Akeem Adams, who is no stranger to the arts and culture scene on St. Maarten, especially in fashion design, recently made an exceptional achievement in making it to the finals of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, broadcasted on BBC Three. The UK version of the world-famous TV series is all about finding the UK’s next Drag Race Superstar.
Adams moved from St. Maarten to Birmingham in 2014, to further his education and develop himself. As local fans that followed the show will know, the achievement is bitter-sweet, as seeing the journey provoked both pride and a stinging awareness of the toll that homophobia takes on island youth.
While Adams was recognised on St. Maarten for his talents – for example, receiving an Emerging Artist Award from National Institute of Arts (NIA), it was clear that Adams needed to leave the island in order to be able to openly be himself and to blossom and push artistic boundaries in the way that he did. RuPaul himself, the most commercially successful drag queen of all time, said to Adams as the show drew to a close: “I think that this is just the beginning for you, I really do.” Adams, now also known as Black Peppa, made it to the top four in the competition.
Supportive fans, who followed what they could online of the competition, may have been wondering why the achievement had not yet been highlighted in the newspaper. Our Special editions team held off, in the hopes of securing an interview with Black Peppa.
Contestants competed in a wide variety of talents, including dancing and acting, to make it to the very top. Costumes and performances by all contestants were surprising and stunning throughout the weeks of competition. At the same time, contestants also shared parts of their personal journeys – some of them never thinking they would be able to take part in such a show, having struggled with societal pressures including bullying or violence.
Black Peppa shared some of the stark realities that many queer island youth know all too well – a suffocating lack of acceptance. Abroad, he was able to shift away from shame, and discovered the vibrant drag scene in his new home. Nevertheless, Black Peppa learned how to shine his light, and also took pride in representing his Caribbean culture.
In a dazzling introduction to the show, Black Peppa’s costume included Caribbean themes, including St. Maarten’s national bird, the Brown Pelican. He introduced himself as a “futuristic fembot” and “creative genius” – and drag as an outlet for them.