Brenda Hernández Jaimes
Dressed in a varied selection of masks that range from a fierce latex dominatrix to a glossy piñata or a captivating cactus, @Ssuculenta always takes center stage. What started as a photographic project has now become the lightning rod of empowerment for Mexican photographer, Memo Hojas. Suculenta’s intense aesthetic leads the conversation and shines in whatever space she’s in. Simply put, Suculenta is unapologetically a latex-wrapped beacon of risqué fascination that is sparkled with Mexican tradition.
“Suculenta was an exploration of my feminine side. For me the project is an escape because I suffer from depression and Suculenta gives me this empowerment that I sometimes don’t find as Memo,” he shares. “When going out, people look at me and ask me for photos. Having this grandeur and dazzle on the street feels pretty good and I like it. Because at the end of the day, Drag is a show. Going out on the street is the show. It’s a whole show letting everyone see you and telling you that you look incredible. The project has been that - really driving that confidence towards me for Suculenta and Memo.”
When Memo began to create Suculenta, he wanted her to have a clear duality. Starting from her name, he was inspired by combining his love for plants and having fun with sexual innuendo. For her aesthetic, Memo turned to his bondage and shibari experience which easily translated to masks and his wish for not using makeup.
“Suculenta is a very crazy character, but she has a very clear aesthetic that she doesn’t want to be pretty. She’s a dominatrix that is imposing,” he says. “As Suculenta, I try to do many things. I can’t do my makeup in a pretty way, because I don’t want to do that. I want to have certain elements that people say, ‘your mask is cool’. I would also like that when people see me that they feel inspired to break that fear of using makeup and just be daring,” Memo says.
Being a Drag Queen, he feels his responsibility is to inspire and have fun in one way or another and to break into the spaces. From his corner, Memo wants to inspire people with Suculenta’s aesthetic, reference and story. Even though Memo has been doing drag for less than a year, he’s proud of Suculenta’s growth in terms of aesthetic and character. Memo encourages anyone interested in Drag to just do it and to buy an eyeliner that won’t smudge.
Memo has been fortunate of being surrounded by many iconic Drag Queens that have driven the scene in Mexico. One of them is his mother, @ninade_lafuente who did Suculenta’s makeup for a Valentine’s Day party. For Memo, it was in that moment that he felt beautiful and empowered to have this feeling forever. Little by little, he learned how to do his makeup and how to execute his outfits. Since the very beginning, Suculenta has and still is seen through photos. This all began when Memo approached his boyfriend, Memo Díaz Martín to collaborate with him. For Hojas it was clear that Suculenta’s aesthetic was perfect for Memo’s colorful photographic style.
“When I met Memo, I was afraid to say, ‘Hey, can you help me?’ Because there’s also this discrimination within the gay community that doing Drag is too feminine because you dress like a woman. So for me, it was hard to tell him, but I knew that Memo would help me in one way or another because his aesthetic goes well with the drag scene,” he smiles. “Before me, Memo had the aesthetic of using women as his models. I think what’s cool is that we both complement each other. It’s cool that I’ve been introduced to his world and he’s part of the one that surrounds me. What motivated me to continue was to teach him about the Drag Queens, the aesthetic and feeling his support,” Memo says.
Their romantic relationship has also cultivated their artistic collaboration. While Díaz Martín is the photographer and creative director, Hojas can help him produce the magic that is shown on the exuberant Drag Queen photography. He’s also a link between the Queens and Díaz Martín.
“I think it’s very important to give voice to Drag Queens. I think it’s something very political and each Drag shapes it in their way in terms of aesthetics,” Memo says.
They’ve worked with @ameliawaldorf, @margaretyya, @quetzal.lv, @cordeliadurango, @deseosfab, and @debramen. The Memos have created sharp and bright photos of these iconic Queens. Mixing their stories and aesthetic with important Mexican political moments and figures have shaped a new era in the Drag scene of Mexico.
Their artistic collaboration has just begun and they’ve been producing magnificent photos. Starting with Suculenta’s first photos, Díaz Martín was able to communicate her story and aesthetic through his lens.
“It’s cool because Memo and I are also inspired by their aesthetic. It visually nourishes us. Each Drag has their own varied aesthetic and character that can help me develop certain concepts,” he says,
Memo admits that for now, he has placed Suculenta to a side a bit. He’s currently studying at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), working and focused on his other photographic project: Morrxs. And Hojas isn't stopping anytime soon.
“I want to put more production to Suculenta’s photos. I told Memo that it would be cool to takes photos on important dates. We’ve done Valentine’s and Christmas. We already have certain photos and concepts developed that we would like to produce,” he informs. “At this moment I want to start different things. Right now it was fun and strange, we collaborated with a friend of Memo, who is a florist and it was very strange. It was something new for him because he’s heterosexual so it was very difficult for him to understand. But it was interesting.”
The result was creating a blossoming kingdom of beautiful flowers surrounding Succulenta that showcased her feminine side.
“I wouldn’t like to be stuck in one single aesthetic. I feel that many times Drags become stagnate in a single makeup and look. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but Drag gives you a lot to explore of different themes with various makeup, clothes, and references. Drag can use art, design, architecture and so many things that are also references from characters and artists. At least I would like to start pulling certain aspects from those elements,” he continues and shares the level of difficulty it is to be a Drag Queen in Mexico City.
“It’s daring. Beyond the heels, makeup and all this. To dare is to take a great step of really doing it. In that step, it involves personal situations of personality, self-esteem, and many things that at the end will be reflected onto the character,” Memo says. “I think the important thing about Drag is to dare yourself to do it and enjoy it. That's the important thing about Drag. Enjoy it. Not only for you but for those around you. In the end, you’re sharing your art with others. I think that's pretty cool. Having this communication, contact with people and that you can engage with. At least I did it for that reason. It’s these situations of being asked for a photo that makes you feel like a Queen. It's cool. Beyond looking good or not, enjoy it because, in the end, it’s an experience. Every Drag Queen showcases and lives it in their way.”
Memo is true to Suculenta as she is with him. He’s in no rush to bombard everyone by showcasing her wild and feminine side. There will always be another Drag Race in Mexico City and another opportunity for Suculenta to shine. For Memo it’s all about investing the time, dedication and love to Suculenta so when she’s in front of the camera, her confidence is reflected onto Memo and ultimately inspire another young gay man to discover his inner Queen.