Rude! Interview with Asttina Mandella

First of all, how does it feel to be a black queer icon? 

Well, it’s actually really scary. I don’t see myself as a black icon. It’s funny ‘cause obviously in the show, I mentioned that I never really had anyone to look up to, except Naomi Campbell and my mum. So now that I am a black icon for thousands and thousands of black queer gay kids, it’s a bit weird. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also an honour and a blessing. It’s something that I will hold truly, and will always try to do my best, and to give the best advice and just make someone feel accepted. If I can help one person, I’ve done my job.

AsttinaMandella_ZERO_NINE_01.jpg
Photography by Christian Trippe


How would you describe your style?

If Melanie C, Naomi Campbell and a senior bank teller had a baby, that would be me. Yeah, it’s weird it’s expressing in a million ways; there’s not one thing, we are all a million things. So, some days I feel really queer, some days I want to wear all black, sometimes I just feel super fabulous and sometimes I just want to wear a suit and a hat. It always changes, everything depends on the mood, the feeling, the day.  All these different things, but that’s what allows you to become a fabulous queer icon.

What first interested you in drag and do you have like a drag journey to tell us? 

Oh, so in the beginning I hated drag. I hated it, I thought it was like a cop out. I used to think it was like ‘oh, I’ve failed as a performer’ so I’m gonna put on makeup and change who I am. It wasn’t until I found Sink The Pink and Raven Mandella, my drag mother, that I was like, ‘Oh, this isn’t like a cop out it’s a whole world and a lifestyle.’ Because I came from a dance background; working from 8 in the morning at the bar all day till 6pm – it’s not exactly a straight world, but it’s so different to the gay, queer world. So, when I found drag I was like, ‘Oh my god, they’re just living their lives and being all colourful.’ I found it interesting and ended up being a dancer for Sink the Pink and Raven.  

From there, I found my queerness, I found my gayness, I found my trueness. I found who I am. I found more meaning of life than what I expected and knew about. So then when it came to the next journey of my life, I was questioning where does this go? I didn’t really want to be a dancer anymore, but I am a dancer, and I always will be. But there’s this whole other, more real, world out there, which is the queer gay world that we live in. That’s the true world. I was questioning how to combine my history with that world. That’s where drag just became the tool really, I got to express myself and who I am, express my artistry, express my dance, express what I am, and educate myself. That’s the biggest thing I did, was to educate myself on so many things. I’m still learning to this day; I’m still not used to calling people by different pronouns. So, the whole drag journey is always about education and learning about who you are, and who other people are.

AsttinaMandella_ZERO_NINE_04.jpg
Photography by Christian Trippe

Read more on Zero.Nine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: