Ubi Aaron is not afraid of being politically loud and fiercely queer. Using their talent, their beauty and their platform, Ubi is slowly recognizing their self-worth as a Black Latinx artist. Photo by Ubi Aaron.
This is an installment of exclusive Q+As with our Shifter Fest Vol. II performers. This interview with Ubi Aaron was held through emails due to their busy schedule. Be sure to check out their performances on our IGTV channel!
Meet Ubi Aaron — a 23-year-old non-binary trans drag queen born and raised and in Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Having felt a connection to the arts since childhood, Ubi Aaron now highly manifests that loving relationship and appreciation through drag. It has helped them find the voice, their identity and a space spot as a member of the queer community in Puerto Rico.
Shifter Mag had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Ubi Aaron and ask about their passion and dedication to drag artistry and about their story waiting to fully set out.
Shifter Mag: Your drag name is Ubi Aaron. What's the inspiration behind it?
Ubi Aaron: I got the idea for my drag name from the Spanish word “hubieron”. I separated it into first name Ubi, and last name Aaron. Somehow, it made sense to me and clicked as soon as I thought of it. Also, because of a lengthy explanation I can not get into detail or explain eloquently on text.
SM: How did you get into the drag scene?
Ubi Aaron: Before talking about how I got into the drag scene, I should talk about how I got into the queer scene in Puerto Rico because that’s how my drag journey begins. Basically, if you’re familiar with the college life in the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico, you know that it’s student body is very diverse, and in between that diversity, you find a very visible queer community of people where you could say that almost everybody knows of each other. As soon as I started my first year of uni, I started to meet a lot of people from going out around the town of Río Piedras. Now if you’re familiar with the Río Piedras nightlife, you know that there is a very fierce drag scene which is often regarded as an alternative drag scene that’s born from queer college students and queer artists of all identities: trans, non-binary, intersex, etc.
After finding out about drag shows around Río Piedras, and falling in love with the scene and getting familiar with tv shows like Rupaul’s Drag Race, I made it my passion to attend as many shows as I could with my friends. Subsequently, I get aquatinted with performers who get to know me from being a supporter and a fan of the shows. Then, somehow I end up convincing myself that I wanted to do that, and the next thing I knew, I had my first show at local Río Piedras bar, El Vidy’s.
SM: What does it mean to be a drag queen in Puerto Rico?
Ubi: It may sound cliché, but pursuing drag in Puerto Rico is a literal sacrifice, especially now more than ever when the island has been faced with disaster, after disaster, after disaster for the past few years. Right now, I fear choosing to be a drag artist, solely, because I do not have a guaranteed future doing what I love to do the most here. We’re faced with a complete lack of opportunities as artists. Though, I am pleased that things are looking up now that we have a space (@LOVERBAR) where our ideas as working artists are truly respected and compensated monetarily. As opposed to performing at straight and/or very cisgendered bars where we only have one night of a month to get to perform at and try to make it a safe space for our community.
And I’d say that we carry our art with a lot of pride because of where it comes from: hard-work, sacrifice, a colonized country, and many other things that make our art “authentically” Puerto Rican.
SM: Do you consider your drag political? If so, how?
Ubi: My drag is political because of what it has meant to me as a non-binary trans person, and how it has helped me recognize my self-worth as a Black Latinx. So I ask myself, what does it mean to be all of these things in a heteronormative, cis-gendered, white supremacist, patriarchal society? It means resistance, and resistance to all of society’s demands is political. Black beauty is political, a black voice is political, black art is political, and a decolonized mind is political, so I feel like that’s what my drag brings whether I mean or not for it to be political.
SM: Where do you draw your visual ideas from? Your looks and outfits?
Ubi: My biggest inspiration when it comes to doing anything drag-related comes from music and pop music culture. I create my own visuals based on the ideas from the music and the artists that I listen to religiously. I view every project that I get to create as a concept with a very clear message, at least from my perspective. I get to live my own fantasy, where I’m the star of a music video or I’m a musician on a world tour.
SM: What is your favorite part of drag?
Ubi: That there is no limit to what I can create. I can literally do whatever it is I want, creatively, and I don’t ever seem to lose myself or feel like I lose myself as an artist, because I do not ascribe to any sort of aesthetic or label, even if I do have some favorites and some clear ones people know me for.
But just as much as change is an inherent trait of humankind, it’s the same for any artist. We grow, and we get to like and discover new things, and parts of ourselves and of our new-found capacities we prefer to experiment with.
I also love the fact that drag can encapsulate every art form there, so it adds to that limitless that I spoke of before. I can dance, I can do makeup, I can collaborate with photographers, edit my own performances using editing programs, make my own outfits, be a creative activist, and so much more.
SM: Are there any projects we should be on the lookout for?
Ubi: I have very ambitious plans as a drag artist once I graduate from uni. I’m really excited to let the world know about my house very soon. Haus of Ubi will be the one to watch out for. Besides that, I’m also looking forward to collaborating with other local artists, so we can put out content and ideas beyond drag shows. El talento que hay en la isla es de sobra y hay que ponerlo en alto. (rough translation: There is plenty of talent on the island and it must be put up high/it must be recognized).
Catch Ubi Aaron’s performance titled “Kill...” in our next installment of Shifter Fest Vol. II on our IGTV channel: