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10 Photos of Mexico City Drag Queens You Need to See
While inverting the cultural concept of Latino machismo was not the stated goal of Mexican photographer Pedro Lujan Vales in his most recent project focusing on drag queens, it wasn't entirely unintentional either.
"It was not my main objective to upend machismo, but when you do a project like this, the challenging part comes with it whether it is your intention or not," Lujan says. "On the other hand, doing this project gives me the opportunity to show that not all Mexicans are 'machos' and close-minded."
His latest work featuring some of Mexico's most popular queens tosses aside toxic masculinity along with gender-normative expressions, he says, to reveal how "every one of us is a whole fascinating universe."
Lujan had been captivated by the drag scene for years before beginning this project in 2019. "But this is not just a drag project--the drag is part of it," he says. "I want to express how it is to be yourself, including the stuff we like about ourselves and the things we don't."
After a stint in New York City (where he studied at the International Center of Photography and the Fashion Institute of Technology), Lujan returned to his native Mexico where he photographs well-known drag queens from around the country.
"They are fabulous, amazing!" Lujan gushes, telling how they "got it perfectly" after he explained his vision for the project. "They felt totally free to express their personality, which was also the idea."
Local drag legends like Little Miss Salma, Luna Lasam, Barbara Durango, and others posed in a series of pictures that challenge gender norms and traditional concepts of masculinity and femininity. The imagery is bright and seductive but also jarring. In one, Lujan seamlessly adds a second head to the body of a model, causing the viewer to instinctually contrast the imagery confronting them with preconceptions of what constitutes body and gender.
"I like to show emotions by telling surprising stories, and give a sharp twist or a striking punch," declares the 43-year-old gay artist.
Lujan attended the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and also received training in photography from Centro de Arte Fotografco, Centrol Cultural El Nigromante Bellas Artes, and Academia de Artes Visuales.
He's generally inspired by pop culture--music, movies, television, fashion, even magazines. But there's nothing conformist about his work (or his models). Hunky males with chiseled physiques appear just as comfortable wearing a pleated skirt as they do a suit and tie. Oftentimes it is impossible to distinguish between genders, and perhaps that is the point. Lujan's work is upending the existing concepts of masculinity, inserting instead more expansive, inclusive, and intersectional definitions.
"Everyone is unique!" the award-winning photographer insists. "And what better way to say this [to the world] than through a drag queen?"
Little Miss Salma
Nina de la Fuente