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Human rights for the deaf
September 23, 2021
hearing loss and unsafe listening practices
Deaf Culture and the Arts in the UK
September 25, 2021

Interview with Selena Minogue from Deafies in Drag

Deafies in Drag
This month we’re celebrating Deaf Awareness Month, an initiative of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), which corresponds with International Week of the Deaf People 2021. Today, Sept. 24, the theme is “Intersectional Deaf Communities.”

Latinx drag queen duo Selena Minogue and Casavina, also known as Deafies in Drag, have amassed quite a following. For the past decade they have created videos that aim to change negative perceptions of deaf culture and identity for the better. In March 2021, Casavina announced her resignation from the duo.

HearingLikeMe writer Beth Tingle talked with Selena Minogue about the future of Deafies in Drag as well as bridging the gaps that unfortunately still lie between the deaf, hearing, and LGBTQIA+ communities.

Deafies in Drag

Selena Minogue and Casavina are their stage names. The men behind Deafies in Drag are Alvaro Garcia (Selena Minogue) and Jimmy Linares. Shortly after they met at Gallaudet University in 2010, they started dating. They later formed Deafies in Drag, which has an impressive social media following across all platforms. The Deafies in Drag Facebook page currently has almost a quarter of a million followers.

Their content involves a huge archive of ingeniously played out comedy sketches using a green screen. They inform and educate the audience about everyday life with hearing loss. They have done this by creating a range of recurring drag characters who offer unique perspectives on the deaf experience. By placing their characters in situations that highlight the intersectional issues and common ignorances placed on our community by hearing people, they help to break down the stigma surrounding deafness, one hilarious video at a time.

Some of their videos are just lighthearted fun, like their Mean Girls parody and sassy sign sketches. But many address every day accessibility issues faced by deaf people, seen in their videos “deaf at the airport” and “going to the drive through during a pandemic.” And then there are the more profound messages, delivered in videos like “deaf coming out,” where they display their support for the LGBTQI+ community.

After 10 years together, Garcia and Linares ended their relationship. Casavina’s resignation from Deafies in Drag was announced soon after. In a video Alvaro uploaded to the YouTube page afterward, he had only positive messages to deliver. “I have a new vision for Deafies in Drag,” he said. “And I want to continue entertaining you people. With your biggest support and your biggest love, I don’t feel I am alone. So keep watch for a new update…And please send all of your biggest love and support to Jimmy and his new journey in life. Thank you. We love you. I love you.”

Selena Minogue aka Alvaro Garcia 

Alvaro Garcia was born in America to Colombian parents. His mother’s attempts to speak Spanish to him soon proved futile as he could not hear the language. He learned ASL from his brother, which he continued to use at his English speaking school. In one of his YouTube videos, “Latinx!,” he discusses how most parents in the Latinx community don’t sign in ASL. They already have their own nonverbal communication in the form of dramatic gestures and body language.

Garcia shared more of his story with Hearing Like Me.

HLM: What type of hearing loss do you have?

Garcia: I am hard of hearing. While I am able to hear some sounds, I prefer that people identify me as deaf.

HLM: What was it like growing up with hearing loss? Did you have a lot of support?

Garcia: Personally, I didn’t have any negative experiences as a deaf individual. I was fortunate to be raised by my family and friends as a normal, accepted person. There were times that I would experience communication barriers, but with their support I managed to get past them.

HLM: What first inspired you to experiment with drag?

Garcia: Let’s go back to what I believe was 2011, when I first watched the second season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Out of several drag queens, I admired Raven the most. Her make-up, hair, and dress work were what inspired me. Her art skill was highly creative. That motivated me to start my own drag journey. From my perceptive, drag is a human canvas which allows you to be anyone you want to be.

“Drag is a human canvas which allows you to be anyone you want to be.”

HLM: How has your deaf identity shaped the person you are today?

Garcia: I had to embrace myself as a deaf individual. Throughout my entire life, I have been placed on many different journeys, had life changing experiences, and faced barriers I needed to overcome. All of these experiences have been an education and are the reason I have become the strong person I am today. As of now, I do not allow any obstacle to get in my way of who I want to be.

HLM: Was drag always on the cards or was there another field you considered?

Garcia: No, drag was not the only card in my hand. There are also many other projects I would love to pursue, for instance, stand-up comedy or fashion design. My design skills were developed by learning from my grandmother who taught me how to sew. I used fashion magazines for research. It was something that required a lot of practice. I have always loved making costumes since I was a young boy.

HLM: You have travelled and performed your shows in different cities. What accommodations were necessary for you when on the road?

Garcia: Inside my heart I am still a little kid. I am a big gamer. I enjoy playing Nintendo Switch. It’s my way of escaping the world, which can be important when you have hearing loss. I also always bring at least one or two people along with me to keep my head screwed on since being in the drag industry can be stressful at times. Although however stressful it gets, I still love my job!

Read more: Video games for people with hearing loss

HLM: Is there any part of being deaf that you feel gives you an edge over hearing queens?

Garcia: Yaasss!!! Absolutely. Being deaf is so animated because of sign language, body language, and facial expressions, which lends itself perfectly to drag because it makes it appear more theatrical. That’s my biggest advantage over my hearing queens.

HLM: Do you feel comfortable among hearing queens? Have they supported you?

Garcia: Yes, I am very comfortable interacting with hearing queens. Lots of them are very eager to learn sign language so they’re able to communicate with me. Not all of them, but a lot. So yes, I do feel very supported as long as I keep myself surrounded by the right people.

HLM: Do you interact with other deaf drag queens? I couldn’t seem to find many within the community online.

Garcia: Unfortunately there aren’t many. I have encountered several during my time in the world of drag. Although I am really glad that Jimmy and I aren’t the only deaf drag queens, it would be so awesome to see more of us out there helping to do the hard work of building those bridges between the deaf and LGBTQI+ communities. The more the better!

HLM: Do you feel there is a gap between the LGBTQI+ community and the deaf community? If so, what work do you think we can do towards bridging it and creating an inclusive space?

Garcia: Absolutely, there is a gap between the LGBTQI+ and the deaf community, just as there is a gap between the hearing world and LGBTQ+ community. That’s one of the reasons why Jimmy and I founded Deafies in Drag in the first place – to help build that bridge. Not only deaf people, but people with all kinds of disabilities. Believe me, there are so many people out there with disabilities other than deaf who possess these amazing talents that we don’t get to see. I feel that those people deserve recognition as well.

HLM: It would be great to see society embrace diversity and have more disabled queens be given a platform. “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” has become this adored world phenomenon with such a huge variety of contestants from different backgrounds. It is the best way for drag performers to receive that platform, but we have yet to see a deaf drag queen compete. Do you think they would stand a chance at catching the crown?

Garcia: Of course! Where is my crown? I absolutely believe someone from our community, and anyone else with other disabilities, will get a crown one day!  Without a doubt.

HLM: Would you ever consider auditioning yourself?

Garcia: Absolutely, I mean, who wouldn’t?! I would be honored to be on Drag Race!

HLM: A crucial part of competing in Drag Race is of course, lip syncing. Do you have experience lip syncing? And if so, what is your favorite kind of music to lip sync to? Is there a certain genre that’s easier to master with limited hearing?

Garcia: One of my favorite singers is Ariana Grande because her voice is so loud and clear. Because of my deafness, fast beating music – for instance rap – is music I would avoid because it would be difficult to pick up. I know for sure there are deaf queens who do much better than I do in this area. Everyone has different leverage in their deaf abilities.

HLM: Drag Race’s impact on popular culture is undeniable. Their language has gradually permeated it to the point where in 2013, “Throwing Shade” was used in a headline by MSNBC News for an article covering Michelle Obama at President Obama’s inauguration. In one of your videos you demonstrate lots of drag slangs and terminology in ASL. What is your favourite drag sign?

Garcia: Fierce! Simple yet powerful.

HLM: What would your advice be to any aspiring deaf queen out there thinking about getting into drag but is worried their hearing loss will stand in their way?

Garcia: Being deaf does not stop you from doing anything you want to do. Go and have fun! Don’t be shy, and unleash the beast!

“Being deaf does not stop you from doing anything you want to do.”

HLM: Creating a variety of characters in drag was such a genius way to offer a sketch series of different deaf perspectives. Was delivering that important to you? What was your process for creating them?

Garcia: Many different characters were thought up for the skits. It was this creative process that was the most enjoyable and fun part of work. We both felt it was important that each character was able to deliver an important message about deaf culture. Many of the ideas were picked up based on our own experiences or inspired by other deaf experiences we had heard about. The characters are how we connect the message between the show and the deaf community. Not only the deaf community, but everyone. I feel that our love for exaggerated comedy adds a lot of spice and makes the story fun and enjoyable for everyone, deaf and hearing.

HLM: What is the most positive experience you have had performing drag shows?

Garcia: Aha! Yes. There is a day I will never forget. I went to Phoenix, Arizona to do a performance for Deaf Queer Men Only. There was a man who made a special request to meet me. It turned out that he was a deaf-blind man in a wheelchair. His reaction was priceless when he got to meet me. His smile was huge! With some of the sight he has left, he loves how I’m dressed, my make up and my ridiculously big hair. He was so excited; it was as if this big kid had emerged from his heart. The joy that created in him is a perfect example of why I continue my work for Deafies in Drag.

HLM: Drag is a celebration of differences. Its culture has always been an advocacy for inclusion. How do you think we can make drag shows more accessible and inclusive to the deaf community?

Garcia: The major factor that makes a drag show accessible and enjoyable for the deaf community is obviously a sign language Interpreter. Here in the United States, we need an ASL interpreter. I would strongly suggest that the interpreter you hire is familiar with drag dialect and terminology. Wherever you are in the world, you will need an interpreter compatible with the language of your country. It would be fierce if different countries had unique drag terms and signs that fit their own brand of drag. I emphasize, I don’t want sign language accessibility to be limited to the United States. Deaf communities around the world deserve to enjoy the world of drag.

HLM: Humor is one of the best tools we can use to connect with people and educate them. You explore serious social issues and barriers faced by our community but make us laugh while you teach. What power do you feel humor plays when connecting with an audience?

Garcia: Humour is absolutely the most valuable tool we can combine with education in order to hold people’s attention. Laughter is important because it makes education so much more enjoyable. Obviously people are more willing to listen when the content is entertaining. Laughter is the best medicine for our soul.

HLM: In your video “Dear Hearing People,” you illustrate how hearing individuals can be unintentionally ignorant and insensitive when approaching deaf people. Do many hearing people tell you that they watch your videos and have learned from them?

Garcia: Absolutely. I encounter many hearing people who express their thoughts on our show. A regular comment I get is that they feel our show has been very educational in allowing them to gain an understanding of how we communicate, how we live our life and how we come up with solutions that allow hearing people to better interact with the deaf community. And how we can interact better with them. It is remarkable to see that more and more hearing people are opening their mind, eyes and heart to learn more about deaf culture. It really makes me happy to see.

HLM: Deafies in Drag has been a duo act between you and drag partner Jimmy since its creation. Now that Jimmy has announced his resignation, what are your future hopes for Deafies in Drag? What can fans expect to see?

Garcia: You sneaky little beast! Trying to get me to spoil the surprise? I have all the secrets in my bra and no, I am not going to tell you! What I can say however, is that there will be a MAJOR update coming soon. So, hang tight!

Author Details
Beth Tingle is a 27-year-old English graduate, and currently resides in Bristol, UK. Beth was born with congenital deafness to an otherwise all hearing family, and is currently navigating life with new sound after receiving cochlear implant surgery in April 2021. She is currently learning BSL.