A recent episode of "RuPaul's Drag Race," which is currently in its eleventh season, opened up a conversation about the treatment of Asian Americans in the drag community. During the episode's "reading" challenge, in which contestants jokingly exchange insults, Silky Nutmeg Ganache "read" Vietnamese-American contestant Plastique Tiara by repeatedly shouting what she claimed was the word "hurry" in Japanese. After asking what the word meant, Plastique responded, "I'm not Japanese!" as the other contestants laughed. Fans took to social media to express disappointment in the ignorance of Silky's joke, causing other "Drag Race" contestants to weigh in on the situation.
Soju, a Korean-American drag queen who also competed on season eleven, tweeted, "I'm Korean and plastique is Vietnamese" following the episode. She later added, "This isn't about dragging @GanacheSilky this is about educating. All of us can learn." Soju emphasized that she does not believe Silky is racist, but her read was still racially insensitive.
Soju stated in another series of tweets, "If my friends and sisters don't take my heritage and race seriously, then the problem is on me for letting these 'jokes' go on for too long... I've never had a problem for enjoying and celebrating Asian culture. But statements and jokes to degrade us is just not cool." In response to a reply on her tweet, she also added, "this is and always will be educating society about the reality of how Asians are not being taken seriously in America."
Fans praised Soju for bringing attention to and addressing the issue. Many Asian fans, in particular, were able to share their own experiences in their response to Soju. Jokes like the one made by Silky have always existed in the experience of Asian Americans. While the joke itself may not appear too harmful on the surface, it reflects the general perception of Asians in America. Asians are ignorantly treated as a monolith rather than as a diverse group with diverse backgrounds, and Asian culture is often presented as an amalgamation of cultures (mainly East Asian) as well.
Soju's efforts are particularly significant to Asians in the LGBT+ community, who are not widely represented in American media. Both her and Plastique Tiara's appearance on "RuPaul's Drag Race" have given positive representation to LGBT+ Asian-Americans, and it is especially encouraging to see her using her platform in the community to help educate others.