In drag, Alex Mathew goes by the name of Maya the Drag Queen, also known as “Mayamma”, which translates to “Mother of Illusion” or “Mother of Magic”. This is the name Alex chose for his drag persona. “The name Mayamma is inspired by the Malayalam movie Maya Mohini,”
Alex enjoys performing and is one of the few working drag artists. He loves the art, but it hasn’t been an easy one. While being as Mayamma, a lot of people mistake him for being a transgender person. He first dressed in drag in September of 2014, after which he faced difficulty landing roles in theatre productions. He was a regular in the theatre scene, and he was regularly told that he was “too effeminate” to play roles. He says, “So I converted those supposed weaknesses into my strengths by building a drag persona.”
He says his biggest drag inspirations are RuPaul and Drag Race season 6 winner Bianca Del Rio. Way before Mayamma, he says his first time in drag was a simple transformation, starting by wearing his mother’s sari and blouse, with an inexpensive wig and absolutely no makeup. He says, “There was that whole bit of a boy who wanted to express his femininity, but didn’t know how to do it. Years later, I found a way to celebrate my feminine side through drag.
Alex recollects that Mayamma for his was life-changing, and then he decided to come out to his family and friends about his sexuality. He believes sexuality is fluid and identifies as gay. It didn’t go as well as he planned, as there are still major misconceptions about drag queens in the country. It is still not really taken as an art form. Alex is calm and understanding when he talks about his family, and he also talks about his struggle to gain their acceptance. He wishes his parents would sit in the front row and celebrate his performances with him.
Right from the start, when he started doing drag performances, both his parents were against it. He says, “They just didn’t understand what I was doing.” But after a lot of patience and perseverance on his part, today, Alex’s mother packs his suitcase when he leaves for a performance.
Every week, Alex Mathew performs as “Drag Race” every week at Bangalore club Kitty Ko. Dressed in a gorgeous cotton sari, Mayamma is sure to floor the audience with her thick Malayali accent, jasmine flowers, a huge bindi and her lips painted red. She sings, dances, and acts on stage as a graceful and fierce Malayali woman. On a few occasions, she also dresses like a Malayali kitty party aunty. The Kasavu sari is reserved for a special act. While growing up, he was a huge fan of Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi, and called them both “Bollywood divas” and also did a photo shoot as a tribute to them both.
He was born in Thiruvananthapuram, raised in Kochi and moved to Bengaluru when he was 17. He pursued an MBA and worked for almost a year in Hyderabad before moving back to Bengaluru. He presently works as a PR and marketing executive.