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Pride, a celebration of authenticity free from fear

On stage and in the office, Asper BComm alum Kevin Chamagua strives for inclusivity and belonging

May 30, 2024 — 

You might say that Asper BComm alum Kevin Chamagua [BComm(Hons)/18] runs a small business outside of his fulltime role as a Property and Casualty Specialist at Columbia Insurance, leveraging his Asper education in unique ways. He invests time, money and creative energy into this side gig, creating business plans, doing his own marketing, networking and managing a busy schedule for Marquesa, who is actually much more than a business.

In Chamagua’s words, Marquesa is “an always-morphing being, free to explore and play with different eras and styles. At her core, she’s her own definition of femininity and power, with a touch of comic style, and always embraces her Salvadoran roots.”

Marquesa is Chamagua’s drag queen persona and expression of his queer pride and artistry.

Chamagua recognizes how working as a performer requires a certain business knack, but is quick to acknowledge that drag is a form of art and advocacy first.

“Just like any entrepreneur, drag queens have overhead costs (costumes, wigs, makeup, transportation) and revenue streams (performance fees, merchandise sales, tips), and they offer services (hosting events, emceeing, leading workshops), all while managing the complexities of self-employment.

“However, drag queens also merge their personal identity with their drag persona, engaging with audiences through this artistic expression. They are deeply connected to 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, often serving as activists and advocates, and we face unique challenges related to visibility and safety in society,” he explains.

He does all of this, while launching his own queer event company and brand Revel.Sync with fellow UM alum Zachary Rushing [BJazz/21], pursuing his Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker and Chartered Insurance Professional designations, serving clients at Columbia Insurance and engaging with communities of insurance professionals.

A member of the Young Brokers Network of the Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba, Chamagua has served in management roles previously, supported by his BComm training, and now hopes to advance his own skills in the field, preparing for future management roles, and striving to bring inclusivity and pride into the corporate world.

“I hope to empower individuals and organizations to take meaningful actions toward creating inclusive spaces that foster conversation, celebrate differences and challenge biases. The speed at which organizations are willing to adapt and change varies, but step by step, we are building the foundation for sustainable social change.”

On stage and in the office, Chamagua is committed to advocating for inclusive spaces that support people to be their best and most authentic selves, to help queer people feel safe and empowered at work and beyond.

Reflecting on what Pride means to him, Chamagua thinks about communities that embrace difference, noting that one of the highlights of his Asper experience was connecting with a wonderful network of international students.

He also thinks about when he first became interested in drag, which began with a knee-jerk “no.” Asked by a working drag artist if he would ever consider it, he was surprised by how hastily he responded.

“I had to wonder, as a proud gay man, why was my immediate answer “no”? I reflected, and realized that I needed to confirm if I was choosing not to embrace my femininity or if I was afraid to embrace this part of me, so I went against every instinct to put myself out of my comfort zone as Marquesa, and I have definitely grown from it.”

Marquesa’s origin story is also the story of Chamagua becoming more comfortable in expressing himself fully and authentically, embracing his own unique expression of femininity, masculinity and queerness in his day-to-day life.

“Marquesa is my personal reminder to continue to resist conformity by being true to myself,” he says.

And this is at the heart of what Pride means to Chamagua: a celebration of living authentically, of choice and of freedom from fear, amplified during an exciting week in June, but vital every day of the year.

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