Sunday, March 07, 2010

Kumar: Stripped Bare & Standing Up

I love Kumar!!! He is absolutely brilliant! And his wicked, irreverent humour always leaves me in stitches. I love that he makes fun of people, of late-comers, of himself. And he's not afraid to say it as it is. There are not many straight-up Singaporeans like him around -- and you know it.

I was down at the Esplanade Theatre this afternoon to catch him in action at Kumar: Stripped Bare & Standing Up and he was in top form. He totally shone. And of course, he looked gorgeous in drag. He even had his name in bright lights, which was something he always dreamed of, but I guess never expected would one day happen...

Even though Kumar made us laugh with his Merlion and Indian self-deprecating jokes, underlying it all - I felt - was painful honesty, openness, and just a need to be accepted and loved for who he is. The "wedding" video he made of himself, with his family & closest friends commenting on him, brought tears to my eyes.

The other highlight was when he sang the song from The Little Mermaid. He was lip synching of course, and it cracked everyone up! But that song carried in it such rich meaning, if you really listen to the words. It's about a girl, who is different, who just wants to be part of our world. It's a song of longing. I teared!

Growing up for Kumar was never easy. He always felt different. People always made fun of him, calling him names, especially in NS. He was abused as a child. And I guess he just struggled not only to be accepted, but also to accept himself.

In our interview with the man, he was unusually sombre and reflective. He shared with us that he was raped at 10, which surprised me because I've never heard him share that in previous interviews. He told us that he hid that fact for many years because he felt ashamed. But now that he's in his 40s, he's embraced it and is able to talk about it more openly.

A sombre & reflective Kumar in The Living Room.

"If I were to ask your closest friends what Kumar is really like, what would they say?" I asked him.

"That he's always looking for love," Kumar responds with a wry smile.

"And are you looking for love?" Stanley interjects.

"I'm currently in a relationship," Kumar reveals. "But it's never enough, is it? Love is never enough."

Away from the limelight, Kumar admits to be a quiet person. He enjoys the company of close friends, where he can be 100% himself.

Looking at how far he has become, I realise that it's only when we accept ourselves for who we are, when we stop fighting to be who the world expects us to be, when we can come to love ourselves and say, "hey, it's OK to be me", that freedom comes.

And I think that's where Kumar is. The moment he embraced himself, put on a dress, and behaved as he naturally would, without care of what others may think or what others, he became KUMAR. And he soared!!!

I never thought I'd say this, but Kumar inspires me. Not only after that soulful chat in The Living Room, but more so, after watching Kumar: Stripped Bare & Standing Up.

From him, I'm challenged to be honest and open about who I am. Come on, there will always be people who will criticise, condemn or reject us. You can't please everyone. And approval is seriously over-rated. A wise friend once said to me, "It's better to have one person accept you totally, than 100 who approve of you."

I left the Esplanade Theatre feeling uplifted by Kumar's courage, touched by his talent, and of course, with a silly grin on my face.

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