Published: 20th April 2021
Human rights lawyer by day, drag queen by night: Meet 28-year-old Aishwarya Ayushman AKA Lush Monsoon
Aishwarya Ayushman speaks to us about their journey and what it's like being a lawyer by day and a drag queen by night
Aishwarya Ayushman did not fit into the traditional roles of gender and they were aware of that since their childhood. "Once I wore my mother's dupatta and her earrings. The look that I got from her was full of terror, shock and that's what made me realise that it is something that is frowned upon and maybe not the right thing to do," they share. However, life had other plans. The 28-year-old, hailing from Ranchi originally but now based in Delhi, is a human rights lawyer by day and Lush Monsoon (a drag queen) by night. But of course, it wasn't a walk in the park for them to get where they are now.
Ayushman is currently a human rights lawyer working with an organisation that deals with housing and land rights during the day but also performs regularly as a drag queen in Delhi in the evening. "I am from Ranchi, it's a small town. Growing up, I was always interested in performing. I observed my mother getting ready as I was always a curious kid. I saw that clothes that women wear are different...colourful, they match it with so many accessories, I loved to see that transformation, that makeover they go through, it's always very intriguing to me," shares Ayushman, adding, "I was different but I became aware of the fact that it is not accepted in society. I saw kids in my school being bullied for being feminine, so I kept it to myself. I kept it a well-guarded secret. In small towns, for a man you have only a few conventional career options — engineer, doctor, lawyer, a government employee. That's why I chose to take up law. When I was in law school, I realised that keeping this secret had become a burden and led to depression. Not knowing who I was, I was doing what people wanted."
After a binge session of RuPaul’s Drag Race, a well-known drag queen show now airing on Netflix, Ayushman realised they found their tribe. "My friend and I began dressing up but we did not come out to people at that point. First, I didn't understand what it was but gradually, I understood these people felt liberated doing that, they were feminine and confident with their bodies. You can be different but can still be yourself," they add.
Ayushman studied law at NUJS Kolkata and then shifted to Delhi to pursue their passion for theatre. After five years of law, they said no to placements although Ayushman was top of their class. "I didn't find myself in theatre either and wanted to do drag. I began trying it for fun. At first, when my friend and I went out to buy makeup, shopkeepers wouldn't sell it to us, they would say, 'You are a man, why would you need it?' but we got them somehow. The first time I did my makeup it was just transformative, an out-of-body experience for me. When I saw myself in that avatar, I felt like I was the prettiest person in the world. But obviously, looking back, I do realise that it was amateurish," they quip. And after this, there was no looking back for Ayushman.
The 28-year-old began doing some shows online and the response they got was amazing. "I had a friend who was also doing drag, we decided to participate in the Delhi International Queer Theater and Film Festival, that's when we debuted in 2017. I performed the song I Am What I Am by Shirley Bassey as I resonated with it. I was very nervous obviously but it felt great. Right after the show, we gave interviews to the media and the next day, it was all over the papers," they say.
Looking back at their journey, Ayushman says, "I was afraid but I guess it would have happened sometime soon anyway." Ayushman's parents are not aware of their alternate career and he wishes to keep it that way, they say. "Our worlds are so apart. I am not sure if they are ready for that information, I am an only child, so all their expectations are on me. I am able to separate these lives now, so I want to keep it that way," they say.
Ayushman is known for its lip syncs to famous songs. "I like taking a song and making it my own, create a story on stage. And I plan to continue doing this and rejuvenate this culture in India in a different way," they conclude.