Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful, hate me because I’m an immigrant

Those were the words I uttered as I strutted into the Werk Room for RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’s third season

I chose this as my entry line in episode one because I wanted my first words in the show to make a big statement about who I am and what I believe in, but also because I knew I’d get hateful comments about not being from the UK so I wanted to own it.

Sure enough – as a drag queen with a mix of both Spanish and Geordie influences – from the moment I was first announced as part of the cast back in August, people complained that I ‘do not represent Newcastle drag’ or that I ‘should be on Drag Race España, not UK’.

It saddens me to see people genuinely believing in these words but thankfully, my drag scene had my back, with the queens and kings coming out in support. And despite some of these ignorant comments, my entrance line has become a meme!

I’m so proud of everything I’ve done and how far I’ve come. 

I tried to keep all the bullying a secret because I didn’t want my mother and father to be worried and ashamed (Picture: BBC/World of Wonder/Ray Burmiston)

I grew up in Guadassuar – a little Valencian town with less than 6,000 residents – and when I think about my childhood, I have mixed feelings. I do love my hometown, but I had to do a massive exercise of forgiveness in order for me to be at peace with all the homophobia that I suffered while I lived there.

I felt trapped for so many years and I was surrounded by people who told me everything about me was wrong – I was too camp, too flamboyant, too loud and I was ‘el maricón del poble’, which translates to ‘the town’s f****t’.

People tried to shame me and my family for that, and that was probably the worst part.

I tried to keep all the bullying a secret because I didn’t want my mother and father to be worried and ashamed, but it got to a point that the teenagers were calling me names when I was out with my parents and younger brother.

It got so bad that I made it my mission to get out of there. For that to happen, I had to become an exceptional student (which I really wasn’t at the time) so I could get a scholarship for university because there was no way my family could afford that big expense.

Year after year from high school until my last year of university – so around seven years – I got scholarships… And every time I did, I proved to myself, my family and everyone around me that I was worthy of greatness.

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I went to uni in Castellón – a big city – to study advertising and public relations and that’s where I started exploring my queerness and became a proud gay man. I’m not going to lie, but the humanities faculty is probably one of the gayest places in Castellón.

I met a lot of guys, had a lot of sex and learned that I wasn’t alone. Even if it was a gay friend, sex partner, boyfriend or teacher, there were a lot of us, it felt like I had finally found my home. 

But soon, even this felt too small. Before I graduated and jumped into the adult world, I decided to apply for another scholarship – this time to go abroad and learn English. I also got that one. This was terrifying as I had never been to the UK! And that was my first time coming to Newcastle nine years ago.

Needless to say, I fell in love with the city and its people. The art galleries, old cinemas and a friendliness in people that reminded me of Valencia were what hooked me! Especially one handsome British man, who I have now been dating for eight years and is the reason I moved to the UK permanently.

It was after a few years of living in the UK that I started doing drag. Although I loved this country, at first I struggled to find my tribe. But when I saw the queens and kings from the drag scene, I knew instantly they were my people.

Every time I have been in the public eye in drag, I have received xenophobic comments (Picture: BBC/World of Wonder/Guy Levy)

I had never been to a drag show in Spain, which now thinking about it is quite weird… My first time doing drag as Choriza May, I dressed up as Cruella de Vile for POKE – a queer night in Newcastle. It was Halloween so it didn’t feel as serious, but God I felt beautiful! It was addictive! 

It was feeling that sense of belonging to a queer community, as well as a mix of frustration, anger and desperation towards the current political scenario at the time that made me create Choriza May – a Spanish/Geordie drag queen.

Since then, every time I have been in the public eye in drag, I have received xenophobic comments. For example, when I was part of some online interviews for ITV news or when I appeared in Inside Out for the BBC. Or every single interview or article about me in Newcastle’s, The Chronicle.

It’s the price you pay for being part of a minority and also being outspoken about the issues that make us feel like second class citizens.

It is very unfair.

Minorities have to work twice as hard to get what everyone else has and it’s this hard work over the years that has earned me a spot on Drag Race. So for some people to question RuPaul’s decision to have me on the show, it’s really hurtful.

I am going to keep working hard so immigrants have more representation in the media (Picture: BBC/World of Wonder)

In all honesty, this just makes me realise how important it is that finally an EU citizen has made it onto such a big platform.

There are around 3.5million in the UK – we are teachers, lawyers, doctors, bartenders, au pairs… and also drag queens. We’re hard workers and we’ve left our friends and families behind to chase our dreams – mine just came true in a country I adore.

I am going to keep working hard so immigrants have more representation in the media, so it doesn’t feel odd that someone with a slightly different accent or skin colour becomes a successful person. So people can get past the feeling that these positions of power have been stolen from them and given to us.

When I was preparing for the show, it did cross my mind to tone down my ‘Spanishness’ in case it was ‘easier to swallow’ by the audience here. But soon I realised that was a stupid idea.

I was struggling to come up with ideas, everything felt forced and like I was trying to read the audience’s mind. I was focusing too much on thinking about what they would like me to do instead of what I really wanted to do.

My life is already changing for the better (Picture: BBC/World of Wonder/Guy Levy)

If I was going to be on the show, I was going to do it being 100% and unapologetically me. And that’s what I did, I used both British and Spanish designers, cultural and visual references.

And you are very welcome, because I see this as a gift to the audience, a little window to my world, my background and my culture that people don’t always get to see on TV. Little nods to the Spanish divas and queer icons that inspired me as a kid mixed with everything I love about the UK.

The best part of the whole experience was having my 11 sisters and the whole team behind RuPaul’s Drag Race UK embracing these qualities that make me unique. They listened, learned and supported me along the way and I really hope the audience does the same, not just for me, but for themselves.

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I want them to enjoy the cultural diversity of the show to the fullest without any prejudices and preconceived ideas of what it means to be a drag queen in the UK.

My life is already changing for the better as I will be joining the cast for Tuck Shop’s Dick Whittington Panto in the West End this Christmas in the role of Queen Rat!

I couldn’t be happier that I got this amazing role and I will be able to bring my Spanish flavour to such a British tradition. And this is just the start, I hope the UK is ready to get a lot more of this Spanish sausage.

Immigration Nation

Immigration Nation is a series that aims to destigmatise the word ‘immigrant’ and explore the powerful first-person stories of people who’ve arrived in the UK – and called it home. If you have a story you’d like to share, email james.besanvalle@metro.co.uk


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