Fantasy, fashion and fame: Asifa Lohore discusses her unique world
When it comes to the world of entertainment, we’ve interviewed them all, from Bollywood A’listers, female dhol players, magicians and adult cinema stars…but this is the first time we’ve featured a Drag Queen. Asifa Lohore is a regular on the British club and cabaret circuit, who’s been sparkling up the stage with her flamboyant costumes, Punjabi vibes and Bollywood glamour. Parminder Kaur met up with her ahead of the release of her new single, a cover version of M.I.A’s Jimmy.
What is life like as a drag queen and does it differ from the real you?
It definitely differs from the real me! In my personal life I’m very humble, quiet and dare I say it ordinary. My performing drag queen persona is very big and bold; I’m very much the only south Asian professional drag queen in the UK so I play on Asian and Bollywood stereotypes. Life as drag queen is very hard work but also very glamorous. You’ve got to get your hair right, your make-up right and live your life around a performance timetable.
Drag queens are often better at applying make-up than women! Please share some of your beauty tips with us!
It’s all about taking care of yourself like drinking lots of water, having a really good skin care regime and also using the right brands of make-up that suits your skin tone. I tend to use lighter foundation to highlight my more feminine features and use a darker foundation to disguise features I want to hide. Also never be afraid of colour and don’t just save it for weddings! Whether it’s a bold eyeshadow or a slightly bolder blusher, never be afraid to experiment. Highlight your femininity and work those feminine looks. Asian Women are the most beautiful women the world and I celebrate that in my act.
So that’s beauty, what about fashion?
I follow a mixture of western and eastern glamour. I get my sarees and lenghas designed in Southall and Birmingham and also shop in American Apparel and Urban Outfitters. South Asian drag has a history of being dare I say it quiet masculine, so when I started doing it I really wanted to ooze super feminine looks, for me there is no point in doing it if you’re not going to be super feminine!
Is there a particular era of Bollywood that you identify with most?
The 1970s for me was such a amazing phase of glamour and femininity, figures like Zeenat Aman, Bobby Parveen, Helen and all those disco divas definitely inspire my current look.
I also do contemporary Bollywood looks very well as well - I am inspired by a lot of what’s going on. I think Bollywood glamour has definitely been brought into the 21st century in recent years by the quality of our films and heroines – Aishwarya Rai, Katrina Kaif, Bipasha Basu and Kareena Kapoor, what they wear, make-up and production values have certainly gone up in Bollywood. I try to reflect that in my looks, in clubs, on stage and at the same time I am not scared to bring in the retro looks and sounds in my act as well.
Tell is about your favourite songs and routines.
I love doing Bollywood pop mash ups, so I may mix Rihanna with Aap Jaisa Koi or mix in Jennifer Lopez. I like to keep things spicy and tend to mash up old school with new school with my look and music as well - a mix between British Born contemporary chart stuff with whatever is happening in Bollywood.
In the last few years its been about the ‘Item Bomb Craze’, songs like Munni Badnam, Jalebi Bhai, and Shelia Ki Jiwani. I try to combine this with a lot of my dance routines and steps and mixing it up with Helen’s classics like Piya Tu Ab Tu Aaja.
Do you have any plans to conquer Bollywood?
Yeah definitely! If I’m offered an Item Bomb song - the 1st drag item bomb song then yes I would love to!
Your latest song is a cover version of M.I.A’s Jimmy...
I was really inspired by the original Jimmy track from the film Disco Dancer and I also loved the M.I.A version. When I chose my version I thought of Jimmy as a British white male and essentially being my boyfriend so I decided to make a music video to accompany it which shows an inter-racial relationship.
I talk about Jimmy being a very gorgeous British guy that I am in love with and the clash of cultures and difficulties that come with explaining to your parents that firstly you have a boyfriend and secondly that they are not from an Asian background. Its being released on You Tube on June 20th 2013 and I hope the audience will like it. The video looks fantastic as I have played on the Miss World Aishwarya Rai look.
Find out more about Asifa at on her website and look out for her at this summer’s melas.
Jimmy is released June 20 2013.