There’s no doubting the impact of drag on popular culture. As an art form, it has spilled into fashion, music, make-up and activism. And Manila von Teez — a drag artist and designer from Elsies Rivier in Cape Town — has claimed her part in this zeitgeist.
In 2016, Von Teez blew audiences away, as she fought her way through to the finals of SA’s Got Talent. Recognising the importance of her voice, Levi’s invited her to collaborate with the denim megabrand in its Pride campaign earlier this year. In a video for the campaign, Von Teez says when she performs “it is a form of escapism… there is this unreal, ethereal moment, but it is also so real and so raw and so uncut and so passionate”. She also peels back the curtain to what really goes into putting together her flawless, exhilarating performances.
Financial struggles brought her training as a fashion designer to an early end, but this has not stopped her from putting together sickening looks. This dedication to her craft in the face of hardships is what makes Von Teez stand out in the drag world, where improvisation and a willingness to adapt is key.
Though the glitter and the glamour is what draws you in, at the heart of Von Teez’s brand is love: for her fans, for her family and community and for her art.
She counts having a loving and supportive family as her proudest achievement.
“It wasn’t always that way, but I am super grateful we are in the space we are now,” she says.
And though she still battles self-doubt, Von Teez continues to break boundaries by bringing drag into South Africa’s mainstream. So all that’s left to say is: Condragulations, Manila!