Today in International Drag Day—a good time to remember that though RuPaul’s Drag Race is a global sensation, other countries and cultures have their own drag superstars. Just look at international Drag Race stars like Bebe Zahara Benet and Courtney Act—not to mention all the girls from Puerto Rico!
Below, we celebrate 10 queens from around the world who are taking the art of drag in dynamic directions.
Logo TV salutes International Drag Day with marathon screenings of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Kinky Boots, starting at 4pm!
Panti Bliss, Ireland
In February, Irish drag queen Panti Bliss blew away the Internet with an impassioned speech against homophobia at Dublin’s Abbey Theater, delivered a month after Irish TV network RTE paid out $118,000 to journalists who complained about being labeled “homophobic” on a nighttime talk show.
Bliss’ oration was called “the most eloquent Irish speech” in almost 200 years by drama critic Fintan O’Toole and she was praised by RuPaul, Madonna, Alan Cumming and Dan Savage, among others.
Shortly thereafter, “I’m on Team Panti” T-shirts raised nearly $17,000 for LGBT youth services.
Uriel Yekutiel, Israel
Yekutiel’s gender-blurring eccentric caricature (he eschews the “drag queen” label) has landed him in nightclubs throughout Europe and South America, Pride parades around the world, and even on an Israeli sitcom. He’s also earned a following for his work with Israeli electro-pop group The Young Professionals.
Lasseindra Ninja, France
We fell in love with this from the Parisian branch of the House of Ninja when she got into a vogue-off against a Finnish dancer rocking some Sailor Moon fabulousness. It must be seen (below) to be believed.
Verka Serduchka, Ukraine
Quite the chanteuse, Serduchka has sold more than 600,000 records in Ukraine and represented the country in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2007, coming in second place.
Beauty Ramapelepele, South Africa
South African Satirist Ben Voss doesn’t wear blackface to portray Beauty, a loudmouth 50-year-old black woman, but the scheming social climber has still generated controversy—though more internationally than at home.
“The race debate is a big one in South Africa still,” Voss told The Guardian, “and we talk about it more candidly than the rest of the world does.”
Jodi Harsh, England
This British queen named herself after topless model/UK reality star Jodie Marsh, and helped reinvigorate the London club scene in the 2000s with red-hot parties Foreign and Circus. “I don’t want to be a girl and I am not particularly feminine, I don’t wear false boobs and I rarely wear skirts or dresses.” Harsh told The Independent of her drag look. “I would say that I’m a boy with loads of feminine qualities. My hair, my lips, my makeup, my shoes—everything is big, much bigger than a girl.”
Akihiro Miwa, Japan
This 79-year-old singer, actor, director, writer and composer first came to prominence in 1957, with an obscenity-laden hit “Me Que Me Que,” but shows little sign of slowing down. And her appeal is intergenerational, from her popular cabaret acts to voice work in Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and 2009’s Pokémon: Arceus: To a Conquering Space-Time.
“Miwa has carried on being a true monster, whereas many amazingly talented freaks have gone back to looking and behaving normally after enjoying a brief boom in popularity,” said noted dramatist Hideki Noda.
Bassem Feghali, Lebanon
While Lebanon, like much of the Middle East, isn’t exactly receptive to the LGBT community, Feghali has garnered acclaim for his impressions of numerous Arab and international celebrities, actresses and singers (whom he impersonates without lip synching).
One year during Ramadan, Bassem had a daily show on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation in which he impersonated a different artist every day for a full month.
Conchita Wurst, Austria
Since winning the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen, Denmark, with her song “Rise Like A Phoenix,” Wurst, 25, has blown up: She’s appeared at London Pride and other LGBT celebrations, walked the runway for Jean-Paul Gaultier and is even rumored to be opening for Lady Gaga on tour.
Dame Edna Everage, Australia
One of the grand dames of drag, Dame Edna was dreamed up by Barry Humphries (a heterosexual!) in 1955 and has done it all—film, television, books, Broadway, even performing for the Queen of England! Humphries announced he was retiring Edna in 2012, but decided to bring her back for a tour in 2013. We hope the old gal never goes away.