The UK’s first Muslim drag queen was among the acts to grace the stage at the relaunch of a Luton gay bar on Saturday.
Asifa Lahore brought an unusual cultural mix to The California Inn when she performed at the bar’s relaunch on Saturday, July 16.
With a razor-sharp wit, and singing numbers such as ‘I’m a Punjabi Girl’ and Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision winning track ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ – it was an alternative cabaret performance at the Chapel Street venue.
Asifa said: “It’s really quite interesting and I get a very mixed reaction from within my community.
“It’s divided, the more progressive Muslims totally get what I’m about.”
That positive reaction, according to Asifa, is not felt by conservative parts of the community.
She added: “But I’m certainly not out to offend people or cause damage.”
The UK’s first out Muslim drag queen, Asifa was invited to headline at the California Inn’s relaunch.
She said: “I have to say I’m very honoured and it was quite humbling to be asked to come here.
“I felt it was importantfor me to do it because Luton is a massive melting pot of cultures just like London.
“I think for the past several years I’ve been a big voice when it comes to being gay and being Muslim.
“I’m one of a few who are out and I want people to see you can be gay and be Muslim.”
Also at the California Inn was Adam All, a drag king and one of London’s rising female to male impersonators.
Adam said: “This is absolutely thrilling for me.
“One thing I noticed the second I walked through the door – there’s something about this place that reminds me very much of when I first started going to gay bars.
“It’s that feeling of being welcomed with open arms.”
Asked about his act, Adam said: “I think drag is about breaking boundaries. A lot of the drag that I’m connected to is particularly about destroying boundaries around masculinity.”
Adam said many drag kings including himself identified as non-binary in their day-to-day gender and that drag allowed them to reclaim “parts of the gender spectrum” they felt they’d been denied.
He was joined on stage by partner Apple Derrieres – who played the leading lady to his suave character.
The California Inn’s weekend relaunch celebrated the start of new chapter under owner Tina Haynes – who is also marking 25 years since she transitioned gender. Just a day earlier, BBC’s ‘The Voice’ star Jordan Gray had also performed at the bar.
Tina said: “I’m delighted with how our relaunch went and how many people we were able to reach out to.” For more information, see www.cali-bars.co.uk.