LIFE AND TIMES OF A DRAG QUEEN
By: Nomfundo Xolo
Yaya Longoria is her stage name, at night that is. By day, most know her as S’yabonga Mavundla. He prefers if you call him by “whatever name you’re happy with, which ever character satisfies you.”
He lived in the closet for most of his life, growing up in a place where homosexuality is seen as a disease. Yaya grew up in Transkorp, north of Durban. He was raised by his grandmother with his father, as he describes him as ‘a dead beat’, after his mother died at a young age. He grew up confused, “caged in and abused” his cry for help was never heard nor understood. “My family did not understand me, even now they still don’t. My grandmother is so difficult, but after I grew even older, I realized I had to make a difficult choice,” he said.
The key to S’yabonga’s closet, Durban.
“Coming to Durban made me do a lot of choices and opened a lot of doors that would have never been opened had I remained the S’yabonga that I was. Coming out was with the pressure of wanting to actually be who Yaya is,” he said.
It’s the typical life of a boy who feels trapped in a body that doesn’t belong to him. What is different is the turning point, deciding when and how to come out requires the bravest of souls; as it can for most people misunderstood, enable them to lose everything and everyone, become alienated and forever lost. This is the fight S’yabonga had to conquer but for him, time and change were the only tools he could take advantage of. The beginning of his newly found life began when he took the taxi headed south, when his grandmother sent him to Durban to to finish his grade 11 and 12 and tertiary. He made the decision five years ago and as he describes his life as a drag queen and performer, it becomes evident that the journey has not been easy and is not yet completed.
Coming to Durban.
“S’yabonga is this guy who grew up in the rural areas in the farm, shy. Growing up I knew there was something wrong, but I could not go to anyone, not until I came to Durban. My friends support me and even my high school friends say they wish they had met Yaya before,” he explained. The resolution Yaya took in a way became the ultimate breakthrough from his life that was locked up, the transition as he describes it was very hard but worth it. “Living in a closet was a terrible life, people would poke at me and say funny things but I would not be able to fight back. But now I don’t care, I am able to say So what? You have to live with who I am because I am here,” he added.
S’yabonga has been actively involved with the Durban Gay and Lesbian Pride that takes place annually. In 2010, he was a model for one of the fashion designers who showcased their designs at the Durban City Hall. This year, he was one of the drag queens parading from Absa Stadium to surrounding areas near Sun Coast. “I love pride because it’s where you would find most gay and lesbian people together and happy being who they are without anybody judging them.”
Yaya continues with his newly found success. He is a columnist at Exit magazine, gay and lesbian focused, Unisex Perfumes Ambassador and events manager at Silver Tag Events. He is also planning to further pursue his longtime dream of being a social worker. In the meantime, he is living life finally with pride, glimmering with elegance in her drag costumes. “I believe life is a life show and you need to know the lyrics as they are, because if you miss something, you’re not going to be able to take it back, so it’s best to just get it right.”