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Serpent eyes and alien cheekbones: artist Daglara’s trans-species aesthetic

TextEffie Efthymiadi

The performer breaks down the beauty of her unique look

Athens-based artist Daglara explores how performance can create a martyr narrative with extreme emotions, and how to reach a point of frenzy. Her make-up, her art’s protagonist, is a trans-speciesist dream. Inspired by facial features from the animal kingdom, her beauty looks bring to mind sci-fi creatures and the hypersexualised femme icon. Serpentine eyes, a dolphin forehead, and alien cheekbones — with Daglara, it’s all about hybridisation.  

Using a mixture of seemingly disparate references, Daglara combines queer performativity with cutting-edge beauty and garment creation to raise issues of gender subversion. As Greece is still a country with a great deal of inherent prejudice, abiding to a system of heteronormative discrimination, her work comes as an important force of resistance to oppressive social constructs. At the core of her artistic expression lies the desire to transcend the limitations of the human condition.

To see Daglara perform is to witness a shapeshifting ritual during which human and animal, body and spirit, meld into one. At the height of ecstasy, Daglara convulses on the floors, her movements both unruly and controlled. When the pace slows down, imaginary snakes appear to writhe across her body instructing her back up in fluid motions. Momentarily recomposed, she takes a respite from possession, and you, the viewer, can draw breath before she re-immerses you into her prehistoric monster fantasy.   

Your artistic practice involves performance, cutting-edge fashion design and elaborate beauty looks. What has your journey been?

Daglara: I studied fashion design at the Royal Academy in Antwerp, but since then I’ve embraced a broader, more conscientious approach to garment-making. Soon after my return to Athens, and a short-lived attempt to establish a commercial clothing brand, I realised that I wasn’t truly interested in the fast-paced seasonality of the industry and that traditionally available career paths seemed too blunt. That’s when I started performing in drag and approaching my work as an artistic practice rather than as a typical fashion designer. 

This allowed me the freedom to politicise my work, expand my vision, and be even more creative. Nowadays, my artistic work encompasses drawings, videos, performances, fashion design, and sculpture. Both in fashion and drag, the goal is to create an image and experience – these aspects couldn’t exist separately in what I do. But the basis is still a pursuit of the fashion ideal.

Can you elaborate on the presence of animals of your work and your overall concept of trans-speciesism? 

Daglara: It’s my fascination with the concept of therianthropy, the mythological ability of humans to shapeshift into animals, and my obsession with palaeontology: dinosaurs, predators, and evolution. It’s about a profound realisation that I’m part of a greater complex ecosystem and a deep-rooted need to be in sync with our primordial origins. 

What does the name ‘Daglara’ mean?

Daglara: ‘Daglara’ is a Greek folk word of Turkish origins, that is used to describe a woman with an imposing figure and straight-forward attitude. From a personal viewpoint, it defines a bold being, a warrior femme unpreoccupied with gendered notions, entirely liberated from the male (or, in fact, any) gaze.

“My make-up is not a means to merely transcend gender but also species. It’s about emulating colour schemes and facial features from animals and mythical creatures and contrasting them with hyper-sexualised, feminine make-up” – Daglara

How would you describe your signature aesthetic?

Daglara: My aesthetic derives from a universe of references and obsessions that revolve around the trappings of identity. From the quintessential female to the trans-species warrior femme – it's all a play of hybridisation and celebration of queerness. 

Where do you draw inspiration and references from? 

Daglara: Many disparate sources: from creatures and monsters in sci-fi and horror films like Alien, Dracula, and Hellraiser, to colour patterns and facial features of animals and palaeolithic art. From Mylene Farmer to dramatic moments in history; from Greek mythology and the cult of Dionysus to contemporary queer physiognomies in Greek cult TV.

What stories do you seek to communicate through your make-up? 

Daglara: In contrast to popular norms, my make-up is not a means to merely transcend gender but also species. It’s about emulating colour schemes and facial features from animals and mythical creatures and contrasting them with hyper-sexualised, feminine make-up. For me, make-up is a tool of resistance and emancipation from conventional beauty.

You incorporate elements from Bacchic rituals and mythology into your performance. How do these nurture your art and fuel the dynamism?

Daglara: I’m generally interested in the supernatural and the divine, especially in the way it is professed in ancient Greek mythology and worship. There is a correlation between the Bacchic rituals of the cult of Dionysus and my need to achieve a somewhat out-of-body experience through drag performance. For me, the stage is a tool to, at least temporarily, transcend societal norms and limitations.

What do you enjoy most about performing?

Daglara: You get the chance to manifest and project all your fantasies to an actual audience in a public setting. Being centre-stage and able to command the crowd’s attention is gratifying and feels intensely empowering.


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