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EXCLUSIVE: One night with Aries

EXCLUSIVE: One night with Aries

Thom Cipriano on his drag persona and how he gets ready for the night

Conceived by two mothers, Thom Cipriano, better known as Aries Night, credits Mother Monster Lady Gaga and drag superstar Manila Luzon for shaping his drag persona. The name Aries was inspired by his zodiac sign, but it was Manila Luzon who gave him his last name “Night,” reflecting his drag aesthetic deeply rooted in Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster” and “Born This Way” eras.

You may recognize Aries from the drag reality TV show “Drag Den,” where he served look after look as a contestant. However, the behind-the-scenes of the show did not fully capture the artist’s life. “I went into ‘Drag Den’ at a very dark phase in my life,” Aries confessed. “With my mom passing away, forcing myself to finish my degree despite grieving, realizing the pressures of being the breadwinner, working various part-time jobs—all during the height of the pandemic.” Despite these challenges, the artist admits that the show taught him a lot about himself. Although he still feels uncomfortable watching the show alone, the experience marked significant personal and artistic growth. “I see a completely different person going through a lot. It will forever serve as a testament to how far I’ve come and grown as a person and an artist. The show also gave me a platform to share my art and inspire people with my story,” Aries added.

In this exclusive interview, Garage chatted with Aries about the challenges and triumphs of being a drag artist. We also touched on the people he admires in the industry, his transformation, rituals, and how Aries gets ready for the night.

How is Aries different from or similar to Thom?

Right now, there’s not much of a difference anymore. I am as confident, powerful, and even beautiful being Thom as I am being Aries Night. My drag persona used to be an escape from my everyday life. Eventually, being Aries Night taught me to love and take care of myself as Thom even more.

Tell us about the pivotal moment when you realized you wanted to become a drag artist. What was the first time you were in drag like?

I think I was in third grade when my uncle took me to an event at a comedy bar in Quezon City. There, I saw the Drag Ons doing a “Dream Girls” number, and my fascination with the art of drag began. I used to lock myself in the bathroom for hours, doing makeup and fantasizing about being Lady Gaga and performing her songs in private since I wasn’t out until I was 18. Fast forward to 2017, when Alaska 5000 performed in Manila. I secured tickets with a meet and greet and saw it as the perfect time to finally do drag. I still remember the euphoric feeling of wanting to do it again despite looking like a total train wreck, but the oats were felt!

What’s your first memory of becoming conscious about the way you look, and how did you address it?

I went to an all-boys school (Claret) in grade school. Imagine being an underprivileged, closeted/confused queer kid surrounded by privileged bratty boys in school, then going home to a dysfunctional family every day. Transferring to a co-ed high school helped a bit because I gained girl friends, but the bullying from the boys never went away. At a young age, I dreamt of having a nose job. Being bullied really took a toll on my confidence and self-worth. I used to hate myself a lot. Puberty was hell for me; I had severe acne problems which eventually went away during adolescence. Eventually, I did get a nose job, but I made sure I was at a point in my life where I loved myself, that I was doing it for me, and saw it as an enhancement rather than a correction.

Share your top five grooming essentials.

  1. I never go out or sleep without washing my face and brushing my teeth. I brush my teeth at least twice and at most four times a day.
  2. I always use moisturizing products for my face and body that have UV protection.
  3. Twice a week, I exfoliate my nose with Himalayan pink salt and scrub my body with a loofah.
  4. I make sure to take a full bath at least twice a day.
  5. I religiously trim my nose hair (ever since I had my alars reduced), but I only shave my facial hair when I need to do drag.

What staple products would we see in your everyday bag?

  1. Lana Skin Brightening Sunblock – a local brand I’ve been using for two years now.
  2. Breathe mints or strips – bad breath (from others and from myself) bothers me a lot, especially since I do fasting.
  3. Zara’s Violet Blossom – staple scent of Thom and Aries.
  4. Benadryl (the less drowsy ones) – a must-have for me as I randomly get allergic rhinitis attacks, which ruin my composure and mood, especially when I’m in drag.

How would you describe Aries Night’s signature look?

You’ll mostly see me in a full black ensemble. I also love doing monochromatic and clashing texture moments. Recently, I’ve been into grunge Y2K rocker chic looks. I’m fascinated with balancing femininity and masculinity. I don’t paint over my masculine features but rather enhance them and add feminine touches. Visuals are important to me since I am an introvert; I let my look speak for itself. I believe that looking good while performing seals the deal. Lastly, I see “just” putting on a look as a performance in itself.

What’s the hardest challenge of being a drag artist, and what makes the art satisfying?

In my case, like any other art form, it’s the financial limitations. Most drag artists don’t get paid enough, and not all have the luxury to invest all their earnings into their drag. We have bills to pay and families to feed. Imagine the elaborate performances and costumes a drag artist could pull off if money were not an issue. It was an insecurity and frustration I had in the past. It took me time to realize I am organically creative. I don’t have to spend much on a look because I have the talent and taste to make it work. One wisdom I’ve gained throughout my seven years of doing drag, from having resources to not, is that “expensive drag does not necessarily mean excellent drag.”

The most satisfying thing about this art form is knowing you’ve conveyed your message. It’s receiving reactions and messages from fans about how much they feel represented by what you do. I do everything from the heart, and that’s the most rewarding aspect of this art form.

Which drag artists do you look up to and why?

Precious Paula Nicole, through and through. Besides being very talented, she has it all! The genuineness, attitude, and work ethic. Since the first time I met her until now, she remains the most grounded and generous queen I know. No good deed was ever done for PR purposes. She is truly THAT queen.

Another is Mother Manila Luzon! From giving me my last name (Night) to becoming my Drag Reality TV mother now. Being 14 years old and seeing her compete internationally in the Olympics of drag made me realize the art form can take you places. She is very hands-on with us and really wants us all to succeed in our own ways. She gives us gifts, has produced a fashion YouTube series called “The Drag Bust” on her channel for my sister O-A and me, and even stayed in the Philippines to help, produce, and hype up the viewing parties during Drag Den Season 2. I’m also amazed at how smart and business-minded she is with her drag. It’s her career longevity that inspires me to work hard. She truly is MOTHER.

What’s next for Aries Night?

Let’s just say I’ll be releasing some new music this coming July. Make sure to follow me on my socials for more Aries Night updates! You can catch me every weekend at Nectar Nightclub, BGC, Taguig.

Images courtesy of Aries Night

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