We first interviewed Tien Ngoc Nguyen back in 2019 when we reminisced about old Saigon and got a special city guide from Tien, while he shyly posed for photographs feeling all exposed without his drag show attire. Around the same time, Tien, as Sweet Valentien, was putting together the crew for Haus Of Valentien. This time, with Pride in the air, and Tien aboard as guest editor, we’ve been tasked with putting together a Haus Of Valentien Extremely Extra Pride Month Music Mix.
Read on in Vietnamese
Since we first met, Tien’s continued to embrace his Sweet Valentien alter-ego, while expanding his Haus of Valentien team to six people. There’s Choo Choo, a make-up artist by day named Lam Tan Tai. There’s Dinh Cong Toan as Onika Zolanski. Office worker and model, Phat Paris, is Parisa. And finally there’s ValenCuCu, a 4th year student also known as Nguyen Quoc Hung, and finally Kem Kem. In a busy month for Haus of Valentien, four of the crew sat down with us to pick their favorite tracks for this mix.
“Being deprived of music would be like being friendzoned by my crush!” Sweet Valentien exclaims, “I eat, sleep, dream, and drink music – especially from the US and the UK which I’ve been in love with since middle school.”
“For me, music is like food for the spirit,” Choo Choo adds, “I have to listen to it every day. It makes me so emotional.”
“It is like plugging emotional vibrations into your soul,” Parisa agrees, “or growing wings that let your emotions take flight.” Onika Zolanski nods in agreement: “And I think music is even more important because we’re drag artists, and, personally, it’s really shaped my drag persona.”
But before we get into the mix, we wondered what a typical day for Haus of Valentien is like. “I’m always running around looking for fabrics, or looking for new accessories that I’ll incorporate into new looks for the next show. At home, I usually watch Rupal’s Drag Race. And on show day, we gather in the Drag Room (which is actually my bedroom) to dress up and prepare,” Sweet Valentien says. “Right, shows start late, usually at 10 or 10:30, so around 4 or 5pm we’ll gather at Drag Mom Sweet Valentien’s house. It’s fun. We help each other fix their hair or put on fake nails,” Parisa adds.
Can you remember the moment you decided to pursue the path of being a drag queen in Vietnam?
Valentien: I watched Rupaul’s Drag Race about seven years ago. And I was overwhelmed by the whole show. It just drew out this entirely different personality in me, one I didn’t know I had. Now, I’ve been professional for six years or so. It’s been quite a journey – I represented Vietnam in the Drag Race Thailand’s season 2. And we’ve appeared in famous fashion magazines such as i-D Magazine, Beautiful, Harper’s Bazaar, and L’Officiel Vietnam.
Choo Choo: For me it was seeing pop stars performing. I wished I could be like them and dress like them.
Onika Zolanski: I got into this around 2018. And it was definitely because of Nicki Minaj. I love her fashion and her body.
Parisa: I started out modeling. At the same time I was working in a bar on Cong Quynh. I would wear these extravagant flared clothes. Sweet Valentien did a show there. It was the first time I’d seen anything like it! So, I got talking to Tien. And we couldn’t stop chatting. So, I asked Tien to train me – even though I expected him to refuse. But he did. And I chose the name Parisa shortly after.
ValenCuCu: ValenCuCu was born in October, 2020. I was inspired by seeing drag shows, including Tien’s too. Plus I’m obsessed with Lady Gaga. She’s like an alien queen – weird and ferocious. And I wanted to perform her songs.
And what common misconceptions do people have about you?
Choo Choo: That I’m shy!
Sweet Valentien: I’m often mistaken for being trans. In lots of my drag looks I do look like a girl. But the truth is my sexual orientation is gay, and drag, for me, is an artform in which I get to play another persona.
Onika Zolanski: Me too. People mistake trans and drag queens a lot. But there’s a big difference. For drag queens, it’s all about the performance, and lip-synching!
If you could send VIP tickets to anyone in the world to come see Haus of Valentien, who would you invite?
Valentien: Lady Gaga and Rupaul! They’ve both influenced my career so much. But if I really saw Lady Gaga in the audience I’d probably faint on the spot.
Choo Choo: My priority would be the pop princess, Britney Spears.
Onika Zolanski: My two tickets would go to Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande.
Parisa: I will send my two tickets to Violet Chachki and Bella Hadid. They’re both big inspirations of mine. Violet has her own inimitable drag style. And I just love Bella Hadid, as much for her casual style as her runway looks. And if I could get one extra ticket, it would go to Casey Cadwallader, the Creative Director of Mugler. I love fashion and the cut of their garments is so awesome.
ValenCuCu: Obvious, but I don’t care! Two tickets for Lady Gaga!
And if you could keep only one track or album to listen to for eternity, what would you choose?
Valentien: Definitely Lady Gaga’s ‘Chromatica’ album! But as for LGBTQ+ anthems, Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’, and more recently Taylor Swift’s ‘You Need To Calm Down’.
Choo Choo: Britney Spears’ ‘Blackout’. And as a drag anthem, I’m choosing Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ too.
Onika Zolanski: ‘Sissy That Walk’ by RuPaul!
ValenCuCu: ‘Telephone’ by Lady Gaga! Or ‘Born This Way.’
And what song would you play to help them understand you better?
Valentien: Anything by Cigarettes After Sex!
Choo Choo: Definitely any track by Lana Del Rey.
Parisa: I’ll put on ABBA’s ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ to show everyone how much I need a man in the middle of the night.
ValenCuCu: ‘Happier’, ‘Stupid Love’ or ‘Easy on me’.
Can you tell us about this ten track guest mix from the Haus of Valentien?
Valentien: Music is love. And there’s so many genres in the world. Everyone should have many lovers! And they will consider the one they hold dearest the best. But for this mix, we’ve chosen tracks for Pride Month, a month when there’s simply no such thing as being too extra. We’re here, and we’re queer! Let’s dance and fly our rainbow flags!
Photos by Dai Tran.