Cool Queers: Nona Chalant and the unapologetic Tel Aviv drag scene

 PHOTO: Jude Mosco

PHOTO: Jude Mosco

This article originally ran in the printed edition of WUSSY vol.04.
You can still order your copy
here.

Moving to Tel Aviv at the age of 22 and discovering many free spirits in the queer-friendly Middle Eastern mecca, the first year as the new incarnation Nona Chalant was spent photo shooting. You would be surprised any shyness was ever present:  the performer now exudes electricity, packing out venues and inspiring other baby queens, with unshakeable grace and confidence.

House of Nona supports troves of young queer people in Israel with encouragements that drag will save the world. “Take your art out of the closet” and live to the fullest, regardless of the surrounding stigma, a factor not unknown in the religious expectations of gender and sexuality by a country also exposed for - not only its interferences via policing of neighboring lands but - its false support of queerness a la pinkwashing.

Regardless of the fact that queer people may not have the equal rights they deserve, the Tel Aviv queer community grows and thrives with many active artists. Recently, Nona released a music video “Drag Will Save the World” with dancers and friends including Asis D’Orange (also featured in WUSSY Vol. 4) and Army of Lovers’ Jean-Pierre Barda. Talented singer and Israeli X-Factor participant Morbid Eddie and music producer Lyrik all combined powers with art director and photographer Ido Wolfman, Nona saying of the production, “for me, this is the new creative and unapologetic generation of drag.”

As a queer personality quickly recognized for the fierce fashionista and makeup artistry, Nona’s refined and sleek style, catching the eye of Italian Vogue, has leanings towards the golden era of McQueen and regal Isabella Blow accessory sensibility. Nona’s flirtations with lush, religious motifs and gothic high-fashion fetish fete frames the performer as an unsurprisingly popular figurehead in the Tel Aviv drag scene. Unsurprisingly Nona also is creating fashions, notably the "See-Horse" sunglasses, a 3D printing collab with Yaron Shmarkin.

“Drag plays with our stiff definition of gender and once the world will truly realize that we can be whatever we choose to be, we will be more kind and tolerant to one another and the world will be a much better place to live in,” Nona says. “If we can be anything that we want to be, we will be more forgiving and acceptive also towards ourselves. I know I would be happy to live in such a world.”

 PHOTO: Ido Wolfman

PHOTO: Ido Wolfman

As a child, Ronny Chokron lived amongst fashion. Thanks to a mother who did export with clothing from Paris, working in a leather factory, the teen spark of a to-be Nona ignited in deconstructing clothing to create entirely new outfits. Combined with a love of painting and transforming said art to make-up, the conceptual creativity of her future performer found true formation when getting into full face during the Israeli Halloween of 2011. “There was this electricity. People didn’t recognize me,” Nona says of the early days. “This feeling was very fascinating for me!”

New York and American drag has also played a big role in the ‘nonchalant’ fashions of this bold performer. “When I started I was really inspired by the early seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race because I found my inspiration in those personas. So big and so out there! In Israel, the local drag queens are also big and out there but I loved the fashion they bring into it. For me, Nona, all of her essence is New York. Nona, she is very classic, she’s got an edge, she’s always in style or making new style and that’s the fun of it.”

All of Nona’s sides are expressed, with many faces, yet remains branded, cohesive and conceptual.


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Sunni Johnson is a writer, zinester, and musician based in Atlanta, GA.