First drag queen to host the news in the history of Mexican television ushers in a new era

In November 2023, the murder of queer leader Ociel Baena left me shaken. Three weeks earlier, he served as a guest on my show, brimming with energy and new projects. His death shocked me.

  • 2 months ago
  • March 13, 2024
7 min read
Drag queen Amanda takes center stage as the host of “a Verdrag” a newscast dedicated to LGBTQ+ issues. | Photo Courtesy of Guillermo Barraza Drag queen Amanda takes center stage as the host of “a Verdrag” a newscast dedicated to LGBTQ+ issues. | Photo Courtesy of Guillermo Barraza
journalist’s notes
interview subject
Guillermo Barraza, 32, comes from Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. He works as a journalist and performer. With a background in print and radio journalism, Guillermo often incorporated LGBTQ+ themes into his columns and coverage. In 2019, Guillermo moved to Mexico City, where he began working in television. In one of these productions, he appeared as Amanda, his drag queen persona. In October 2023, Amanda became the host of the news show La Verdrag. Alongside his journalism career, Guillermo enjoys acting, dancing and performing in musical comedies.
background information
In 2017, La Más Draga (The Dragest) premiered as a competition show produced by Bruno Olvez and Carlo Villarreal, aiming to showcase Mexican culture through drag. This program significantly impacted the Mexican drag scene, promoting its growth and formalizing working conditions. La Verdrag (The Drag Truth) is a notable extension of this movement, as the first news program hosted by a drag performer, where Amanda brings a fresh and audacious approach to journalism.

MEXICO FEDERAL DISTRICT, Mexico — I enter the dressing room before each newscast as Guillermo, but then my colleagues work their magic. Soon, I transform into Amanda, the irreverent drag queen. As the first drag queen to host a news program in the history of Mexican television, I am ushering in a new era.

The subsequent success of the newscast surprised me, but it feels bittersweet. On one hand, it feels heartwarming to see the appreciation of so many people. On the other hand, as this project increases visibility and space for diversity, we become more exposed to hatred and resentment. Our progress in the fight for rights puts a target on our backs.

Discover more LGBTIQ+ stories at Orato World Media.

Coming out as gay and facing early discrimination in the workplace

Growing up in Culiacán, a conservative region of Mexico, no one could safely be openly gay. For years, I subconsciously hid my true self, living as a straight man and dating women. Deep down, I sensed something missing, like a piece of my life remained incomplete.

At 15, I would sneak into my mother’s bedroom while she was at work. My heart raced as I slipped into her high heels, feeling their tightness on my large feet. Despite the discomfort, I reveled in the empowerment I felt when I put them on. In those heels, I felt invincible. I never even paid attention to the dresses. Her heels were all I needed.

A few years later, at 21, I finally came out as a gay man while pursuing a career in journalism. One afternoon while working at a radio station, my boss approached me and casually remarked, “You sound like a lady.” He guided me into taking vocalization and elocution training, hoping to deepen my voice. At the time, I did not see this as an attack or a form of discrimination, but rather as a way to help and protect me.

Later, when I joined a major television network, these types of demands intensified. Many people said things like, “Don’t let them see you holding hands with your partner.” This rule did not apply to my straight colleagues, yet I still felt like they were protecting me. Now, I recognize the foolishness in not seeing the discrimination. I understand, they limited my actions to protect the company’s image, not my feelings. Companies are made of people; they are not just cold structures.

Journalist transforms from Guillermo into his drag persona Amanda to deliver the news

Alongside my journalism career, I always embraced my artistic side. I started with dance and explored theater. In 2019, I received an invitation to join a drag version of a beloved Mexican comedy. Back then, I knew nothing about the drag movement. I became fascinated, so I dived into makeup courses, learned how to strut in high heels, and honed my modeling skills, all to breathe life into Amanda. She emerged as a dazzling character.

Despite the show’s failure, with hardly any audience, it left me with a priceless treasure: my Amanda. In 2023 during the Pride Month celebrations, I had an idea. I wanted to provide unique coverage of Pride Month at the news channel where I worked. I approached my boss with a bold proposal: “I want to report everything that happens as a drag queen.” It was an idea that snowballed and continues to grow, marking the first time a drag queen delivered serious news on Mexican television.

Guillermo transforms into Amanda, the charismatic host of the La Verdrag newscast. | Photo courtesy of Guillermo Barraza

The reception was so positive my employer gave me a newscast called La Verdrag (a play on words between verdad, meaning truth, and drag). Since October, I’ve hosted this unique newscast as Amanda. When I arrive at the network and transform from Guillermo into Amanda, I start practicing her expressions in the mirror. She sounds distinctly different from Guillermo. Slowly, but surely, Amanda comes to life.

My colleagues see and support this transformation, calling me Amanda instead of Guillermo or my nickname Memo. As I don my wig and zip up my heels, I fully embrace my drag persona. The heels serve as my source of empowerment. Even in a Zoom interview where my feet remain out of sight, I still wear them. They help me fully embody the character.

Newscast La Verdrag attracts support and hate against the LGBTQ+ community

On air, Amanda takes the reins. She serves as the spark, igniting the show. As Guillermo, I prepare the scripts, then I step aside and Amanda takes over, bringing our plans to life with her flair. She is more approachable and can express things in a way I cannot as Guillermo.

Some people may wonder if I have multiple personalities. I do not. While it feels odd to see oneself take a backseat, allowing a character to take control, I always feel at ease. I never worry about the situation spiraling out of control. The synergy between me and my character hinges on mutual trust and that smooths the way. Amanda relies on Guillermo’s scripts, knowing he will highlight her strengths. Meanwhile, Guillermo trusts her professionalism, knowing she always steers the show in the right direction.

This collaboration between me and my character becomes a source of pride. When I switch back to Guillermo from Amanda’s enchanting and charismatic persona, I never feel disappointed. They share an irreverence but maintain subtle differences. They have the same charisma, energy, and spontaneity, sharing common ideas.

Since the show went on air, the impact of the newscast exceeded what I imagined. People recognize me and my voice on the streets and offer words of congratulations. It feels so gratifying because in addition to boosting my profession, I get to bring visibility to the stories and struggles of a historically marginalized community.

Still, not everything is rosy. Some situations leave a bitter taste in my mouth. On social media, aggressive comments full of hate run rampant. Mexico remains a country of contrasts. A program like mine can exist in the same space where countless attacks on my community continue.

Queer leader murdered three weeks after appearing on newscast

The LGBTQ+ community in Mexico continues to gain ground and representation, but as trans actress Alejandra Bogue rightly says, “It seems that the more visible we are, the bigger the target on our chest.” We step on toes and bruise egos. Certain attitudes stoke hatred toward us. The same Mexican system that once oppressed us tries again to make us conform. The brighter we try to shine; the more society attempts to dim our light.

In November 2023, the murder of queer leader Ociel Baena left me shaken. Three weeks earlier, he served as a guest on my show, brimming with energy and new projects. His death shocked me. I immediately thought, “Am I next?” A deep fear took hold, but then I reminded myself, fear will not conquer or silence me. On the contrary, with greater visibility comes great responsibility.

I feel vulnerable, aware that some people disapprove of my actions, my identity, and what I stand for. One day they may act on their disapproval. I don’t take a lot of special precautions because I have a duty to continue my work. Carrying the message and leveraging my visibility, I will continue to fight for open spaces, using art and journalism as my tool. This is how I fulfill my purpose in life.

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