The RuPaul’s Drag Race spin-off you probably haven’t seen

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We speak to famous Thai drag queen Pangina Heals, host of the only spin-off from RuPaul's Drag Race


Thailand has become the first country outside the US to air its own version of RuPaul's Drag Race.

In the final episode, three drag queens - Natalia Pliacam, Annee Maywong and Dearis Doll - competed to become "Thailand's Next Drag Superstar".

The show follows the same format at its US counterpart, but doesn't feature RuPaul as host.

Instead, two of Thailand's most famous drag queens - Art Arya and Pangina Heals - present the show.

Image source, Drag Race Thailand
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Just one of Pangina's many outfits on the night

The first international version arrives a decade on from the debut of RuPaul's Drag Race, a show which has gained huge global popularity.

It was won by 37-year-old Natalia Pliacam, who lip-synced and danced to Whitney Houston's Queen Of The Night.

During her performance, she shot lasers out of her wrists, sending the audience crazy.

There were also heavily choreographed performances to Beyonce's Single Ladies, Jennifer Lopez's Let's Get Loud and the Lady Marmalade ensemble.

Moulin Rouge ในแบบของ Top3 #DragRaceTH #LINETV

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Co-host Pangina Heals feels it was a good representation of what makes Thai drag unique.

"It's a good blend of culture," he says. "We mix what it takes to be a Thai person with Western drag."

He thinks Thai people are generally "less sensitive about what is male or what is female" and do "celebrate people for their creative expression".

Image source, Drag Race Thailand
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Winner Natalia Pliacam

The final attracted Thai celebrities such as actor Ananda Everingham and model Metinee Kingpayome.

Also in the audience was Khun Sumanee Guna-Kasem, one of Thailand's most famous socialites.

It was a spectacle, featuring a live audience made up of dozens of young Thai drag queens in elaborate costumes.

Despite the temperature reaching upwards of 30 degrees Celsius in Bangkok, it didn't stop members of the audience wearing full faces of make-up and body suits.

One surprise came when one of Thailand's most famous popstars - Christina Aguilar (not to be confused with Christina Aguilera) - joined the three finalists on stage while they were lip-syncing to one of her songs.

Image source, C_Aguilar/INSTAGRAM
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Thailand popstar joined the finalists on stage

Speaking to Newsbeat, both presenters of Thailand's version hope the programme has educated more people about drag queens.

"Drag is about entertaining. It's telling people that what we do is not about perversion. It's all about performing," says Pangina Heals.

She thinks some in Thailand still don't realise the difference between drag queens and showgirls - a term commonly used for women or trans women linked to the Thai sex trade.

Image source, Drag Race Thailand
Image caption,
Art Arya thanked the makers of his lace body suit and feather boots on his Insta

Art Arya, who's also a leading fashion designer, thinks Thai people can still find drag unusual.

He says some of the contestants' families have had issues with them as drag queens but their attitudes change when they see them on TV.

"They (the families) accept them with warm hearts, generosity and hospitality."

During Thursday's show, finalist Annee Maywong broke down on stage after being shown a video of her father wishing her well in the competition.

The ten contestants in Drag Race Thailand competed in fashion, acting and musical challenges, with the bottom two each week battling it out in a lip-sync.

Image source, Getty Images
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RuPaul wasn't at the show

In the US, the eliminated queen is famously told by RuPaul to "sashay away" but Art Arya wanted to change things up and not copy Ru's famous catchphrases

"I put the Thai touch on it. When the contestants leave, I give them a nice message to tell them I love them. I'm afraid it's not catchy."

The series has been shown exclusively online and has already been commissioned for a second season.

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