'Proud, Pretty, and Being Ourselves': After Hate Crime, Out Rugby Player Uses Drag Makeover to Express an Empowering Message

Tuesday July 13, 2021

There was a startling jolt of reality midway through this past week's episode of "Drag Race España" that echoed the brutal murder of a 24-year old gay nurse in an apparent hate crime that mobilized the LGBTQ community in spontaneous protests.

On July 3, Samuel Luiz was brutally beaten to death outside a nightclub in the northern town of A Coruña. "Witnesses interviewed on Spanish TV have said the attackers shouted homophobic slurs during the beating, which coincided with Pride celebrations at the weekend,"reported Yahoo! News.

"Police are still investigating the killing of the 24-year-old nurse — three people have so far been sent to prison and another two are in a juvenile center," wrote the Spanish newspaper EL PAÍS. "Officers believe the attack was triggered by a misunderstanding: one of Luiz's assailants believed that he was recording him when he was on the video call. González, however, is convinced that the murder was motivated by homophobia — given Luiz was gay — and LGBTQ+ groups across Spain agree."

It was difficult not to think of Luiz when, on "Drag Race España," one of the guests — Thomas, an out rugby player from the inclusive Madrid Titanes rugby team — recalled being a victim of a hate-motivated attack months prior while getting a makeover to resemble Sagittaria, one of the final four contestants on the show. In this case, though, the attack wasn't anti-gay-related, rather a racial attack. Thomas was attacked because of anti-Asian hate due to the coronavirus.

"This is very hard for me. It is something very emotional, but I am very happy to have worked with Sagittaria," he explained. "She was a great partner from the start. That means a lot to me because the story I wanted to tell was the importance of team spirit. Because in March of last year, I crossed paths with two men on the street who (emotional pause) — excuse me — who yelled something about coronavirus at me, and the next thing I remember is waking up at the hospital two days later with 22 stitches in my head. So, for me, coming here and telling this with Sagittaria, it means the world to me. That we stepped on the catwalk proud, pretty, and being ourselves."

In all likelihood, the show was filmed before Luiz's July 3 attack, but the show's host, Supremme de Luxe, expressed sentiments that would easily apply to Luiz. "Thanks so much for sharing your experience. We're in the 21st century. Some people say we have evolved a lot and our situation is ideal, but experiences such as yours... It's unbelievable we still have to keep on fighting, and we have to keep repeating it, but we will keep repeating it as much as necessary. And we will keep on fighting. Thanks so much for sharing this with us."

"And never lose your pride," added guest judge Envy Peru, the winner of "Drag Race Holland."

Fittingly, Thomas was dressed as Neptuna, a drag superhero. Wearing a bright red dress with a plunging neckline and a long, flowing blonde wig, she looked every inch a superhero who would knock heads if challenged.

While Sagittaria and Neptuna did not win the challenge — frontrunner Carmen Farala took the victory — the moment proved to be the emotional high point of the show. And while she didn't win, Sagitarria was picked to be one of the final three (along with Farala and Killer Queen) to go on to next week's finale when the first winner of "Drag Race España" will be crowned.

"Drag Race España" is available for streaming on World of Wonder with a subscription.