We're honored to be highlighting Send Noodz, LA's first queer API drag show, co-hosted by Miss Shu Mai and Bibi Discoteca. Emerging from a need for an API drag space in LA, the two queens established Send Noodz as a healing space for performance, conversation, and celebration.
In March 2020, in the midst of their one year celebration, they adapted successfully to Zoom shows, opening up an online healing space for the API LGBTQ+ community.
With the recent celebration of their two year anniversary, Send Noodz Party hopes that this coming show will be the last of their virtual celebrations before being able to return to in person shows, but hope to continue to integrate a streaming component to their show in order for all to access the space.
We're grateful for Miss Shu Mai, Bibi Discoteca, and their work on Send Noodz. It's an honor to spotlight them and a bit more on why they do what they do.
Can you each introduce yourselves and your work? How did you start doing drag and why do you do the work that you do?
Miss Shu Mai: My name is Miss Shu Mai and I'm an Los Angeles based 2nd Generation Chinese American drag performer! I started doing drag in 2016 in cosplay at Anime Expo, and got started performing from there! With my background as a choreographer and an advocate in the nonprofit sector, drag became an art form where I could fully celebrate all the intersections I hold as a queer, femme, Asian American - whether that is lipsyncing to Mandarin songs my parents loved growing up or using my numbers to speak out about issues our community faces such as fetishization. I do the work that I do because it is healing for me to own my truth and build communities who may feel seen by my work as well!
Bibi Discoteca: I am Bibi Discoteca and I am an artist that uses Drag Performance as a channel of creation. I have been performing in Drag since I was 18, in 2015, and haven't looked back since. This journey for me has been ever changing and I am always amazed in the collective growth of myself and my peers. I started performing in Drag with the intention of representing my communities and inspiring true expression in my audiences. With each performance, I am able to reimagine a world for people like us, the queerz, where we are able to live in the present and appreciate each other's existence in this current timeline. I do Drag because it makes me feel alive and grateful for being alive with one another.
Send Noodz is LA's first queer Asian American and Pacific Islander drag show, which you have been hosting since 2019. Can you tell us a bit about the origins of this show, what it has meant for the both of you to host this party and why you feel like it's important for this space to exist?
Miss Shu Mai: Bibi and I started brainstorming about this party back in 2018 - I had seen API drag spaces all across the nation in major cities but wondered why LA didn't have one. As a budding performer, I realized in many of the shows that I got booked for, I was very often the only Asian or one of the few POC. In contrast, I knew that there were many API performers throughout the greater LA area but we were never booked together. In an effort to bridge this gap and build community not only among queer and trans API performers, but also the greater API LGBTQ+ community as a whole, we started this show and have received feedback that the space is very healing for our community members.
Bibi Discoteca: Coproducing Send Noodz with Miss Shu Mai has been one of my most fulfilling experiences as a Queer, mixed-API person because I have been able to connect with community in ways I would have never imagined. I have been able to connect more to my heritage because I think about the Queer people in my lineage that have not bee able to express themselves freely. Each party we do is dedicated to the past, present, and future generations of Queer API people in hopes that we can always live our truths and build a world we want to live in.
In this past year of virtual gatherings, different communities have learned to come together for online celebrations, grieving, and healing. What has it been like to transition into an online platform? Any challenges or high points? How do you feel about this being your last virtual show?
Miss Shu Mai: Transitioning to online shows were a blessing and a curse. At the beginning of the pandemic, quite literally right before lockdown, we had to cancel our 1 Year Anniversary, which was very sad for us but we had to keep our community safe. Doing shows via Zoom thereafter not only allowed us to create events that were more accessible, as well as allowed us to book performers from all over that we had been wanting to work with. During a time of screen fatigue, collective pandemic related trauma, and heightened feelings of unsafeness due to rising Asian hate crimes, this space was much needed and allowed us to get more/differently intimate with our community members.
Bibi Discoteca: There's always pros and cons to everything. I feel like we were able to gain more support on the online platform that we otherwise would have not reached at our local, in-person events. There were some shows that were even international with performers from different countries and time zones! Something I did NOT enjoy was that Miss Shu Mai and I were away from each other for most of quarantine so we had to work remotely from each other. *tears running down eyes emoji* On the bright side I feel like our creativity was tested and we had to come up with new ways of running our party to better fit an online atmosphere. We all didn't know what we were doing at the beginning of quarantine in terms of organizing online parties, so we were just rollin with the punches and making it work - all the while dealing with zoom bombers and people unmuting themselves mid show. With our "last" online show we actually don't want it to be the end of an era. We believe that we should continue incorporating an online streaming component for those that would like to still watch our show but may not be able to physically there with us!
I've seen you both use your platforms to engage in important conversations on mental health, satirizing stereotypes, and honoring the ways in which queer Asian Americans have creatively learned to hold and heal each other. Can you elaborate on the topics that you feel most drawn to talking about these days, and why you feel it’s important to do so?
Miss Shu Mai: I think the biggest thing I've been trying to practice since getting into therapy and focusing on my mental health has been to heal my inner child and celebrate the things I had been shamed for growing up. The first time I really wanted to start playing with gender was after seeing my brother play Final Fantasy X-2. The female cast or protagonists were strong, fabulous, and went through these flashy costume changes mid-battle. I remember telling a friend that I wanted to dress up like one of them for Halloween and they told me, "aren't people going to laugh at you?" And so further in the closet I went. Drag has helped heal the years of feeling ashamed and in danger for my femininity, my love of cosplay, and so much more. There's a radical power in reclaiming the parts I had to hide for survival.
Bibi Discoteca: I always feel most drawn to talking about our own internal biases within community with anti-blackness. Due to assimilation and white supremacy, members of our community have historically caused harm and violence to Black people and communities in working to position themselves in closer proximity to whiteness. It is important that people acknowledge and challenge anti-blackness within our own families and networks in order to achieve true liberation for not just a select few of us but for all of us. No one is free unless Black and Indigenous people are free.
What brings you joy about being a queer Asian American drag performer?
Miss Shu Mai: What brings me the most joy as a queer Asian American drag performer is being able to be the star I've always wanted to be. As a young Asian American child still navigating queerness, representation was sparse if any. I saw myself most in powerful femme cartoon character such as Sailor Moon. Fast forward to the present, as a choreographer, a lot of times it feels like a lot of the work I am booked to do is created for others and not just for me. There are pressures in the industry to dance or present a certain way, etc. Drag has allowed me to sort of make my performance and storytelling more dimensional, and has allowed me to be the superhero I always wanted to be and see growing up.
Bibi Discoteca: I am able to be who I needed when I was a child. All this talk about inner child work has really made me reflect on my work with Miss Shu Mai and Send Noodz. When we are working together, I sometimes feel like we are just kids on a playdate (LOL) and that feeling reminds me of what community is. ALSO, feeling the energy in a room full of people living their truths is what sparks joy for me. Each time I am performing when the energy is RIGHT the space is transcendent. I feel like we are all transporting to a different plane of existence, which is actually just the present, when I experience others living for my performances while I am on stage. It's like a power boost that I feel we all share in the moment.
I've been thinking about this quote from Ocean Vuong a lot these days: "Being queer saved my life. Often we see queerness as deprivation. But when I look at my life, I saw that queerness demanded an alternative innovation from me. I had to make alternative routes, it made me curious, it made me ask this is not enough for me."
As queer Asian Americans, oftentimes the work of celebration, joy, healing, grieving, and transforming means we have to dream of new ways of being and loving. What hopes and dreams do you have for yourself and for the queer API community?
Miss Shu Mai: The lack of connection and community that Send Noodz works to bridge is largely given by White supremacy and homophobia/transphobia. We created a space that intentionally centers queer APIs who haven't had the opportunity to publicly own their culture in White queer spaces, as well as those who couldn't authentically be themselves in API spaces due to deeply rooted anti-queerness. While I hope that spaces like ours continue to thrive, I am hopeful that in the future our community can just thrive without having to be in response to systems of oppression.
Bibi Discoteca: I just hope that we can all be gathered around a camp fire, titties out, lookin fly, and gettin - spicy! Basically I just envision a future where our people are able to be comfortable and indulge in their pleasure and rest. Where we are not judged on how we look or have to worry about the white gaze or being someone's racist fetish.
Are there any other community efforts, people, or issues that you'd like to highlight?
Miss Shu Mai: I'd like to highlight other queer API spaces such as Queer Asian Social Club, organizations that do amazing work in organizing and providing services for our community such as API Equality LA, and as always, a call to our community to recognize the issues within our larger community such as East Asian privilege, colorism, and anti-blackness. Our liberation will never be found siding with White Supremacy!
Bibi Discoteca: Yes! I would like to highlight one of our sister collectives in Los Angeles, QNA, that is having their first back in person event on June 26th at the Ace Hotel in Downtown LA. Miss Shu Mai and I are both hosting this event and the theme for the party is BODY! Another organization I would like to mention is the Koreatown Popular Assembly that works to verify ICE activity within an area, document what is happening, and support where it is needed to keep ICE out of communities.