Suruj Pankaj Rajkhowa aka Glorious Luna, is a popular drag queen, actor, model, makeup expert as well as founder of Queer Carnival. Queer Carnival is an online space that was created during the lockdown, where performers from the LGBTQIA+ community can showcase their talent.
Hailing from a village in Assam, Glorious Luna admits she never imagined being featured in magazines and the worldwide recognition she has today. She found make-up as a tool to express herself and today is a well-known makeup artist. “As a child, I couldn’t express myself openly because I always felt alienated, and society made me feel like I was different. So, I didn’t speak much or do other things that kids usually do. Make-up was a tool to express myself and even for other queer people, it plays a huge role. However, I wouldn’t apply make-up and leave the house because I never had to courage to do it. At 20, I finally started wearing make-up to parties and social gatherings. Now as a drag queen make-up continues to play a big role in my life,” she says.
Luna admits that while she faced difficulties being herself, like every queer person does, coming from Assam somehow helped. She says, “My growing up years were tough like any other queer person where we get bullied and picked on. However, The Northeast is a little better in terms of how queer people are treated. I wasn’t physically harassed though I was definitely mentally harassed. My parents knew I was different, but they were never aggressive towards my queerness. They understand my choices but since we live in a society where it is not considered normal, they don’t like to talk about it openly. That works for me because it’s a journey for both of us and its okay to take time.”
Luna smiles as she recalls her dreams weren’t the same as her peers, she dreamt of growing up to be “A lover” and as fate would have it that dream did come true. “Whenever I was asked as a kid, what I want to be when I grow up, I would always say ‘A lover.’ My parents would always say, ‘You should study hard and become an IAS officer’ but in my head I always wanted to fall in love. I fell in love at 22, and it’s been seven years that we are together. Every day I fall more and more in love with him. Someday I’d love to have kids and be a mother/father.”
Speaking about how she found out about her sexual preferences and accepted her true self, she says, “I realized I liked men when I was around 10-11 years old and then noticed that wasn’t the case with other boys. Then I thought maybe I’m the only one of the planet who has some sort of disorder. It’s such trauma for a kid. Gradually, when I was 15, I started reading up on the internet, that there are more people like me. I was still not comfortable coming out but I think that’s the case with every queer person because I lived with my parents back then.”
Moving out of Assam to pursue further education turned out to be lifechanging for her. “At 18, I left home to study architecture in Bhopal. After that I moved to Auroville in Puducherry, where I lived for a year. Having a theatre background, I was missing performing and dance. One day, a photographer messaged me on Facebook, asking if I wanted to do a shoot. I agreed to do it because I was planning to move from Auroville. That’s how I came to Mumbai and never left because things just began to happen organically. I never thought I would be part of a big city like Mumbai. Coming from a sustainable lifestyle to a fast-paced city was almost polarizing.”
Luna says, feeling accepted gave her the wings to pursue her dreams and there was no looking back. “I attended my first gay party in Delhi and finally felt a sense of belonging and acceptance. That’s why I feel bad for people who are closeted and can’t live life on their own terms. Many of my friends in their 30s are forcefully married off by their families. I didn’t even know drag existed, I was working as a model back then. My own show was my first experience at a drag show. My first performance was so bad, I borrowed clothes, shoes and make-up from a friend. It was a complete mess. I’m not proud of it but you got to start somewhere! That was the birth of Glorious Luna.”
Today she is the face of leading brands and has been featured in popular magazines and hopes to inspire others from the community to pursue their dreams. “As a kid, I would see all these magazines where models posed on shiny, glossy pages. I did imagine myself in one of them but then would get pulled back to reality. Growing up, I did not have an idol because everything was so heteronomous, so today when I see my photographs in GQ and other magazines it’s different high. It’s a dream that I thought would never happen and then I get to live it just by being myself and not doing anything extraordinary.”
While she has already made a name for herself, there’s no stopping Luna and is now chasing bigger dreams. “I would love to star in a movie, considering my theatre background and my love for acting. I would love to be a successful actor at some point and am working towards it. I’m ambitious but not overtly, I’m happy with what I have. I lived in Auroville with nothing, working on the fields and making buildings. So, I’m happy with all that I have today but from an artistes perspective I still want to be a successful actor.”
Luna is happy that slowly but surely things are changing for the LGBTQIA+ community but admits there’s still a long way to go. “Anyone, be it a queer person, women, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, all of us face some sort of discrimination in India. It’s the white skinned Brahmin male who is the most privileged. As for my family, they are progressive, loving and kind but people keeping pushing them, that Suruj is 28 and should be married by now. Once an acquaintance shamed my father in the marketplace saying, ‘Your son has become a hijra.’ For a man who lives in Assam, and is respected for a being a teacher, it was humiliating. Such things don’t bother me as long as my family loves and accepts me. It’s not the same for a lot of queer people, I’m one of the lucky ones.”