Pangina Heals: ‘Queer People Have Such Rich Cultural History We Need To Never Forget’

In the 13 years since that very first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race debuted, few “sashay away” moments have been met with as much outcry as that of Pangina Heals.

Earlier this year, the Drag Race Thailand judge shook things up when she became a contestant on the international season Drag Race UK vs. The World, and quickly emerged as a frontrunner in the competition.

Fans were therefore left stunned when Pangina was eliminated in a strategic move by eventual winner Blu Hydrangea, with the Thai queen’s exit making for seriously emotional viewing.

We’re happy to report, therefore, that Pangina looks back at her UK vs. The World experience with nothing but joy.

“It was life-changing and so rewarding,” she says. “As a judge, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d be able to become a competitor. But I’m a firm believer that if you dream it and work hard enough, one day things could come to you.

“And now, people tell me things that completely shake me to my core – that they feel really represented with what I did on the show, or ‘thank you for the Asian representation’, or even, ‘you got me through Covid’. I’m just so happy to represent my culture and, most importantly, represent me.”

On whether she has any regrets, Pangina insists:“ Fuck no! It is a competition and I understood that from the get-go. Could there be emotions? Of course. Am I angry at Blu for making those decisions? No. I’m still to this day the closest to Blu, we just get each other, and there are no hard feelings.”

“I was just thinking about it earlier, ‘oh my god, you’ve done a lot in your 34 years of existence’,” she adds. “I’m just so happy and thankful to be here.”

For Pride, HuffPost UK spoke to Pangina about the drag queens who paved the way, her queer role models and the importance of honouring those who blazed the trail…

Who was the first queer person you can remember looking up to?

Would it be a cliché to say that one of the first queer people that I saw who was a drag queen was RuPaul? I was also so inspired by Ongina, that’s why my name is Pangina. Getting to meet her, she’s just an awesome human being. Her story and her truth and the way she lives life so proudly is so touching to me and inspiring to me.

Aside from Drag Race queens, there are different people I’ve met in my life that have the same common factors of having this immense positivity, and before you think of who they are, or their gender, you just know that they are a boss. And that’s really powerful to me.

One of them is a supermodel and she’s always spoken out so openly about the queer community and she’s not queer herself but her brother is and that’s Lukkade. Another one is a host who came out very publicly at a time where it wasn’t OK to be a popular queer figure in the media, and that’s Woody, he’s so important to me. And a trans icon in Thailand called Poyd Treechada who became like a Hollywood actress. All of them had these common denominators where they’re so successful by grabbing life by the balls and I live that to the nth degree, and I want to be that, and I try to emulate that.


Chelsea Guglielmino via Getty Images

What was the first LGBTQ TV show or film that you remember resonating with you?

Queer As Folk. I watched it, in the beginning because I thought it was porn which… yes, parts of it are very enjoyable with a glass of wine and a private room. But Queer As Folk was really powerful because it showed queer characters living their lives, and different facets of who they are and their relationships. I thought it was really powerful.

Queer As Folk stars Randy Harrison, Gale Harold and Hal Sparks
Queer As Folk stars Randy Harrison, Gale Harold and Hal Sparks

What would be a song that you associate with your own coming out?

Got To Be Real by Cheryl Lynn resonates with a lot of us, not only because it’s from Paris Is Burning but because there is so much happiness within that song. Whenever you hear that song during Pride, you feel like “yes! I’m me!”.

Who would you say is your ultimate queer icon?

Lady Gaga is very important. Wonder Woman, Barbra Streisand. Mariah Carey. One of my favourites is Judy Garland. RuPaul, obviously. I hope I’m not kissing her ass too much but it’s the truth. Graham Norton. Joan Rivers. Kathy Griffin. Margaret Cho.

What makes a queer icon? Trailblazing. Unapologetic. Say what they think without giving a fuck. Living their truth. And being so talented that no one can deny their talent. Like, you can say that you don’t like Mariah Carey, which means you don’t have taste, but you cannot say she cannot sing.

Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey

Jamie McCarthy via Getty Images

Who’s someone in the public eye right now that makes you excited about the future?

I’m excited about Tayce from Drag Race UK. She is a force. And I’m excited to see what Blu Hydrangea is going to be doing, too.

Tayce performing in New York
Tayce performing in New York

Santiago Felipe via Getty Images

Why do you think that Pride is still so important?

Pride is important because hopefully it is a reminder to people not only in the LGBTQI+ community, but people who support us or are even trying to understand us, that we’re here and we’re important and we exist.

But also it’s a time to acknowledge that in some parts of the world we don’t have that same privilege or right to be able to live as who we are. In some places, like in Thailand, we’re not able to get married with the same sex, we don’t have laws to protect us against discrimination in the workplace, we’re not even allowed to be identified as what we want to be identified as in our national ID cards or passports.

For me, Pride is a way to celebrate ourselves. It’s a way to celebrate others, and the community, and for the community to come as one. And honestly, Thailand recently had its first Pride in 16 years, and it was so beautiful and colourful. It’s so great to see so many people were there, not just queer people, but all of the members of the rainbow. I’m so thankful that we’re here as a society, we’re not the butt of the joke, we are capable of doing whatever we want to be able to do.

Pangina at DragCon in 2018
Pangina at DragCon in 2018

Chelsea Guglielmino via Getty Images

What’s your message for the next generation of LGBTQ people?

The first is to not forget our past, and not forget our history. To go back in time and learn about Stonewall, our revolution and the fact that at one point in time, you were not allowed to be gay, you had to go underground. And that’s where a lot of queer culture comes out of, whether it’s waacking or voguing. We have such rich cultural history that we need to go back and never forget. Because that only enriches your life. And it will be great for us to never forget those people, because they are so important.

Because of so many of those people, and their struggles and the fight that they went through, we’re able to walk in public or hug the people you love in public. Let’s cherish those people as well, because then one day someone will cherish you for what you do.

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