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Who is Ynel Regalo?
'Ynel is a drag queen born and raised in Rotterdam. I've always had a fascination with drag. It must have been the late 90's when I really came in contact with drag. Prior to that, my first frame of reference was actually a Dutch TV program: de Travestie Show. Once going out in Rotterdam I saw Fred van Leer in drag at the 'Gay Palace' and I thought: wow, fascinating! [lauging loudly] From there it gradually developed. To get an idea: I would go to the HEMA department store, get a home brand eye pencil and draw a line. You can probably imagine what I looked like for the first few years.'
'Until recently was drag mostly a hobby for me, dressing up for Club Kid parties, on vacations - a private affair. In 2018, it was Richard - the owner of Cafe Bonaparte - who stimulated me to change this by organizing a preliminary round of the Miss Travestie Holland contest. Things started to move quickly from there on. By winning Miss Bonaparte, I was entiteld to one of the 13 spots in the actual contest at Villa Thalia in 2019, which I eventually won.'
I notice the audience really appreciates the living room vibe it creates
'Since mid-July 2020, I continually stage the 'Drag Dinner Show Rotterdam' at VINN. Each week we serve a three-course menu accompanied by a show, with a maximum capacity of 30 people per event. I think it's important to keep it small these days and it is also safe. I notice the audience really appreciates the living room vibe it creates. I perfom with drag talent from my own "House of Regalo" as well as with other drag performers.'
As a typecast, is it okay to say you are a ‘classy’ queen?
'Ynel is versatile. For me it's really about the art of transformation. You won't see me wearing a bathing suit any time soon. Nothing wrong with bathing suits, but it is just not my personal preference. And yes, if you insist on typecasting me, I suppose you could indeed say I am a bit classy, but certainly not all the time ... [big wink]'
You won the contest performing an act with a clear message (see video). Can you tell us a bit more about this?
'The act really suits me. I had visited the contest before and often thought: one day I should be on that stage. Really! This year's theme was "Proud". Be proud of who you are and show your true colors without shame. The concept of the performance had already taken shape in my head. My boyfriend Nathanael works in theater. He helped take the idea out of my head by creating the light sequencing, stage set up and direction, turning it into a smooth and well rounded performance. My thought was: it will either be a homerun, or a definite last place.'
image: Sudhir Jairam
Creating drag, what is about for you? "Entertainment" or "politics"?
'Most and formost it is about entertainment. The moment you put on a show, it is actually work. At my work I happen to wear fake eyelashes and a wig, like when a cook goes to work, he puts on an apron and a chef's hat. It is a way to adapt to your working role.'
For you it isn't a ‘lifestyle’?
'No, certainly not.'
‘Inspiration’ or ‘perspiration’?
'Well… it certainly makes me sweat. It involves a lot of work and is something that is seriously undervalued and underappriciated about this art form. Sometimes i receive a booking request for a 3 hour performance with a fee of next to nothing. These people forget that you spend hours in makeup and preparation. The entire transformation takes about three hours and you also have travel time. So in the end it takes a good nine hours. It is something I fight for and try to bring across. It is great fun, but also damn hard work!'
You get to keep the eyelashes
You also give workshops…
'It just so happens that I gave a workshop yesterday. I do two types of transformation workshops: the first is a make up workshop, intended as an educational experience. The other workshop I do is a full drag transformation. Yesterday I did the latter. My customer by the way was a big hunk from Brabant. This happens quite often, just someone who is interested and wants to experience it "once". I let them experience the the process all the way: it starts by painting "out" all the male features via the make-up and then inserting female features. Eventually you get to the jewelry and you put on the dress. Finally the wig is placed and I do a last bit of styling. You gradually see someone changing along the way. It is strange experience looking in the mirror the first few times. You know it is you, your eyes are stil yours, but others look at you with a different eye. And with the workshop: you get to keep the eyelashes.'
image: Roel Jakobs
RuPaul's Drag Race goes Dutch: how excited are you?
'I am very curious how it will turn out. I know the Canadian edition is running right now and Thailand has had two seasons already. The Thai are fantastic by the way: next level in terms of looks and acts. Hearing about the differences per country, I am curious how it will be staged and produced in the Netherlands.'
What are your hopes for Rotterdam?
'I hope we continue to be a tolerant and diverse city, it is what makes Rotterdam so fantastic: a melting pot and therefore, in my eyes, the true metropolis in the Netherlands. Also, while there is space for drag as an art form, we are still far removed from having a drag queen on every corner. RuPaul's Drag Race has made it more mainstream and I hope it will be more visible and I hope that I can contribute to this through my own Drag Dinner Show.'
About Drag Dinner Show Rotterdam and House of Regalo
Every Saturday VINN features a performance including an absolutely fabulous 3-course dinner. The 'Summer Stars' production will run until September, followed by a new production and a new menu. During Rotterdam Pride there will be a show on extra several dates. The House of Regalo performs in all its glory on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 September! Other special editions are planned for Halloween and Christmas. For reservations and more information (in Dutch) you can visit the website.
Meer info en/of volg Ynel Regalo via: