In a beaded gown, six-inch heels, and teased blonde wig, Yakisoba, Brandon Ha’s dragsona looked the part of homecoming royalty at Long Beach State’s annual Homecoming.
Though the curled wig dug into her scalp, and the eight pairs of pantyhose, two pairs of waist cinchers, corset, and hip pads were taxing on her body, Yakisoba’s longtime dream to become a homecoming queen was about to be made a reality. From the booming microphone, the names “Ricky Contreras” and “Brandon Ha” were announced to a cheering crowd Nov. 9 at the Walter Pyramid.
For the first time, CSULB changed the traditional, gender-exclusive titles of homecoming king and queen to homecoming royalty. For Ha, a fifth-year human development major soon to be graduating, this felt like a sign for him to finally apply.
Over the course of a few weeks, Ha applied, interviewed and received the phone call he had waited for.
Ha had made homecoming court.
The allure of being crowned homecoming queen, to Ha, is about recognition. It is about a student body coming together and saying, ‘This is who we want as our queen.’ Though the bold Yakisoba who struts around campus needs no acceptance from anyone, Ha sought it out that evening in light of the many responsibilities he carries, some since childhood.
Ha recalled the time his mother sat down on his bed and told him that he was their family’s only hope.
Ha was 10.
For his entire life, Ha’s mother praised him as her future doctor, her only successful child—a slight towards Ha’s older brother and sister. At age 8, already busy with hockey and school, Ha was discovered by a talent agent at Walmart. By the eighth grade, Ha was a background actor in commercials for Hallmark and Pepsi.
Those experiences behind the camera planted a seed for his eventual interest in drag and performing.
His parents, who took advantage of every opportunity offered to Ha for his betterment, did not expect just how different his path would veer from his hockey-playing, average-in-school siblings.
“They were ready for heterosexual kids,” Ha said. “Then my stupid-ass comes along and I flip everything on its side. Now, my parents have to kind of understand what it’s like to have a gifted child, but also a child that is very exuberant, very ecstatic, very everywhere, but that’s very counter to what Asian culture is, [which is] very quiet.”
In high school, Ha came out as gay. When his dad found out, he was kicked out of the house for a month and stayed with friends. He filled the absence of his mother with friends’ mothers, who provided relationship advice and a tenderness Ha’s mother could not provide.
Though Ha would eventually be allowed to return, his parents chose not to acknowledge who Ha was, making it especially difficult when the high-heeled, glamorous Yakisoba was born.
When Ha started college, he did not know who he was, quickly adopting a facade to counter that.
“[I was] an over-exaggerated version of who I really wanted to be because I felt like I had to prove myself,” Ha said. “I didn’t realize that the community like fraternities or sorority life and other communities that I’m part of, that they would support me so well.”
Ha is president of Delta Lambda Phi, vice president of Cultural Greek Council, an intern at the Office of Assessment and Evaluation and occasional lecturer on campus.
Carlos Ramirez, a second-year kinesiology major part of Delta Lambda Phi, spoke about Ha.
“He’s always looked out for the betterment of others and has always cared for me and the brothers of our chapter,” Ramirez said. “He’s done a great job as president and is a great friend.”
In between Ha’s on-campus responsibilities, he transforms into Yakisoba.
Yakisoba emerged when her fraternity decided to create a drag show. With the help of a fraternity brother, Ha developed Yakisoba and researched drag extensively before he eventually decided who Yakisoba is.
While Ha can never be Yakisoba in front of his father, he briefly feared that the large audience at Homecoming would not allow it either. The overwhelming support proved him wrong.
“Winning this crown means more than it means for just Brandon to win the crown,” Ha said. “It’s a representation of gender-fluid people winning. Its representation that the LGBT community can be involved. It’s a representation that Long Beach is inclusive and that we are on the forefront of showcasing it.”
His fellow Homecoming Royalty winner and close friend, fourth-year business management major Ricky Contreras, agreed.
“This win wasn’t only a win for Brandon, but also a win for our community too,” Contreras said. “We won a battle in the war towards inclusivity, equity and awareness. This means our campus has proven that it is on the right path towards some of these ideals, but I’m sure Brandon and members of our diverse communities still don’t feel like everything is as it should be yet. So we take this win, celebrate our queen, and keep fighting.”
Though the win is indicative of CSULB’s diverse campus, this win will always be momentous for Ha.
“Coming from elementary school and middle school, where I don’t have any friends and no one likes me, to come into college and everyone embraces me with open arms, I’m just like, ‘Oh my God, these people care about me so much. It’s groundbreaking.”