The first drag artist to represent the Philippines on the international stage is crafting a legacy as an unstoppable force by breaking doors open and setting new standards for Filipino excellence
Marina Summers steps into the studio and positions herself on her mark. As photographer Dennis Sulit’s about to press the shutter button, Marina flicks her head with exquisite fierceness to beckon her ponytail to dance in the most perfect way imaginable. The camera triggers the lights and captures the first shot of the day. Gay gasps envelop the room as the first image appears on the computer screen, a telling sign that magic is happening.
The first runner-up of Drag Race Philippines Season 1 carries an aura that invites admiration and respect. Her presence exudes the type of confidence that is not just felt but noticeably glows. Marina Summers knows what she’s doing. She ensures that every move she makes is flawlessly aligned with her vision. Her profound sense of purpose, dedication to her craft, and professionalism set her apart from many, indicating the astronomical trajectory of her drag career.
A Star is born
“You have to act like a star if you want people to see you as a star,” Marina Summers says. “‘Yung star power, available ‘yan sa lahat—it’s just a matter of owning it. It’s a matter of embodying it.” Her words bear truth. Many hopefuls view this as fact, but only a select few, such as her, innately possess that special star quality. The first time she made her mark on the drag scene was her first performance on stage. After winning the monthly leg of Drag Cartel in 2019, she must perform the following month to crown the next queen. Marina did it with a high-energized JLo song with impressive choreography and adding backup dancers took it to the next level. Beyond her talent and the spectacle, it was her indescribable presence that truly left us speechless.
Marina Summers poured her dreams and hopes into that blazing fire that we saw in her early performances. Her entry into the local drag scene coincided with the perfect moment, as it was experiencing signals of the birth of a golden era. “I think niyanig ko na ng very light ang drag community,” she says. “I was part of the drag renaissance in the Philippines.”
“We are a very humble country. We value seniority so much—and that’s important. Pero a lot of us don’t value newcomers. I feel like, in a way, na-validate ko ‘yung mga big dreamers na mga bata. Kapag nangangarap ako ng mataas, sasabihin saking ng mga tao, ‘Ang yabang mo naman! Ang laki naman ng ulo mo! Ang ambisyosa mo naman!’ What’s wrong with that?,” she says about her influence on the local drag scene as she tosses her head, summoning her hair to make fabulous waves, and emphasizing her point in the process.
Weaving the tapestry of her destiny
Right from the get-go in her drag career, she already had a game plan and a vision for her persona. She likened it to directing a movie or television where she’d get all creative, laying out a concept deck with Marina Summers’ color palette and inspirations, and selecting music that matched her vibe.
Marina shares: “Nung nagsa-start ako, ang mga inspirations ko mga Carmen Miranda, mga very tropical, and very island girl. At that moment, akala ko ‘yun na. Akala ko hinog na siya. And then I started performing regularly and sabi ko, ‘Ah, may iba pa pala!’ May Beyonce pala. Along the way, nagbago siya nang nagbago. After Drag Race Philippines, parang meron pa eh, may iaangat pa ‘to. Kailangan aspirational siya eh. Everyone wants to look like her. Yes, relatable pa rin, pero mas unattainable ‘yung dating. Because we all want that fantasy na ‘Shit, ang ganda! Ang lala ng drag niya!’”
Having a background in production and advertising has proven incredibly advantageous to her. “Sabi ko when I joined Drag Race Philippines iniwan ko ‘yung day job ko. Pero honestly, nagagawa ko pa rin siya hanggang ngayon.” This strength positioned her career into the powerhouse it has become. “Nilabas ko siya sa mga content ko for Drag Race, Stop Over, music, and music videos,” she says. “Sa drag scene sa Philipines kasi everything is confined sa performance or sa stage lang. I was able to make a name for myself even outside the platform: mainstream media, social media, music, and TV.”
“The essence of drag is personal, but if you want to make a career out of it, you should act like you want to make a career out of it,” expresses Marina Summers. “Surround yourself with like-minded people. Surround yourself with people who add value not only to your drag but to your business,” she adds. With the endless support of friends across different industries, she could soar to any heights she desires.
The world at her feet
Marina Summers is embarking on a journey towards international fame after landing a spot on RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK vs. the World season 2. Rocketing toward global stardom didn’t surprise her at all. “I was born ready. Even before taping Drag Race Philippines, I knew I would make it international,” she says. “Every decision I made on Drag Race Philippines made sense to that goal. I worked hard for it. I knew the right eggs to pick to hatch that success.”
“What I’m most excited about is flipping things around and making sure na we take our space,” says Marina Summers regarding the colonial mentality ingrained in our psyche when we encounter what we think as dominant cultures that lead us to diminish our power. “Kailangan tayo ang,” she smacks the table with her hand, creating a thud and says, “Ganon! Tayo ang may pangil. Excited ako ipakita na kaya natin makipagsabayan internationally.”
She confesses that at first, she was intimidated, especially being a local queen who’s looked up to these international stars for so long. “Now that you’re put in a situation na you’re on the same level as them, you have to act like one,” she proclaims with firmness and power. Having witnessed her rise year after year since that inaugural performance on that narrow stage/bar of the old Nectar Nightclub and now watching her lips form the structure of her statement makes my heart burst with pure pride and joy. We all knew she was headed for big things.
Paving the way
After being a fan of Drag Race for so long, I’m over-the-moon giddy and proud to see a homegrown talent, through and through, making waves and breaking into the international drag scene. And literally waving the Philippine flag to represent us is a huge undertaking. The weight is probably equivalent to joining Miss Universe, only this time, “bakla naman ang sinusuportahan ng mga bakla,” Marina Summers says about the support she got from the same people who shaped pageant queens. “Hindi si Marina ‘yung lalaban eh, Team Philippines ‘yung lalaban.”
She is well aware of the importance of her representation as she opens that door of opportunities. Beyond being a significant career achievement, Marina Summers is walking uncharted territories. “There’s a certain depth behind Marina’s purpose for joining RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK vs. the World. To be the first to represent the Philippines in front of RuPaul—I have to use that honor as a responsibility to represent well,” she says as she embraces this overwhelming role as a trailblazer. The door she unlocked and the excellence she embodies will invite others to strive for the same and more.
“Ang mga Pinoy queens arguably are some of the best performers in the world. It’s just a matter of being seen. It’s just a matter of being given this platform. And for me to have this platform, sobrang importante niya for brown-skinned, Southeast Asian people.”
Success, according to Marina Summers: “Success is reaching a goal and looking for another goal after a goal. It doesn’t have an end. Success is an ever-growing journey, and that’s why hindi ako nakokontento.” So, when I ask what’s next for her, she answers with a big dreamer’s conviction and ambition: “I’d like to tour the world.”
Photography DENNIS SULIT
Hair JUFEL GOMEZ
Nails THE SLEEK CHIQUE
Styling RYUJI SHIOMITSU and MIGUEL QUILANG