#CocktailsAndContours: Taking On the World with the Lovely Emi Grate
In a city teeming with talent, there are so many times that we only see an artist’s “presentation” rather than getting to know the person behind it, their creative journey, who they are as part of the creative community and what they hope to accomplish.
This is especially true in the world of drag, where under all the makeup, outfits, wigs and jewelry lies a unique individual who has their own story to share.
Cocktails and Contours was created not only give a new take on the video makeup tutorial game, but also allow for a peek beneath the skin of one of NYC’s notable or up-and-coming drag queens.
Each installment is tied to a Facebook Live make-up face-off with another drag queen where we discuss their career, what continues to inspire them and the difference they hope to make in both the community and the world.
So cheers to our second #CocktailsAndContours Queen, the fiercely talented and creative Han Zaw, a.k.a. Emi Grate!
1. Moving On Up
emigrate.drag It's Jan 4, and to celebrate the 69th #independenceday of #myanmar/#burma, here's another picture from my shoot with @isthatjma (@jamesavancephotography). #happyindependenceday #fuckimperialism #fuckcolonialism #fuckneocolonialism #fuckcapitalism #burmeseindependenceday #burmese #myanmese #drag #dragqueen #dragphotography #dragmakeup #dragfashion #dragstyle #instadrag #instagay #instahomo #gaystagram #dragstagram #glitterbrowsforever #socialjuaticewarriorprincess #rupaulsdragrace #emigr8
Born and raised in the Southeast Asian country Burma, Emi first came to the U.S. for college in 2011 where she was given her first opportunity to step into the spotlight, finding her voice at Hanover College in Indiana before making her way to the Big Apple after she graduated.
“I moved around a lot and when I was in college I switched school, so the name Emi Grate made a lot of sense to me,” she explains. “I also switched from a music major to a theater major, so moving and changing has been a constant theme in my life.”
Having lived in so many places, Emi holds uses her unique experiences to show other sides of life as a cornerstone of her drag. “I value perspective a lot, both as a person and a drag queen,” she says.
“Drag is storytelling. But with mine I want to say, ‘Let me tell you a story you haven’t heard before.'”
2. The Social Justice Warrior Princess
emigrate.drag #news: I'll be returning to #newworldstages this Thursday for #soyouthinkyoucandrag--not as a contestant but as an audience member. I'll be there at see the girls fail at the very thing that defines #my drag and #nyc culture: #broadway. Join me! #drag #dragqueens #dragshow #dragcompetition #sytycd #sytycd7 #thesevenyearitch #nws #instagay #instadrag #glutterbrows #glitterbrowsforever #teamglitterbrows #secretasianqueen #socialjusticewarriorprincess #sjwp #emigr8
Having been exposed to so many different walks of life, Emi is especially passionate when it comes to matters of social justice and equality, especially when it comes to race and culture, so much so that she coined the nickname ‘The Social Justice Warrior Princess.’
“It actually started out as a joke, but then I got serious about it,” she admits. “It’s important to educate and hold people accountable when it comes to social justice.” Emi’s social media is a bevy of posts bringing up important issues in our country in hopes of creating awareness and a conversation.
“It’s an interesting atmosphere in America because basically everybody is a migrant,” Emi says. “But even there, there are social separations that need to be talked about.”
Though drag is fun and colorful, it can also be a powerful platform to express ideas and get people to listen to what you say.
3. Team Glitter Brows
emigrate.drag Thank you, @bootsandsaddlenyc, for being my #home and #safehaven all this time I've been in NYC! Thank you, @beverlylesliesills and DJ @kikidarling247, for being amazing partners! Thank you, @ally_ganza & @misss.hell, for turning the party last night. Thank you everyone for coming out! Thank you, @matty_enman, for the picture! #happyholidays and #happynewyear! #theshowmustgoon #drag #dragqueen #dragshow #2girls1tuck #bootsandsaddle #westvillage #nyc #nycdrag #dragstagram #gaystagram #instadrag #instagay #instahomo #gaynightlife #nycnightlife #teamglitterbrows #glitterbrowsforever #glitterbtows #emigrateful #emigr8
One of the most captivating aspects of Emi is her unquestionable talent when it comes to makeup, creating everything from signature looks to otherworldly art on her face. Her fierce makeup style takes nods from both her cultural heritage as well as her artistic aesthetic.
One of the looks she’s most known for are her glittering eyebrows, or Glitter Brows as she likes to call them.
“My makeup is a very important part of my drag,” she says. “Makeup is the first thing people see when you walk in. You want to make them keep looking.”
As both a singer and a visual artist, she has plans to create a music video celebrating her favorite makeup technique and solidifying #TeamGlitterBrows as a rising makeup trend in the drag community. “I’ve seen other queens doing the glitter brow look recently, so I have to beat them to it!”
emigrate.drag The @btwfoundation and @nbctv's @todayshow are doing their second annual #sharekindness experience at the @rockcenternyc through Dec 23. You can write holiday cards to children's hospitals, veterans and veteran families. I went on Saturday. Go check them out! #happyholidays #holidayseason #holidayspirit #btwfoundation #bornthisway #rockerfellercenter #dragmakeup #dragfashion #dragstyle #instadrag #instagay #dragstagram #gaystagram #nycdrag #nyc #teamglitteebrows #emigr8 #nofilter
2016 was a big year for Emi Grate, from being cast in New York City’s biggest drag competition at New World Stages to landing her first weekly show at Boots & Saddle Drag Lounge in the West Village on Thursday nights at 10 p.m., Two Girls, One Tuck with her close friend Beverly Leslie Sills.
When asked what her biggest achievement in drag so far is, Emi says, “I’d say it was my senior thesis, which was an autobiographical drag show called ‘The Gratest Show On Earth.” She giggles and adds, “Of course I would do that, right?”
For someone so young, she’s experienced life on both sides of the globe and continues to both entertain, educate and most importantly, inspire. “Everyone has a story, and everyone wants to tell it,” Emi says. “I’m one of those stories you’ve never heard before. Come take a listen.”
You can check out the full video interview and makeup face-off right here!
[Feature Image Courtesy Instagram]