Drag art has been fast on the rise, and is definitely not a new concept in Malta, with many taking an interest in the artistic practice.
Still, many people still have misconceptions on what drag really is all about, and what the art form represents.
Meet Berta, the drag queen that’s all about educating students through the art of entertainment.
Lovin Malta spoke with Antoine Cauchi, who teaches Science and Biology by profession at St Albert The Great College In Valletta, and a drag artist by choice, to hear more about what goes behind using drag as a form of educational entertainment.
So how did his journey into Drag initially start off?
“Since I was very young, I was fascinated by the concept of dressing up. The fact that you can wear a costume, a wig, use a prop or makeup and you get to be anyone you wish to be, other than yourself,” he said.
Antoine told Lovin Malta that he has had an affinity for acting since he can remember. He also took several acting classes in the past, as well as having experience with acting both on stage and also on television.
He simply loves making people smile, interacting and making connections with an audience.
“When I discovered Drag art, through a TV program, I realized that I could do all the things that I have learned and loved to do all at one go. I found myself learning so many new things about myself whilst studying this art form,” he said.
But like many beautiful things in life, the journey into the exploration of Drag was not an easy one.
“The journey was quite tough, to be honest. When I considered starting doing Drag, rather than focusing on the opportunities, I focused on the negative side. I was in my head a lot; worrying about what people would think of me if I was doing this art form in public,” he explained.
Antoine used to deal with many questions at the beginning of his journey, such as “will Drag make me look less of a man?” as he grappled with the worry of what people might think of him.
He also expressed how he was often afraid to show who he really was because he feared what society would think of him or how it would decide to react.
Then COVID-19 happened and he slowly started to feel comfortable enough to explore that side of him.
“We were constrained to remain at home, and I felt safe within my four walls to start studying and experimenting. I started purchasing essentials and practicing some key aspects of Drag, such as makeup,” he explained.
So where does Berta come in?
Fast forward to the following scholastic year, the school Panto committee decided to create and film a few episodes for students and their families instead of the actual Panto, due to the restrictions at the time.
“After lockdown due to the pandemic, the Panto team felt that the sense of community within the college had diminished. We really strive to make everyone feel welcome and we embrace diversity within our community, in practice not just on paper,” he said.
“Rather than just educational, the videos recorded at school were actually a fun approach to get the families of the students together to watch these small episodes safely from home. These episodes were aimed to spread some fun and joy during stressful times.”
The plot of the episodes was quite simple – it depicted the daily life of Berta, the daily challenges that she faces, and the TV programs she watches. The committee had then decided that Antoine should play the role of Berta in the episodes created.
“By then, I had created all the undergarments to proportionise my body, and I started grasping the basics of makeup and much more,” he said.
His main source of inspiration for the creation of Berta came from Olivia Lilith, who he described as “a loud and bubbly individual who is not afraid to speak her mind”.
“A person that inspires you and helps you learn and discover new things, whilst not afraid to show her body and have fun. This is what inspired me whilst creating my Drag persona. People in my community that always manage to bring such positive energy to the room and make you feel great,” he said.
Antoine also expressed how the character that ended up coming out really managed to also embody the school’s ethos.
“I feel that this character really embodied what our school ethos is all about. I was able to do all of this at my own school because I had an amazing support team.”
“Our school ethos is ‘We welcome everyone, we care, we read and change the world and we seek fulfilment’ and that is what we set off to do,” he said.
This experience did not just help him overcome many challenges that he previously faced with self-acceptance, but it also opened the door to so much more.
“A few months later, I came across the call for an application for a Pride Drag competition. Firstly I was not going to apply, I had to learn to overcome self-doubt thanks to very few close individuals in my life. After that, I got really excited and decided to give it my all,” he said.
While the main purpose of his Drag journey was that of educating through means of entertainment, he also wanted to illustrate the idea of self-acceptance and self-expression. Speaking of what message he sought out to send to his students, he touched upon many different life lessons which will all be beneficial for a young human.
“I wanted to show my students to be themselves, that it is ok to explore different parts of your character and have fun with it. Through this approach, we wanted to pass on the message that it is ok not to take life too seriously and laugh.”
“I want to lead by example that it is ok to respectfully push boundaries and showcase your art form, whatever that might be. I never had such role models in my life to look up to, inspiring me to be myself so if I manage to make a difference for one person, my mission would be achieved.”
Malta could never have enough of this, and the way that Antoine managed to pass on such important life lessons through an art form is truly inspirational.
Check out the school’s videos by following this link.
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