#GreaterSeattle: Latino teen turned superhero drag queen

(Video by Randy Salgado)

Luis Aguilar didn’t know he was gay growing up in West Texas, but he says he knew he was “different.” He expressed his hidden personality by doing cartoon drawings of women. 

One of the characters he drew evolved to become his drag persona Klaudya Markos.

“It was kind of somebody that I would envision, and that is how it started: by basically drawing the perfect woman I would like to have as an alter-ego,” he said.

It wasn’t until Aguilar began doing makeup for drag performers in his small Texas town that he found his outlet.

I didn’t know anything about drag, didn’t know what it meant,” he explained. “I didn’t even know it was called drag.”

While he began bringing this character to life, his parents, on the other hand, were unsure of it. Aguilar and his father still have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ situation about his drag.

“He knows I do it. I do respect my dad because he doesn’t say anything negative about it,” Aguilar explained. “He might not get it, but he isn’t going to question it.”

His mother had trouble coming to terms with his drag life at first too,  because she worried about him and wanted to protect him from potential harm.

“She is a really typical Mexican mom, always worrying about her babies,” Aguilar said. “[She] thinks people are going to judge me, laugh at me or criticize me. Those were her concerns, not what I was doing.”

His mother eventually came around, accepting this lifestyle. Now, she adores the transformation and sees it as a form of expression.

Back in Texas, there were no gay-oriented bars which made it challenging for Aguilar to find his niche.

“There were times when we did drag, and we would head out to the straight clubs with a big group of our friends, but no one really messes with you,” he said. “Sometimes you have those close-minded people that just don’t care for it or want to see it.”

Aguilar grew up scared to be himself, but his alter-ego wasn’t — she was brave, strong and sexy.

“Klaudya Markos is a sex kitten, she is Latin barbie; she’s one to be reckoned with,” he said. 

Aguilar moved to Seattle in 2014, and performs as Klaudya several times a week in clubs around the city.

“I never thought I could bring her to life and now that she’s out here, it’s crazy seeing what I’ve built,” Aguilar said.

About the #GreaterSeattle series: Political slogans about “making America great again” are stirring up racism and anti-immigrant sentiment around the country. But these young people are proof that our growing diversity is Seattle’s greatest strength.

This video was produced as part of a class taught by Seattle Times photographer Erika Schultz for the UW Journalism program.