Cape Town’s drag scene is an important part of the nightlife of the city. At drag shows, you can see both queer and non-queer individuals mingling while appreciating this important art form. One of the city’s more popular and avant-garde queens is Ina Propriette, who is known for her strong aesthetics and artistry.

Cape Town Etc asked her some questions on her drag journey, inspirations and obstacles.

Q: What made you want to begin doing drag, and how long have you been doing it?
A: I always tell people that I didn’t choose drag, it chose me. As cheesy as it sounds, it really is how it all started. I never really intended on becoming a drag queen. I started doing makeup in 2015 in my dorm room for fun and gradually I got more and more involved with the art form over the years. My first actual appearance in drag was in 2016 for Dancing With The Queens, a ballroom and Latin competition for males only. As a former dancer, I had to enter and that’s pretty much where Ina was born. In 2017, I started dabbling in drag pageants and started putting my name out in the scene. In 2018 I had my first drag show at Zer021 Social and I’ve been performing ever since.  It was a very gradual, slow transition from a little gay boy doing makeup in his room to a drag artist and entertainer, Ina Propriette.

Q: How would you describe Ina, and what inspired her name?
A: My name actually comes from the Latin dancer Ina Jeliazkova, with whom I was obsessed with as I prepared for the Dancing With The Queens competition. The Propriette is because I am a goofball and love silly puns but added that “ette” for a more feminine look. My name kind of describes my aesthetic quite well. At the core, I am a bit weird and odd. My drag style was not like other drag styles in the scene and people either liked it or didn’t. In the pageant scene, my bare chest and nipple tassels really did not please certain people and I liked that it got that response. Tradition is important but it can get boring, so I love challenging the standards within the scene. In essence, I would describe my style of drag as contemporary and queer with a touch of old school. I am limitless when it comes to how I choose to express myself as a character because I do not bound myself to tradition or gender. I think that makes me a bit more accessible to different types of people and crowds. Basically, Ina is just gay AF, to be honest.
Q: What is the moment that made you realize that drag is something you want to keep as a fixture in your life? 
A: When the cheques started cashing. I kid. I think what drag has done for me has really made me learn how to accept and love the parts of me that I never did before. If toxic masculinity were a form of currency then I was Elon Musk. A lot of those insecurities I had with regards to my sexuality have either eased their grip on my throat or completely dissipated. I don’t feel I would be this comfortable with who I am as a queer individual had I not experienced it through drag. When I realized how much confidence and purpose drag gave me and how much joy it gave others, I knew I was doing something right. I knew this was something that I had to keep doing not just for myself but for others. In turn, I have learned a lot about who I am as Wade and I could not have done that without Ina.
Q: What has been one of the most challenging aspects of doing drag? 
A: Drag as an art form is one thing, but drag as a career is VERY expensive and demanding. With drag being such a mainstream artform now, everyone who has watched a single episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race is now a self-proclaimed authority on drag which makes it really difficult for local queens like myself. The problem is that mainstream drag has set an expectation for viewers on what drag is supposed to look like and if you do not fit the criteria, it is not considered a valid form of drag. In all honesty, most local queens simply cannot afford the gowns and hair that those overseas queens have. It is VERY expensive in this country. As Michelle Visage would say, money is no excuse and I agree with that. I am fortunate enough to be innovative and resourceful and can work with what I have. The issue is the audience who will drag you through the dirt for the slightest error. I think the most challenging aspect is having to walk out into a community just waiting for you to fall flat on your face. It’s really petty and sad. I think people should relax and remember that drag is way more than what we see portrayed in mainstream media. It’s subjective, there is no right and no wrong.

Q: How has lockdown affected your drag career? 
A: Lockdown really was tough for me. It was tough to get booked in the city as is but when things shifted over to a digital platform I just could not keep up with the expectations. I remember I did this one digital show and got paid R60 – yes, you read that correctly. It was also very discouraging to me seeing other queens, and I mean no disrespect, get praised and worshipped for the bare minimum where I was spending hours filming and editing digital shows that no one even really cared to share or promote. I just didn’t feel that I had the support from the community and even less the drag community; it left me very depressed. Drag became a battle for who was most popular and I just was not keeping up. I shut down my social media because it became such a toxic place for me and I packed my drag away. It was a really dark period for me and I ended up quitting drag to focus on my mental health. If anything, lockdown has forced me to work on Wade and the break from drag was exactly what I needed to reestablish a fresher perspective of what drag meant to me personally and professionally.
Q: As a more seasoned queen, what advice would you give to yourself when you just started drag?
A: You’re talented and you’ve got the skills. Stop seeking approval from others. Just do you!
Q: Where do you draw inspiration and influence from for your looks and overall style of drag?
A: I really do not have one particular source that I pull inspiration from. Ina is very much a full house steak gatsby; a bit of everything. I love the old school Hollywood glamour, the club kid flare, the glitz and glam of Latin and ballroom dancing all the way to the spins and dips of the New York ballroom culture. I enjoy mixing my own personal interests into my drag and truly am my own muse. I also enjoy just working with whatever I have whether it be two metres of silk fabric or an old sweatshirt I thrifted for 10 bucks, the finished product will always be my spin on it.

Q: What do you see for the evolution of Ina?
A: 2021 truly is a rebirth of Ina Propriette. Life has changed so much over the past year for me and my perspective has changed a lot around drag and what that means for me. I am learning to not take myself so seriously and go out there and have fun with it. I am really excited to start a lot of the projects I have planned over the next couple of months and do way more with drag than I once thought I could. Drag has finally become my own again and I am honoured to be able to share that experience with people. For now, I’ll say, buckle up and enjoy the ride…
If you would like to support Ina Propriette’s drag career by making a donation, click here. Keep an eye out for any future gigs by keeping an eye on her Instagram stories.
Picture: @ina_propriette/Instagram

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.