The hair is sometimes red, sometimes black, blonde, peroxidized, curly, boyish, tied with a bandana, in a bun, braidedâ¦ the outfit is vast, the styling flawless. The makeup is picky, extravagant but not outrageous and the mole often planted under the left cheek. The toilet is vintage, sometimes wise, sometimes daring, the intonations and gestures make one think of Betty Boop, Rita Hayworth or even Dita Von Teese – she shares her surname with the last two. A tribute, she will tell us later.
Rita Von Hunty, Brazil’s most fashionable drag queen, is a keen critic and observer, a formidable thinking machine. Going through his Tempero Drag YouTube channel, attended by 700,000 people, it has offered for several years real masterclasses around various important social subjects.
His talents as a teacher allow him to analyze in detail themes that can be intimidating by their extreme complexity: class consciousness, the world of work, fascism in Brazilian sauce, the elitism of the privileged, the culture, religion, or monogamy. AntÃ´nio Carlos Jobim, one of the founders of bossa nova, said that Brazil is not for beginners. Rita Von Hunty helps us out of this state.
A claimed Marxism
Through her YouTube channel she advocates for equal rights for transgender and non-binary people. Von Hunty uses the queer movement as eminently political and in his videos denounces ordinary sexism, racism and homophobia.
Such steps have become essential because times, as we know, are difficult in Brazil. Between 2017 and 2018, a 43% increase in suicides in LGBT + people has been found.
Tempero Drag is his playground. In videos full of literary quotes, it is about sociology, anthropology, politics and even religion. Von Hunty pays tribute, in the form of portraits, to the women who inspire him: Angela Davis, Rosa Luxemburg, Margareth Mead, Caroline Maria of Jesus, Harriet Tubman, Marsha P. Johnson, Jane Austen, etc.
In January 2019 (before the pandemic prevented us from choosing anything), she organized the series of seminars âRita Von Hunty’s revolutionary coursesâ in several capitals of the country. The proposed modules are an assemblage of his favorite themes: a brief history of capitalism, love as a social construction, an epistemological approach to work, against censorship, toxic masculinity, prolegomena of religion, and history of the LGBT + movement.
The drag queen claims her Marxism and quotes the theoretician Bini Adamczak, author of the book Communism explained to children: (“Once upon a time there were people who aspired to free themselves from the misery of capitalism. How to make their desire for change come true?”) she specifies, because I think and organize concrete actions that aim to transform the system, or, in the worst case scenario, to reformulate it. â
The construction of the mask
Guilherme Terreri, professor of English literature and actor of 30, explains that Rita Von Hunty is a way for him to express himself, to establish contact with his audience: âShe does not exist as a person, she has no biography, it is an educational, artistic, educational tool. It’s a mask, a persona. â
The young man discovered the theater at the age of 6 in his hometown, RibeirÃ£o Preto. At school, he performed in the most iconic plays like Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s dream, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. After the vestibular (compulsory entrance exam for all Brazilian universities), he moved to Rio de Janeiro and obtained a diploma in Performing Arts.
Guilherme moved to SÃ£o Paulo in 2012 to be alongside his mother, a literature teacher and translator, to whom he is very close and who suffers from cancer. He devotes himself to the study of English literature at the University of SÃ£o Paulo.
In 2013, one after the disappearance of his mother, then aged 21, he created, on the occasion of a carnival party, the character of Rita Von Hunty. Since then, the drag queen has continued to take up space. Until becoming omnipresent in the Brazilian media and intellectual landscape. Indeed, the person created from all the pieces by Terreri has one that carries far, especially since she brilliantly wields a powerful voice weapon: laughter.
Expanding the human repertoire
âRita allows me to open up to other facets that I carry within me. Let’s say she allows me new ways to be myself. There is, I believe, a point of similarity, of confluence, between the performance of the drag queen, the clown, the actor, the dancer: with each new show, with each new project, we expand our human repertoire. This is the most beautiful aspect of our work â, notes the professor.
Shortly after the creation of Tempero Drag, Von Hunty was invited to present, at the coasts ofIkaro Kadoshi and Penelope Jean, the reality TV show “Drag Me As A Queen”, broadcast on the E! channel. Loosely inspired by the American television show “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, the bet of “Drag Me As A Queen” consists in making women live the experience of drag performance.
If the success of the show marks a milestone in the history of television and LGBT + culture in Brazil, a country that remains deeply homophobic, it is also a considerable step forward on a Latin American scale. whole, being the first program to be presented by drag queens. In its first season in 2017, âDrag Me As A Queenâ broke records and exceeded the channel’s flagship program, âKeeping Up With the Kardashiansâ in audience ratings. The show is currently aired in Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina.
In this regard, Guilherme Terreri notes that drag is a form of artistic expression but also a political act since it would serve “To strengthen the autonomy of individuals, whether they are men or women”.
âThe drag queen uses symbols and signs which are stigmatizing but which, from a performance, acquire another value, are re-signified. Corsets, wigs, makeup, high heels are often signs of repression, lack of comfort, helplessness. On the other hand, when the drag queen uses them in an artistic performance, she reframes them, they become another choose â, underlines Terreri. It is, according to the teacher, an instrument of de-marginalization for a whole section of society. By parodying the codes of a hyperbolic femininity, it becomes an artistic and subversive gesture.
The young performer evokes the American philosopher and key figure in gender studies Judith Butler and emphasizes that if the drag queen is empty of all political content, she dies. “The most important for me, he concludes at the end of our discussion, it is to continue to teach and to always fight against all forms of barbarism. â The immense Brazilian pedagogue Paulo freire supported the idea that teaching requires joy and hope. âThere is a relationship between the joy necessary for educational activity and hope: the hope that, teacher and students, we can together learn, teach, worry, produce, and together also resist obstacles to our joy. Hope is part of human nature â, he said.
When you attend conferences or watch Rita Von Hunty’s videos, you feel less helpless. Against the political, sociological and economic upheavals facing Brazil, Von Hunty is a remedy that is proving effective.