May 27, 2017


Future Asian & Pacific History Month: Kim Chi's Inspiring Performance Art

Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic
Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

Fuse is celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Asian and Pacific History before our eyes. Today's spotlight is on Kim Chi, a fierce queen decimating stereotypes by courageously standing in her truth–all while maintaining one of the most flawless faces in drag.

Kim Chi, born Sang-Young Shin, was raised in South Korea and now calls Chicago home. The 29-year-old drag queen and makeup artist was a breakout star and finalist of hit drag competition series RuPaul's Drag Race season 8. In her own words, Kim Chi is a "7-foot tall, live-action anime character and high-fashion model." Before even being cast on Drag Race, Kim Chi had a loyal following on Instagram where she displays her whimsical, larger-than-life looks. But what makes Kim Chi a part of Future Asian & Pacific History goes far beyond the surface.

In a candid early moment on Drag Race, the usually sarcastic Kim Chi opened up to the queens, and America, about her adolescent struggles. "I was definitely an outsider. The weird, fat, art kid...with a strong accent." In another scene toward the end of the season, host RuPaul held up a childhood picture of Kim Chi, asking her what she'd say to "little Sang." In one of the most emotional scenes in Drag Race history, Kim Chi broke down baring her soul, speaking of "not fitting in" and feeling trapped:

"At times, you're gonna feel like you're trapped in the wrong body," Kim Chi says crying. "At times you're gonna...think about harming yourself or even running away. But I just want to let you know that it will all get better." In fact, by not fitting into cultural norms, whether it's her Korean background, gay culture or the drag world, Kim Chi inspires us to love ourselves for who we are. Watching Kim Chi perform and live her life fully in her truth, we see what true beauty is, inside and out.

In her Drag Race finale, where the finalists each perform an original song, Kim Chi confidently owned exactly who she is once and for all, while giving a slap in the face to stereotypes and expectations often projected on Asian and gay people. Kim's song, "Fat, Fem & Asian," felt like an anthem for all of us who don't fit the mold, and are proud of it!

One of the most inspiring things about Kim Chi is that she makes up her mind to be happy, using drag to express herself and gain confidence. This is especially courageous considering that when she competed in drag on national TV, no one in her traditional Korean family knew she does drag or is gay. Today, only her mother knows (and accepts) that she's gay, but her family still does not know she performs as a drag queen.

Upon the airing of her Drag Race season Kim Chi became an immediate fan favorite. She now markets her glam-meets-fantasy style, hilarious trademark sayings ("Donut come for me!"), and quirky personality with personalized clothing, accessories and cosmetics, and performs all over the country to adoring audiences.

Oh, and this queen's days of making history are far from over. In an interview with Chicago morning show You & Me, Kim Chi says of drag in Korea, "It's almost seen as [a] fetish...Drag is not necessarily considered an art form there yet, so I would like to be the first one to be able to break that boundary." Hey, if anyone can make the world see drag as the art form it truly is, it's the impeccably talented Kim Chi.

Tune in to Fuse and come back to every day for profiles, videos, galleries and more on the individuals around the world who are creating Future Asian and Pacific History. Join the conversation with FutureHistory and find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.