Lion Rock Lens

Philippines’ Violette Blanche Paints Hong Kong Drag

Christian Marco is a mainstay of the city’s drag scene at gay bar Petticoat Lane

By Chad de Guzman

September 2019

Violette Blanche, a Filipino drag queen, lip-syncs to an Ariana Grande song medley in Petticoat Lane near Central’s Lan Kwai Fong on Sept. 19, 2019. Blanche says she also styled her dress and hair to pay homage to the popstar.

 Most Filipinos in Hong Kong work as domestic helpers. But not Christian Marco, 34, from the Philippine province of Bulacan.

Instead, he regularly transforms into Violette Blanche – his drag persona – for shows in Petticoat Lane, a popular gay bar in Hong Kong’s Central neighborhood. Blanche is among the few Filipino queens dominating the local drag scene.

Marco first worked as a television dancer in the Philippines before migrating to Hong Kong in 2011 to work as part of the ensemble of Disneyland’s theater productions. To augment his income, Marco also taught dance classes.

But he eventually let go of both for drag, despite starting out with a budget of HK$800. At the time wigs, dresses and make-up cost around HK$1,150, he said.

“At first, you would really invest, so it doesn’t matter if you earned or not,” Marco said. “I just really wanted to do it.”

Marco now earns an average of HK$18,000 monthly as a full-time drag performer. With this, he said he is able to send at least HK$4,000 to his family in the Philippines every month.

Christian Marco, who goes by Violette Blanche on stage, goes over his wig collection in his home in Mui Wo on Oct. 4, 2019. Marco has dedicated an entire room of his home to house Blanche’s dresses, hair and make-up kits.

Violette Blanche is photographed by Ian Christophre, the event and marketing officer for Petticoat Lane, for the bar’s promotional materials on Sept. 12, 2019. Blanche is a regular performer in the bar, alongside three other Filipino drag queens.

Violette Blanche does her make-up in the kitchen of Petticoat Lane on Sept. 12, 2019. The Filipino drag queen says she usually comes in at least three hours before her first show at 12 am  to prepare her make-up.

Violette Blanche parties with her husband, Nicholas Beckwith in Petticoat Lane near Lan Kwai Fong on Sept. 18, 2019. Beckwith says he fully supports his husband’s means of living.

Christian Marco, who is Violette Blanche on stage, plays with his Nintendo Switch on the way home to his rented apartment in Mui Wo on Oct. 4, 2019, while his husband Nicholas Beckwith watches. Marco and Beckwith travel regularly via ferry to attend drag shows in the city.

Justin van Herwerdern, co-owner and general manager of Petticoat Lane, brandishes his shirt featuring Violette Blanche’s face outside of the bar on Sept. 18, 2019.

Christian Marco tightens his corset before his Violette Blanche drag show in the kitchen of Petticoat Lane on Sept. 12, 2019.

Violette Blanche poses for her fans in Petticoat Lane near Lan Kwai Fong in Central on Sept. 18, 2019.
Christian Marco works with his sister Christine and his mother Betty in his Mui Wo home on Oct. 4, 2019. Marco flew his mother to Hong Kong to help with sewing dresses. Marco says he takes after his mom with his sewing skills.
Violette Blanche asks her sister, Christine Marco, to help unhook her bra before her show begins in Petticoat Lane on Sept. 18, 2019. Christian Marco says she asks Christine to be her personal assistant for the drag performances.
Christian Marco rides a tricycle home on Mui Wo on Oct. 4, 2019. Marco uses the tricycle to carry around at least two suitcasesto the Mui Wo port whenever he has drag performances.
Christian Marco looks for the fabric during a trip to Sham Shui Po on Oct. 4, 2019. Marco says he is helping his husband out by designing dresses for an event.
Violette Blanche carries a suitcase filled with various kinds of make-up for her drag performance on Sept. 12, 2019. Blanche says she spent around HK$1,500 on the kit as she does not want to skimp on make-up.
Christian Marco smokes a cigarette outside Petticoat Lane near Lan Kwai Fong in Central on Sept. 12, 2019.