The Church of Postgender Drag Star Nuh Peace
NUH PEACE PREACHES A PUNK-ROCK SERMON OF ACCEPTANCE.
With his icy-blue contact lenses, coal-colored lipstick, silver crucifix and black laboratory gloves adorned with chrome spikes, Nuh Peace could head up the Church of Satan.
But Nuh’s looks are deceiving – his canon is actually one of tolerance and acceptance.
“Bangkok is my church,” says the postgender drag performer and visual artist. “In any other religion, if you are queer or different, you’re out. But Bangkok accepts you how you are. I want to be a priest for Bangkok. Amen.”
His elaborate getups turn heads wherever he goes in the Thai capital, whether he’s on the back of a motorbike racing through Chinatown or staging a photo shoot in the dairy aisle of 7/11.
“My appearance is my art form,” he says, crossing his legs beneath a pleated leather skirt, platform boots clunking together as he sips green tea from the teacup he totes everywhere. “That’s why I’m always late.”
Nuh, a clothing designer, performance artist and DJ, describes his artistic choices as rooted in the painful discrimination he faced during his formative years in the United States.
As an exchange student in Arkansas and Florida, he was bullied by classmates for being “different … and queer,” an experience that dismantled his rosy perceptions of the American Dream, but eventually came to inform the way his art calls out the ills of capitalism and consumerist societies.
While attending Bangkok’s Bunka Fashion School, for example, Nuh tagged the pages of Vogue with words like, “FAT,” “GAY,” “QUEER,” “INCOME GAP” and “TRUMP” for a project. Then there was “Fashion School Murdered Me”: A runway show at a popular Bangkok shopping mall that celebrated skateboarding and rave subcultures by using DJs and mohawked punks as models.
“I’m not a fashion kid who is super shallow about what I do,” he explains. “I want to have a message and be responsible for it.”
“I’M A MISFIT, BUT I STILL FEEL SAFE IN [THAI] CULTURE.”
Nuh’s personal blend of punk and drag is derived from his late teenage years in New York City, when he perused the works of Warhol and Pollock at MoMA and frequented CBGB at night. It’s also informed his cultural identity since he moved back to Bangkok a few years ago.
“I’m a misfit, but I still feel safe in [Thai] culture,” he explains. “If you’re a misfit in America, you feel insecure. But here, even if they hate you, they’re not going to punch you or arrest you. They’re going to be nice to you.”
That’s because in Thailand, the cultural practice of “saving face,” or avoiding confrontation so as not to embarrass others, means that mainstream culture practices a high level of tolerance, particularly regarding diverse gender and sexual identities.
“Thailand is a melting pot. It’s tom yum soup,” says Nuh. “It’s about accepting other cultures and diversity, especially with this internet culture [where] everyone is so mean to each other. Diversity – I feel like that has the potential to be a new religion.”
Check our exclusive photoshoot with Nuh Peace by Graham Meyer, or check out Nuh’s Instagram for more on the avantgarde artist.