The Mirror Has Two Faces: The Other Side to Marina Summers

The Mirror Has Two Faces: The Other Side to Marina Summers

Photographed by Josh Tolentino for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

While Marina Summers continues to grow in stature all over the world, she reminds us of the power you must have out of drag.

Yan Alabado doesn’t do anything half-hearted. Neither does Marina Summers

But the former, the 27-year-old who was raised in Nueva Vizcaya, will obviously inform the latter, his drag persona that, as of this year, has become an international sensation. From finishing as runner-up to the inaugural season of Drag Race Philippines, she exploded into global consciousness by being invited to join the second staging of Drag Race: UK vs The World. There, she was introduced with a bolo in hand promising to slay the “colonizers,” which she did, week in and week out through her performances and captivating runway looks on the main stage. 

For today’s shoot, however, the brief was a lot calmer. “As Marina, I don’t present her, like, half-done. You know what I mean?” she tells Vogue Philippines. “So it has to be full glam. It has to be, you know, full Marina Regalia and everything. But this time, Vogue wanted to take it on a different route, which is very more, you know, stripped. Yes. I may call it that word. It’s more stripped. It’s more the canvas behind Marina.”

That concept appealed to the person behind the queen. “You know, as audiences, we like to see the glitz and glamor, but we don’t care to see what’s behind that,” Alabado says. “So I’m really, like, really interested in the direction that they wanted to go with this.”

Photographed by Josh Tolentino for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

But the person is also the persona as much as the canvas is also the swirls of colors and textures that it holds. The halves make up a whole, and its totality is an art that is both hard to resist and magnificent to behold.  

Speaking with Marina is like catching up with an old friend you haven’t met in a long while. “It’s been crazy,” she says about touring and performing in different cities around the world. “I’m having so much fun, even though it’s tiring.” 

While she has already turned global, she is relatively new to the game, and only recently celebrated her fifth anniversary as a drag artist. If given the chance to send her younger self a message she would advise her to “loosen up a bit, show some vulnerability,” Marina shares. “People love it when you excel so much. People love it when you’re good, but it takes that extra depth and emotion for people to really root for you.” 

An interesting take. For most of us who have watched her journey to stardom, she has always seemed so sure of herself. So certain of who she is. Yet here, she exposes an unguarded side, quite a contrast to her usual commanding presence when on stage.

Looking back to her first time on the Drag Race stage, she says she couldn’t think of anything that she would’ve done differently on the show. “I think Drag Race Philippines Season 1 was really my season. I had so much fun doing that,” she says. “If it wasn’t for my season, I wouldn’t be on UK vs. the World, right?” 

Photographed by Josh Tolentino for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

Drag Race UK vs. the World is a show within the universe of the RuPaul competition franchise, and, as the title suggests, it pits Britain-based drag artists against queens from around the world. Unlike Drag Race Philippines, the show is hosted by RuPaul herself. 

Marina was invited to participate in the second season, which premiered early February. It was an opportunity that she did not waste.

“Is it Joan of Arc?” Tia Kofi asked, peering at the figure silhouette by the entrance to the main stage. While she also wore chainmail, who came out of the doorway was not a French symbol of feminine independence, but a Filipina ready to fight regardless. Marina’s words slashed as much as the bolo in her hand: “It’s time to give these colonizers the chop!” 

Apart from her stellar lip-synch performances within the show, what she was praised week in and week out in the show were the clothes she wore. On the Drag Race runway, she intentionally showcased different aspects of the Philippines. From the dazzling redemption look that referenced bangus belly to a wedding ensemble made with traditional Yakan fabrics, Marina was unabashedly Filipino. 

“The power that you have in drag is also available out of drag, cause it’s the same person.” Photographed by Josh Tolentino for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

“For me, it was really important to bring different references [and] traditional culture to the main stage,” she shares. “Strip away the drag queen, strip away Marina as a character, I am first a storyteller.” And the story she wanted to tell was not just of herself, but of her country. “I want Marina to be the Filipina muse. I want her to represent every single person in our country: from Luzon, to Visayas, to Mindanao.” 

She adds: “That was very important for me to do … I value being Filipino so much.” Marina saw this as her edge in the competition. Her identity was her biggest weapon, her biggest strength. While some Filipinos on social media found this not to their liking—saying it’s a bit too much—she retorts that it only seems like that because the audience isn’t used to this level of exposure to ‘Filipino-ness’ on a large scale in western mainstream media. “You have your French fashion queens, your New York theater queens, where is the Filipina diva?” So she made it her goal to set that standard. “This is the Filipino queen, this is the image of a Filipina: short, brown, dark-haired. I had to represent all of that with my looks this season.”

“Strip away the drag queen, strip away Marina’s character, I am (first) a story teller.”

And although she would ultimately end in third place (tied with the statuesque French queen La Grande Dame) by the season’s finale, it’s clear to anyone who watched that she accomplished everything she set out to do. Even RuPaul herself said, while judging her now infamous bangus terno that Marina was “born to do drag.”

Marina is acutely aware of her privileged position as a drag artist, and with that awareness comes a responsibility and an understanding that she’s operating within something bigger than herself. “People know that Filipino drag is up there, they just needed to see one on an international franchise,” she shares on her role in bringing Filipino drag to a global audience. “I don’t claim that on my own, it’s always been there.”

While there has been progress, there is still so much that can be done for local drag artists to be taken seriously. “You can see that things are moving, things are changing. They are taking interest in drag, in queer artists,” she adds. “I hope a lot more mainstream media tap into the artistry of drag because it’s so empowering.”

She hopes that her run on the show will bring in more people to go to their local drag bars.

Photographed by Josh Tolentino for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

“Supporting local drag is so important,” she imparts. Especially now in our local drag communities, where there have been strides for better working conditions for drag talent, but many still lack that stability that only a few get to have. “It’s sad that a lot of us don’t get the same opportunities given [that] we’ve fought so hard to be seen,” Marina laments. All the more, with the unjust persecution and sudden loss of employment for many of her fellow drag artists back home, she emphasizes that supporting local drag has never been more crucial in protecting these spaces.

Through it all, Marina sees her run on UK vs. the World as a catalyst for a bigger platform for Filipino drag. “They pay attention now, they see us now,” and she hopes that one day drag queens can be treated as proper talents. “They bring money to businesses,” she quips. “We’re worthy of being called professional.” 

While being in drag is empowering, artists should find strength and power out of it. “Like it goes back to what RuPaul always says, you know, ‘the power that you have in drag is also available out of drag,’ cause it’s the same person. It’s also available to you. You just need to utilize that and place that energy in the right direction,” Yan says. “And that’s what I do with work, with, you know, meeting people, and doing business out of drag. I use that power, but I never use that power into my, you know, appearance. The beauty of Marina, like the two sides of Marina, yeah.” 

With additional reporting and interviews by Jacs Sampayan and Daphne Sagun. 

Vogue Philippines: June 2024 Issue

By YSMAEL SUAREZ. Photographs by JOSH TOLENTINO. Beauty Editor JOYCE OREÑA. Stylist: Neil de Guzman. Makeup: Vince Leendon. Hair: Miggy Carbonilla. Talent: Marina Summers. Art Director: Jann Pascua. Producer: Bianca Zaragoza. Beauty Writer: Bianca Custodio. Nails: Extraordinail. Multimedia Artist: Gabbi Constantino. Makeup Assistant: Renz Ervin Magallanes.
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