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Arts & Life

CelebrAsian celebrates queer artistry with newest performer addition

05262022-Asian-Drag-Queens
Courtesy of Vana B
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Vana B (left) and Tyona Diamond will be performing in the first drag show performance at CelebrAsian this weekend. They produce two shows at The Blazing Saddle in Des Moines.

Des Moines’ 19th annual CelebrAsian festival kicks off this weekend with a performance from Asian Drag Queens. It’s the first time they’ll be featured at the Asian heritage festival.

This is a big deal for queer artists, according to Vana B. She’ll be performing drag along with four others Friday. She said she wants to inspire young people to be true to themselves.

"I'm really excited for a bunch of like, queer Asian youth to see us being so proud and like, seeing how cool we are and how [we’re] proud of who we are," she said. “Obviously we're excited. But this one was really important to me because I like the idea of showing people, like my aunts and my grandma, and just showing them like, what we do and that they can be proud of us, you know?”

05262022-Asian-Drag-Queens
Courtesy of Nu Huynh
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Iowa Asian Alliance

The festival is hosted by the Iowa Asian Alliance. Executive director Nu Huynh is the one who reached out to Vana B after seeing the drag show "Crazy Bitch Asians," which Vana B co-produces.

"Really the goal is to unite. You know, when you think of Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islander, it's so complicated, so complex. It is the largest race category that encompasses so many different ethnicities and countries and communities, and languages and customs," Huynh said in a recent Talk of Iowa segment.

Vana B added she wants Iowans to know there is not one "check box" to encompass everyone within Asian communities. She is half Irish, and half Tai Dam, an ethnic group predominantly from China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

She started performing about seven years ago when her brother's friend, also a drag queen, introduced her to the stage. She now regularly performs around central Iowa. Isaac Lovan, who performs as Vana B, said their favorite part about drag is the artistic component. Lovan compared creating fashion and makeup looks to painting.

"I like doing makeup, like fashion, and like conceiving/conceptualizing looks— like themed looks from head to tail," Lovan said.

Vana B will be performing with Lana Luxx, Tyona Diamond, Kitty B and Myling Belle at 6 p.m. on the Bravo Main Stage Friday night.