Rodina Singh on her friendships with Minty Fresh, Sassa Gurl, and Tonet Jadaone

OCTOBER 27, 2022

This week on Preen, we’re celebrating our March cover girl Rodina Singh once more. The filmmaker and “Drag Den” showrunner, who just turned a year older on Mar. 17, is one of our favorite progressive voices in the entertainment industry today.

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With her uncompromising approach to holding up her ideals in her work, it comes as no surprise that Singh has cultivated friendships with equally audacious artists. In our interview, she spoke about her friendships with Minty Fresh, Sassa Gurl, and Antoinette Jadaone

Here are some special cuts from our conversation. 

Universal Rodina and Minty Fresh

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Singh’s love for the drag scene and her compassion for the “Drag Den” queens grew from her own exploration as Universal Rodina with her best friend Minty Fresh.

Singh got to know Min Ortiz at Nectar Poison Wednesdays’ first season of “Drag Cartel.” Their eyes would often meet when they saw each other in passing, being in the same friendship circles. But it wasn’t until Ortiz invited Singh to join her in one of the “Cartel” shows and offered to do her makeup that their friendship started.

“Tatlo kami noon, parang Destiny’s Child. I drive, Min did my mug, and may isa pa kaming drag sister. Doon kami nagbibihis sa bahay niya. Hanggang sa naging dalawa na lang kami kasi ’yung isa napagod din mag-drag,” Singh recalls. “Kaming dalawa talaga ’yung tandem. Ako ’yung mabunganga, ’yung baklang angas-angasan, ’yung mataray-taray. Siya ’yung muse. Ganyan ’yung fantasy namin.”

It’s evident in the way Singh tells me stories of getting into fights in the scene to defend her non-confrontational friend and how fond she is of Ortiz. As a makeup artist, Ortiz was the one who taught Singh the tricks of the trade. 

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A year of drag shows later, they faced each other at the first-ever “Drag Cartel All Stars.” “Lahat kaming monthly winners magkakalaban. Nauna siyang nanalo sakin. Si Min ’yung nagpasa ng korona sakin. Kailangan sa aming dalawa [na] ’yung maunang manalo siya, sa perspective ko. Alam ko mas magaling siya sakin mag-drag. Pagdating ng ‘All Stars,’ tensionado talaga siya kasi she really wanted to win. Ako naman, for the fantasy lang, for the laro.”

Universal Rodina and Minty Fresh ended up lipsyncing against each other in the first group round. When Singh got eliminated, she did what she could to support Minty who was up against the likes of Xilhouette. Minty Fresh went on to become the Cartel’s first winner. 

Like we mentioned in the cover story, Singh pushed “Drag Race” fan Ortiz to audition for “Drag Race Philippines” despite auditioning for “Drag Den” first. The drag sisters reached a sort of full circle moment with Minty joining the biggest drag franchise and Singh creating her very own drag show. 

Rodina Singh and Sassa Gurl

Sassa Gurl, who had no prior TV experience, coming into her own as a host was a sight to behold. Building that “Drag Den” character was a bit of a collaborative trial and error process with Singh. “Kinilala ko siya. Originally may scripts pa si Sassa, may spiels pa na binabasa,” the showrunner recounts. Eventually she no longer needed it.

When the show wrapped, the pair became magkabarkada and continued to work together—with the director now considering herself the Cacai Velasquez-Mitra to Sassa’s Regine Velasquez-Alcasid. 

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“It was a continuous process of helping her develop her craft more. Kasi anlaki ng potential ni Sassa, kailangan lang niya nang mag-pu-push sa kanya. The same way na ginagawa sa akin ni Tonet [Jadaone],” Singh says. “Hindi ako ’yung handler na may kontrata kami. Friendship lang. Ako lang kumakausap sa inquiries sa kanya. Para lang akong booking agent at times. I get to give her advice business-wise but also as a friend.”

Knowing that they have this type of bond makes photos of them together, like the one from UnkabogaBall 2022, and their achievements recognized even sweeter. 

Direk Rodina and Direk Tonet Jadaone

Some of her other inspirations as a filmmaker are Lino Brocka and her film fairy godmother Antoinette Jadaone, who considers Joyce Bernal her own fairy godmother. 

Singh finds Brocka’s queer politics ahead of its time and relevant until today. She mentions how Brocka was able to use Dolphy, who was then known for playing caricature gay characters, to break the mold in the 1978 dramedy “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay.”

Singh’s been a fan of the bold and funny Jadaone, whom she first approached at a Cinema One Originals Film Festival, since college. “Wala pang gawa si Tonet na di ko na-bettan,” she says. So she feels lucky to have Jadaone now as the friend and colleague pushing her and helping her realize how appreciated she is.

“Sinasabi niya sakin, masyadong mababa raw ’yung pagtingin ko sa sarili ko and my art. Tama na daw ako sa pagiging underdog kasi di na ako underdog,” Singh says about Jadaone. On Twitter, you can see how supportive Jadaone has been of “Drag Den.” 

Singh’s been invited to Jadaone’s podcast with fellow director JP Habac called “Ang Walang Kwentang Podcast” a number of times. You may or may not have seen Singh as one of the UP graduates on Jadaone’s “Alone/Together.”

Get you a friend group like Singh’s that pushes each other to reach for their dreams.

Art by Ella Lambio

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