COVER STORY: #IAm Art.

Each individual featured on the #IAm cover, aimed to challenge perceptions of themselves and highlight something that makes them unique. Farai Engelbrecht, Rhain Jenkins, Zoya Pon and Ian Muller were each given the creative freedom to conceptualize and express their topic. This was to make space for genuine expression, and in turn created an authentic outcome that is both honest, vulnerable and impactful. The cover images were shot by Frantz Birkholtz with clothing by local designers: OH OK, Artclub and Friends and Koeksuster Intimates.

IAN MULLER A.K.A SARAH BELLUM (@sister_sarah_bellum)

Drag is one of the ways I express my art.

When I’m doing drag it is art, it’s living art. Rupaul says we’re all living characters, we’re the star of our own lives. Its expressed in my comedy, my music, my rap.

I am Sarah Bellum.

Sarah is my saviour, she saved my life. For a long time I was very depressed, battling with my identity and sexuality and being accepted into a community I thought I’d automatically be accepted into. I got my gay card [but it] took a long time for me to feel accepted- I still don’t feel 100%.

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The gay community needs to understand the difference between prejudice and preference…

Because on all the gay sites it’s all masc for masc, guys who are always in the gym perfect body, perfect hair, no fats no fems, not asians, no blacks. I don’t get it, because being judged in our homes, in our communities, is something that the gay community knows better than anyone. We’ve been put down for so long, it’s the one thing we all have in common.

I’m an individual, I am unique.

No one is like me. I’m good at being who I am so I am going to be who I am.

There’s a definite sense of automatic sass [when you are in drag]

I’ve put a lot of my straight friends in drag before and they see themselves in the mirror and go ‘yes honey, look at that!’. It spills over into your non-drag life. It’s definitely made me a lot stronger as a person [and] a lot more confident. I don’t take shit anymore because I’ve discovered my own self worth.

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You need to know all the parts of yourself…

And accept it and once you’ve accepted it you can move on and start to change the things you don’t like.

I think a lot of people keep their darkness in the dark. When you keep things in the dark it festers and putrefies. All of my darkest thoughts, they need to be brought out into the light and examined: why am I feeling this way, thinking these things?

You have to constantly check yourself.

You can’t come for anyone else if you’re not ready to be come for. If I’m saying something constructive, and you need to say something, let’s talk. 

I came out very young…

I was always that kid, I was never really hiding [laughs]. I was always very expressive, emotional, ‘flamboyant’. My coming out was never a thing. My mom was always super accepting of me, she always defended me. When i was ex-communioned from my church she was there with me. She was on my side. She accepted my sexuality but we never spoke about it. She’d never ask if i’m seeing anyone, if I’ve gone on any dates. 

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I was sexually molested as a child.

I want to talk about it because when you talk about it you let other people know they are not alone, that it’s okay. That was the feeling I had, that I was alone in the world. And then I started talking about it, about my sexual trauma, bringing it into the light other people felt okay with bringing theirs into the light and we had an open discussion about it and we both felt better because of it.

A lot of straight guys think drag is just trying to fool people.

I’ve had a lot of straight guys come up to me and initially try to buy me a drink and while they interact with me they’ll realize. Sometimes they run away but other times it opens up a platform to have a conversation… A lot of straight guys have a moment when it kind of clicks. That’s what I love: when you make people think about stuff, when you open their mindsets.

I’m not trying to change anybody but I do want people to think. A lot of straight guys think drag is just trying to fool people. They get upset. I am not trying to fuck with you. But it’s not about you.

[Drag] is female impersonation.

Because there’s a difference between being a trans woman and being a drag queen.

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You can be any kind of drag queen you want.

That is the point, you don’t have to be feminine, you can be masculine. You have drag queens like Divine- one of the OG drag queens, an original- she’s fat, greasy, but just fabulous and she loved herself. Eyebrows up to here, and just mmm yes bitch. It doesn’t matter what you look like, doesn’t matter who you are, what you do. If you love yourself, honey, everybody gon’ love you.

Whenever people ask me questions…

I say babe I will never be offended or not let you ask me a question. Part of me thinks its not my responsibility but another part says it is – because if not me then who? If the people who are advocating equality; racial equality, gender equality, sexual equality; if not the oppressed, then who? 

There’s nothing you can do in the word to stop people from disliking you.

For every plus there’s a negative. It’s fine if people hate or dislike me, the hate and resentment people feel toward me is a small price to pay for the light I can bring into someone else’s life. If 10 people hate me and 1 person feels better about themselves because of what I’m doing, I’ve done my job, that is what I want .

As told to Zoya Pon by Ian Muller.

Images: Frantz Birkholtz.