"Madayaw mga kaigsuonan! Or I should say, hello mga kaibigan, with feelings!"
Lady Morgana Perez walked into the Drag Race Philippines "werkroom" in a ruffled black dress, a large hat, and adorned with sparkling jewelry. She looked expensive.
Lady is one of the 12 queens competing in the historic first season of Drag Race Philippines, the local franchise of Emmy-award-winning US reality series Ru Paul's Drag Race.
She is also one of the two Dabawenya queens competing in what has been dubbed the "Olympics of Drag." The other is Gigi Era, who traces her roots in Davao City but is currently based in Melbourne, Australia.
Lady said she had mixed emotions when she found out that she will be competing in Drag Race Philippines.
"Na iyak ako nung first nung nalaman ko na (I cried when I first found out that) I am one of the cast of Drag Race Philippines. And super excited na to show na my brand as a (And I am excited to show my brand as a) drag queen here in Mindanao, not only in Mindanao but sa mga (also) Bisaya and of course to show my culture in Mindanao to the world," Lady said.
The Dabawenya queen said it has been her dream to compete in Drag Race should there be a franchise for the Philippines.
"Actually, estorya-estorya pa lang ni sya sa akong mga barkada na pag naay RuPaul’s Drag Race diri sa Philippines mo-join jud ko. Naa ra ju'y right place and right time para jud sa akoa. Mao to dugay na jud nakong gihulat. And now naa na diria, gihatag nako tanan nakong best na unta malipay ang mga Dabawenyos sa akoa na gina-represent nako ang Davao sa RuPaul’s Rrag Race sa Philippines (My friends used to say then that if RuPaul's Drag Race is brought to the Philippines, I will join. There is a right place and right time for me, and I waited patiently for that. Now that it is here, I am giving my best to represent Davao well and hopefully, Dabawenyos will be happy with what I will showcase)," Lady said.
However, preparing for the drag competition was not easy, considering that she had to prepare in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lady said they were given a limited time to prepare for the competition.
"Ang hirap lang din sa part ko wala akong access sa mga ibang outfits but ginawan ko ng paraan, like help from designers sa Davao, especially my promotion look na si Jay Cabatingan from Marbel (Koronadal), South Cotabato," Lady said. Cabatingan also designed Lady's promo look and runway look in Episode 1.
Mark Sayad, a designer based in Davao City, also designed one of Lady's looks in the show.
Getting into Drag
In 2005, Lady started drag when she was only 14 years old after she competed in a contest.
"My drag mom si Lay John Perez, taga-Davao pud siya. Nag assist ko sa iyaha sa isa ka contest then kulang ang contestants... So, sabi nya 'upo, make-upan kita' (My drag mom is Lay John Perez, who is also from Davao. I assisted him in one contest. They were looking for additional contestants for the contest. So, he told me to sit down because he will put makeup on me)," Lady said.
Lady was given the name of Morgana, who is the sister of Ursula. Both are antagonists of two related animated films. Ursula is also the name of Lady's drag mother. Meanwhile, another friend added Lady to her drag name. Hence, Lady Morgana Perez.
"I’ve [also] been doing stand-up comedy since 2011, then pinag halo ko yung pagiging stand-up comedian and a drag queen, and host (I have also been doing stand-up comedy since 2011. Eventually, I mixed my being a drag queen, stand-up comedian, and host)," Lady said.
Lady said if one comes to her show, they can be assured of an entertainment-filled show.
"More fun! More excitement! Daghag pasabog (A lot of surprises)!" Lady said.
Into the 'werkroom'
The nerves got into Lady before she walked into the "werkroom."
"Actually tung ni sulod ko, kulabaan ko ato, actually dugay kaayo ko nag spiels sa akoang entrance... kay na mental block ko kadali. Wala ko kabalo unsa akong e-istorya. So katung ni snap na ang director, mao to pinakalit to akong pag-ingun ug 'Madayaw mga higala.' pinakalit gyud to sya (I was really nervous walking into the werkroom. I had a mental block. I forgot what I was about to say. When the director snapped, that was when I said, 'Madayaw mga higala.' That was a spontaneous moment)," Lady said.
She said what she was supposed to say was “Mindanao queen is here! Hello mga kaibigan, with feelings!”
Watching the sneak peek of Episode 1 on the Wow Presents channel on Youtube, Morgana was the fifth to walk in after Corazon Filipinas, Eva Le Queen, Turing Quinto, and Marina Summers.
Corazon and Lady Morgana knew each other prior to the show. Both of them greeted each other excitedly after Lady's entrance.
"Ikaw, idol ko! Grade 3 palang ako, pinapanood na kita," Corazon jokingly said.
"Nagkaila mi ni Corazon sa bigo, usa ka live app, so kaila sya sa akoa, sa akong boses... Pag lingi nako, isa sya sa una nakong gi-hug. Then the rest, is makita lang nako sila sa virtual and then na-happy kaayo ko na nakita nako sila in person (Corazon and I knew each other through a live app. She knows me, and my voice. She was the first person that I hugged in the werkroom. As for the other kweens, I have seen them virtually and I am happy to have finally meet them in person)," Lady said.
Morgana said it is important that a queen coming from areas outside Metro Manila, especially from Visayas and Mindanao, participate in shows with a large platform like Drag Race Philippines, which is being streamed on Discovery+ and HBO Go in the Philippines, Crave in Canada, and WOW Presents Plus in the rest of the world.
"Mo apil ka sa usa ka-contest, puro Manila lang ang ma-feature. This time, mga Bisaya na sad ang mag represent sa usa ka lugar or usa ka contest (Drag competitions here usually feature queens from Metro Manila. This time, you have someone who is a Bisaya representing an area outside the Metro in a contest)," Lady said.
She said she hopes through her joining the show, she will be able to let more Filipinos understand stand that the Philippines has a rich and diverse culture outside Metro Manila.
"Dili lang kay Tagalog lang ug English lang ang gina istorya sa atung country which is naa sad ang... Chavacano, mga Cebuano (For example, with our language, we not only speak Tagalog or English but there are also other languages like Chavacano and Cebuana)," Lady said.
She added, "Ang aim nako sa Drag Race na ang kultura nato diri sa Davao ma ilhan ug kung unsa gyud ka naning ang usa ka Dabawenya na sama nako (My aim in Drag Race too is to showcase the culture of Davao and also how good of a performer we are too)."
Lady is also very intentional in showcasing Davao in the things she does in the show.
"In every runway looks nako, representation gyud siya sa akong roots, which is ang Davao. Dili ra pud sa davao, but lain-laing lugar sa Davao (In each of my runway looks, I do my best to represent my roots, which is Davao. Not only Davao but other places in Davao too)," Lady said.
Beyond Drag Race
As the show airs, Lady has captured the hearts of many Filipinos with her comedic chops and fierce lipsync performances, which are going viral on social media.
Beyond Drag Race, Lady will soon stage a show in Davao, hopefully with her fellow Dabawenyo sister, Gigi Era.
"Naa mi plano ni Gigi Era to have a show pero very soon pa na tungod kay daghan pag opportunities diri sa Manila sa amoa sa Drag Race Philippines (Gigi Era and I are planning to have a show in Davao soon but there are currently a lot of opportunities for us Drag Race Philippines contestants in Manila right now)," Lady said.
She added that she also hopes to bring other Drag Race queens to Davao too.
Meanwhile, Lady encourages "Baby" drag queens to be who they are as they pursue a career in being drag queens.
"Being a drag queen is not easy. It takes a lifetime to be the best that you can be. Mao jud na ginatatak sa akong utok na gi-share sa akong mentor (My mentor made sure I remember that)," Lady said.
She also encouraged drag queens to be humble always. She also urged other queens to never forget those who have helped them if ever they reach new heights.
"Kung mag lip sync e-todo! E-todo lang siya and enjoy every moment. Kay once ang spotlight naa sa imoha e-grab gyud na sya ayaw gyud sya pakawalan (If you perform, like a lip sync, give it your all. Once the spotlight is on you, grab it and don't let go)," Lady said.
She added, "SMILE. S-M-I-L-E -- See Miracles In Life Every day, ganern!"
Meanwhile, she said she is grateful to all those who supported her.
"Sa tanan nako supporters, or tanan naga suporta sa akoa sa Drag Race Philippines, daghang salamat kaayo sa inyong suporta. Labi na sa mga nitabang sa akoa, nag tambag sa akoa, sa everytime na nangumusta sa akoa sa akoang journey sa Drag Race Philippines, Daghang salamat kaayo. Hinaot unta tagaan mo'g grasya sa Ginoo (Thank all of those who are supporting me, especially in my journey in Drag Race Philippines. Thank you to everyone who helped me, provided me some support, and contnuously checking up on me. Thank you very much. I hope that the Lord will continue to bless all of you)," Lady said.
Lady Morgana Perez has surely made her mark as a Drag Queen. Those who have seen Drag Race Philippines will remember the Dabawenya and Bisaya queen who proudly speaks Bisaya and showcases her roots.
"Proud kayo ko kay sa 17 years as a drag performer bonus na sad to na nasulod ko sa Drag Race Philippines, lipay kaayo ko sa akong na abot (I am a proud drag performer for the last 17 years, and being part of Drag Race Philippines is definitiely a bonus. I am happy with what I have achieved)," Lady said.
Dalaygon, Lady Morgana Perez!