Emi Grate (@emigrate_drag) is an NYC-based drag queen who envisions drag as “going on a gender journey,” where she departs from her assigned gender to explore “something new and better.” Born and raised in Myanmar, Emi Grate is an engaging and playful performer who likes to infuse aspects of Burmese culture into her drag while also tackling subjects related to race, religion, heritage, and migration, among others. Heavily influenced by her cultural upbringing, Emi Grate revels in the self-discovery she experiences performing drag on stage in front of an audience.
Emi Grate sees drag as a way to access a playfulness she didn’t get to experience growing up, due to familial pressures to be more serious. “When I was in my mid-teens, people would mistake me for mid-thirties,” Emi Grate tells In The Know.
While always maintaining an aura of surprise and delight, Emi Grate says her performances have also been described as “confrontational,” as the subject matter “can be extremely hostile topics to an unassuming audience who may just have walked into a bar to see a show.” What the drag performer aims to do is create a balance between challenging issues and drag’s fun and lightheartedness by ensuring that her look is visually captivating. “If you don’t remember any of my stories, you should remember my face, and you will want to see it again,” she tells In The Know.
Not only is Emi Grate’s culture part of what drives her drag performances, but she also harnesses it to affirm her queer identity in addition to her spiritual and emotional well-being. “Even though I reference my native culture a lot in my drag, I’m actually not very connected to the queer community back at home,” Emi Grate tells In The Know. “I didn’t feel like I could go to the Burmese immigrant community for help with getting myself established in the country,” she continues. “One of the reasons I had left and decided not to return was because of my queerness and the general Burmese attitude towards it, which is not favorable.”
Fortunately, Emi Grate found her home and community in New York’s drag scene. “I came to New York for survival,” she tells In The Know. “I didn’t have a support system, but I kind of dropped myself into one that has been here for decades, and people have been helping each other out.” She says she feels very “#emigrateful” for the audiences, followers, fans, and friends she’s met through performing drag.
For Emi Grate, drag is a connection to her past, present, and future, allowing her performances to continuously expand and evolve. She explains, “It is the intersection of all my identities, and it’s fascinating, scary, beautiful, and wonderful knowing that the possibilities are endless.”
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