Bollywood actresses, but also included athletes, scientists, trans women, non-binary femmes and figures in history,” said Rane, who embodied everyone from M.I.A. to Alok Vaid-Menon.
Now, Rane has extended the conversation with a new Chicago party of the same name: Bad Beti, which translates from Hindi to English as Bad Daughter, though Rane uses it more casually to replace Bad Girl.
A celebration of Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Rane’s event will pull together a cast of fierce performers who embody the Bad Beti attitude: “a femme that shows resistance and defiance in face of years of oppression and obstacles,” Rane said. “Always surviving by not playing by the rules.”
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Hosts include Drag Race contestant Raja—the only Asian winner to date—and staple Chicago-based drag queens, from Soju (of YouTube's Shot With Soju) to Eva Young. One of the city’s original Indian drag queens, LaWhore Vagistan, will also appear, alongside DJ Nevin and DJ Tamahori.
“I feel like most Asian cultures have a very extensive history seeped in queerness and transness that have faced erasure after years of colonization,” Rane said. “Practices, performances and people that were once mystical and revered in these cultures [have since been] outcast. This party is about tapping into that unrecognized history and combining it with our current references to fully celebrate and document a new queer, Asian identity, especially in the United States.”
Producing a party like Bad Beti is important for visibility in the LGBTQ community, offering a platform to highlight the diversity of Asian identities, united by their queerness. From entertainers to artists and activists, Rane’s Bad Beti crew shares a mutual history of immigration and survival that they collectively manifest into nightlife magic. “By showing us together, we represent our individual and shared strengths—not to be overseen or cast aside," Rane said.
Envisioned in Trump's America, Bad Beti is inevitably charged with political power—equal parts protest and party—delivering an active disruption of gender and the performance of gender through drag. Since the queer art form has a shared history with people of color, trans individuals and other marginalized folks, drag will always simultaneously spawn disruption and creation.
"There is a social responsibility that comes with drag," Rane said. "We have to constantly preserve and create more drag history. We have to work together to deconstruct and dismantle other systems of oppression like we do with gender. Whether it's an Instagram post, a YouTube video, music [or] fashion, we should use every opportunity to make a statement—even if it's as simple and important as I'm here."
Bad Beti will take place Thursday, May 18 at Chicago's Berlin Nightlclub. For more information, visit 1833.fm.