RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Kween Kong On Finding Her Samoan Tongan Identity Through Drag & Using Her Influence For Good

When Kween Kong was first approached for the new queer web series, My First Time, her immediate reaction was that she’d never really unearthed such intimate details about herself. “At first I was like, oh my goodness, I haven’t really thought about these things in my adult life, especially going back to my childhood.”
While the famous Australian drag queen was the runner-up on one of the world’s most popular reality television shows, RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, there was never the option to dig really deep into her story. However, My First Time, presented by We Are Pride (and available to watch on YouTube and Pedestrian Television), finally allows the drag queen to talk through all her “first” experiences as a queer person.
“I was really excited at the prospect of being able to think about all of the first times and what that means as a queer person today,” she explains. “I feel like we’ve taken leaps and bounds in so many ways since I was a kid, in terms of being queer and brown. I was really excited to go back and actually think about that little boy.”
The YouTube series features a bunch of revolutionary figures in the queer space, including Katherine Wolfgramm, a prominent trans elder and advocate, 78er and activist DQ, and internationally acclaimed playwright Wesley Enoch AM. “It was an opportunity for me to really remember where I came from,” Kween Kong says. “In Drag Race, you really do play up your personality and try to become a character that your audience will fall behind, whereas this particular project felt really grassroots. It felt really real. It felt really important.”

Every time I get into drag, I always feel connected to her.

kween kong on her late sister, madison

On the hardest story for kween kong to tell…

The series is incredibly touching, with each person sharing extremely vulnerable things about themselves. Kween Kong shares tough conversations about growing up queer in school, or being raised in an extremely religious Jehovah’s Witness household. But when asked about her favourite and her hardest stories to relive, she says they’re one and the same — the story about her late sister. “Thinking about my sister, Madison, who passed away, she was 10 years older than me and talking about her is always really hard,” Kween Kong explains. “But I think the more that I talk about her and remember what she was to me growing up, I feel like she’s never left me.”
“Every time I get into drag, I always feel connected to her. I feel like I really embody all those values that she tried to put on me when I was growing up,” she continues. “I always just assumed she was gay, so I had no idea that she was even remotely going through what she was going through in terms of her gender identity.”
Kween Kong explains that for her, the project feels incredibly personal as it’s her way of giving back and paying it forward. “As a drag mum and seeing kids come through my house who have become trans or realise their transness through the art of drag, it’s been such an amazing experience, but it’s so layered because there’s a part of me as an adult that goes, god, I wish we were together now.”
“I think this is my way of giving back, but also trying to make a difference when you’re given a platform,” she says. “We are a community … It’s really important to remember that we’re doing it together and that we’re moving together side by side.”

On her time in Drag Race...

During her time on Drag Race, Kween Kong fiercely advocated for more representation not just in front of the camera, but also behind the scenes and in editing rooms. She says that after seeing all the racial microaggressions on the first season of the Australian iteration, she knew that rather than picking the show apart, she wanted to be an agent for change.
“When I got there and realised there weren’t many people of colour and positions [for POC] in the editing room or in the storytelling space, it made sense… If I’m having a conversation about race and my lived experience, there needs to be somebody in that editing room that has the lived experience that could support both narratives because race is so nuanced.”
But rather than being all talk, it was important for the drag queen to create actionable change from her time on the show. “I wanted to offer some guidance for that team so that we can move towards creating space for all of us, because I’m really sick of seeing spaces that appear to be diverse or appear to be doing the right thing, but they’re just performative,” she says.

It was really important to leave the shame at the door so I that I could see what it was about myself that was strong — and it was always my femininity.

kween kong

On connecting with her Samoan Tongan identity through drag…

Kween Kong explains that in her own community of Samoa-Tonga, there are a lot of issues around sexuality and homophobia stemming from the missionaries colonising their islands. “The thing that lasted and stayed with us was this Western idea of Jesus… So there’s a lot of shame in my community when it comes to being queer and especially if you’re anything other than male or female. That obviously stems from the patriarchal mindset and a mindset based on fear.”
But Kween Kong says that when she went onto Drag Race, she did so with the knowledge that she was the first Samoan drag queen to do so. While she knew that half of her community would be upset at the way she was representing them, it wasn’t those people she was listening to. “There’s also going to be the other half that doesn’t get a voice or doesn’t get a seat at the table. Those are the ones that I’m going to represent — and I’m going to make sure I represent them fiercely.”
“You can reach for the stars and not be ashamed of being queer and brown,” she continues. “There was a lot of people that felt seen, and that was my main goal to make sure I did it with grace and love, the most important thing.”
While she admits that she does carry a lot of shame and baggage, when navigating queer spaces due to her Pacific community, Kween Kong says that it was really important to leave shame at the door. “It was really important to leave the shame at the door so I that I could see what it was about myself that was strong — and it was always my femininity,” she says.
“I mean that in the divine sense,” she continues. “When I think of what strength looks like to me, I see my mum, I see my grandmother, I see my sisters, I see my nieces and my female cousins. All the women in my family that literally held all of these broken men and my family through years of cyclical abuse and trauma.”
“I realised that that femininity that I was so fearful of was the thing that was really important and was my point of difference.”
'My First Time' premieres globally on We Are Pride’s YouTube channel. The first episode airs on Saturday 17th February, with new episodes premiering every Saturday until 20th April.
You can also watch 'My First Time' over on Pedestrian Television, streaming live from 8pm on Sunday, March 3rd and on demand.
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