Kumar reveals he's gay in his biography, "Kumar: From Rags to Drag"

You can purchase the book, "Kumar: From Rags To Drags" at $33 here at DealShop. It is the first ever biography of Kumar, Singapore's most popular Drag Queen, launched on the 13th of September 2011!

And this is why Kumar is truly, very popular! Check out Kumar At His Best In Attica. The following clip was uploaded on Sep 17, 2010.

Kumar Stand Up Comedy

When you're a cross-dressing celebrity, people will wonder and whisper about your sexuality.

So it was with comedian Kumar, who not only had to contend with whispers, but also with people who openly asked him: "Are you gay?"

Each time, his answer was a straight "NO!"

In 1993, The New Paper ran a front page (above) with the headline "Who says I'm gay?" after Kumar told reporter Brian Miller: "I'm not a homo. I'm not gay."

In 2005, he again denied being a homosexual in another TNP article.

The closest he came to admitting it was in 2009 when he was again asked the question in an interview with gay website fridae.asia.

"I think everybody else is afraid to say it. But why state the obvious?" he replied then.

But now, Kumar has left no doubt about his sexual leanings, saying with confidence, "Yes, I'm gay" in his coffee-table book, Kumar: From Rags To Drags.

The book, written by Ivan Lim, a former TNP journalist and columnist, was launched yesterday.

Among the guests at the launch was Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan.

So, why did Kumar have to lie about it all those years only to come out of the closet now?

When TNP posed him this question during the launch, the 43-year-old comic veteran said: "When you're 40-something, people take you seriously.

"And when you tell people you're 40, anything you say, they will believe."

Just deny

He also said that he would just deny that he was gay during his early days in the industry because he didn't know how to tackle questions from journalists about his sexual orientation.

The book promises to reveal a side of Kumar that people have never seen.

The chapter "Fairy Queen" is the most revealing.

Kumar said it wasn't easy to come out of the closet despite his homosexuality being "plain as day" to many people.

"If I want people to understand me, I think I have to be able to open myself. How to help people when I myself am in denial?" he said in the interview.

In the book, he also recalled his difficult childhood. He said he came from a broken family and was often made fun of.

People called him names like Ah Kua (Hokkien slang for an effeminate person) all the way from primary school to national service.

"I was so stressed. I was always wondering why I was different from everyone. There was nobody like me."

But female classmates would be close to him because they felt that he was one of them.

Kumar also reveals in the book how an older man had molested him when he was 10. It was this experience, he said, that made him realise he craved the physical affection of a man.

He calls himself a "cougar" (usually referring to women who have a relationship with a younger man) when talking about his current relationship with an unnamed 23-year-old man in his book.

He said his partner still goes out with girls.

"I'm not okay with him going out with women, but I accept it. He is not cheating on me. If he is cheating on me, he'd go out with another guy," Kumar said.

He feels that this relationship makes "his life exciting" with the special moments which they share. "For my birthday, he was outside my door waiting with a bouquet of flowers," he said.

Still, there is a tinge of melancholy as he ended the chapter by saying: "There may not be a happily ever after, but we are in this relationship happily."

Kumar also wanted to dispel some misconceptions about his 20-plus years as an entertainer.

On him being perceived as arrogant, he said that it comes from the expectations of him as a performer.

"When people see me on TV, they think that I'm their friend and expect me to say more," he said.

"If you want a picture, I'll do it. But after the picture, if you want a conversation, I can't. I don't know you."

He said that he couldn't be "plastic" after years of being an entertainer and that he had to be able to separate real friends from acquaintances.

"All the air kisses they give at the party, but they actually don't care if you're dead," he said, referring to those who just wanted to rub shoulders with him.

On talk about him being promiscuous, Kumar said: "It's because I have many guy friends around me and they all assume that I'm sleeping with them."

As a result of these rumours, he even tells his straight friends who are close to him not to hang out with him too often if they wanted to have girlfriends.

As for talk that he only goes out with Caucasian men, he said: "Caucasians don't even turn me on."

"The way he dresses, the way he talks, the style of his jokes. These are the things that will always stay in my mind."

Minister: You don't forget Kumar

Once you see Kumar perform, you will never forget him.

This ringing endorsement came from Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.

"The way he dresses, the way he talks, the style of his jokes. These are the things that will always stay in my mind," said Dr Balakrishnan, who was among the guests at the book launch at 3-Monkeys Cafe yesterday.

The minister said that Kumar looked like a "child bride" and is still going strong after 20 years in the entertainment industry.

He recalled that the first time he "interacted" with Kumar was during the annual Singapore Street Festival years ago.

"It's a festival for young people to show off their talent, and these are for people who are literally off the streets, not trained.

"We wanted to send a message to young people that there is a space in Singapore for everyone, regardless of what you look like and...what you want to do, as long as you have talent and confidence to come up...on stage."

Dr Balakrishnan mentioned that Kumar was there not only as the emcee for the event. He said Kumar's real value there was as an "icon, as a reminder that no matter how difficult it is, how unusual it is, you can make it".

Others expressed similar sentiments about Kumar.

In the book, Fly Entertainment founder and CEO Irene Ang, thanked Kumar "for being an icon of Singapore (so others will never say Singapore is boring) and signs off as his "fan, friend, brother/sister".

When asked to comment on Kumar's "coming out" by The New Paper after the launch, Ms Ang said: "I think Kumar has established himself as who he is. It doesn't matter what he is. Kumar is Kumar.

One and only

"There is only one Kumar and he can get away with things that other people can't get away with. He can be whoever he wants to be."

Celebrity host and comedienne Patricia Mok said in the book: "Kumar is daring in his stage work but most important, he is a beautiful person."

Having watched Kumar's shows several times at the Boom Boom Room, the Esplanade and the 3-Monkeys Cafe, singer-songwriter Rai of the Jack & Rai Band said: "He's still very current and up-to-date with his material. He has always been unique in his own way and an innovator of sorts.

"He pokes fun of everyone, yet you love him for what he does."

5 things about Kumar

Kumar started out as the bawdy resident entertainer at the Boom Boom Room in 1993, where he found his calling as a comedian in drag.

He shot to fame soon after with the controversial Ra Ra Show on TV and is now a familiar face in the entertainment circuit. He now performs regularly at 3-Monkeys Cafe in Holland Village

In the book Kumar: From Rags To Drag, former foreign minister George Yeo is quoted on the comedian's "funny but sometimes too edgy" style.

"Kumar is one of a kind. When I had to pull his Ra Ra Show under political pressure in the 1990s, my wife complained."

Years later, Mr Yeo was interviewed by Kumar about the Berlin Wall Kings of Freedom project (four sections of the Berlin Wall on display at Bedok Reservoir).

"It turned out to be one of the best interviews I've ever had. Kumar is a treasure," Mr Yeo said.

On his childhood

Kumar's parents divorced when he was just four, and his father, a caretaker at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, became a drunk who beat him and his three older sisters every night.

Kumar reveals that his father provided for them, but was never emotionally available.

He described his father as being very strict and said he had been sexually abused by a male family friend who took advantage of his desire for affection from a father figure.

On being heckled on stage

He recalls in his book an occasion, during a company dinner and dance where he had been engaged to perform, where someone went on stage and made an obscene proposition to him.

"That is why nowadays I dislike doing dinner-and-dance shows after 10pm because many of the people there will be drunk, and quite often, it is the older staff who will give trouble," said Kumar.

"These are the people you should video during the D&D and play it back to them when they are sober."

On his army days

The name-calling which began in his school days carried on even in the army.

But instead of hiding, Kumar felt he "had to be the best to overcome the Ah Kua label".

He said: "I made sure my 2.4km run was the fastest in the whole camp.

"I trained every night. For two whole years of national service, I was always the best. And the catcalls stopped."

On his start at the Boom Boom Room

Like every other newcomer to the stage, Kumar was very nervous when he started out.

His manager, Gwen Khoo, wrote in his book that before going on stage, Kumar would warm up by drinking a jug of beer to calm his nerves.

He started off performing only between costume changes but eventually became the main attraction.

SO, KUMAR is gay.

It's a revelation that's perhaps as shocking as, say, Singapore's Ah Beng extraordinaire Phua Chu Kang being played by a Singh.

To determine just how earth-shattering this piece of news was, I tested it on a colleague who's known for having the lousiest "gaydar" in the office.

"Did you know Kumar is gay?" I asked her.

Without hesitation - and this is a sweet woman who usually hems and haws when faced with tough questions - she shot back: "Obviously gay!"

Based on that layman's response alone, it would indicate that the sexuality of our most well-known drag queen was really local showbiz's worst-kept secret.

No big deal, right?

Yet, by the same token, it is a very big deal.

We don't live in the United States, where stars like Ricky Martin, Clay Aiken and Neil Patrick Harris have been outing themselves left, right and centre without suffering major backlash.

Others still in the closet

No, we live in a country where a number of high-profile celebrities, both male and female, are still comfortably ensconced in the closet.

To them, silence is safety. Don't ask, don't tell.

Which pretty much makes Kumar the first local personality to come out in the public eye - and immediately open himself up for censure.

That doesn't make him any less of a national icon, which many quarters consider him to be. On the contrary, his admission - one which he has struggled to make his whole life - has set a new precedent.

Whether his famous peers will follow suit remains to be seen, but don't expect Orchard Road to turn into Mardi Gras any time soon.

I neither condone nor condemn the homosexual lifestyle, but I'm confident many like-minded individuals believe that sexual orientation shouldn't be the primary part of anyone's character.

In case anyone forgot, we've entered the 21st century where being gay has become more acceptable and widely tolerated.

In a way, Kumar managed to cushion the blow over the years with his gender-bending and cross-dressing.

He has dressed as a guy on mainstream platforms in TV shows like Oh Carol! and Asian Eat List, and as a gal on the fringes in risque stand-up shows at Boom Boom Room and 3-Monkeys Cafe.

The fact that he likes men over women has not, does not and will not make Singapore's top cabaret diva any more or less entertaining.

If his audience becomes alienated and his career suffers from this day forth, then it's our society that should be ashamed, not him.

Kumar may not be able to garner the approval of the majority, but at least he has earned his freedom.

And for all the battles he's fought for so long, that's one straight-up personal victory no one can take away from him.

From Asiaone, "Kumar: Yes, I am gay".


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