Across the intersection, a tall pink blob moves in my direction. I’m 99% sure it’s Endigo, especially when they yell “Hallå!” and sweep me into a bear hug. We’re quite the spectacle as we curl up in a nook at a nearby Starbucks. I’m still in costume after a gig earlier in the day (a bright red lip and green wig for daytime drag), and Endigo is all pink hair, pink hat, pink shirt and jacket, pink harem pants — a dream from the alternative fashion world of mid-2000s Harajuku.

Endigo is the professional name of Swedish multimedia artist Tobias Ulf Eddie Endigo Öberg. A resident of Tokyo, they’re now an alumna of World of Wonder’s latest reality TV spinoff show, Drag Race Sverige (Drag Race Sweden). They are the first Tokyo-based drag queen to appear in the Drag Race franchise and the first “Ru queen” to host one of Dragmania’s Drag Race viewing parties. On top of that, they are the toast of Tokyo’s Gay Town. Endigo’s casting has brought a rush of enthusiasm to Tokyo and renewed hopes that a Drag Race Japan might be on the horizon.

We sat down with Endigo to discuss their background as an artist, singer and newborn queen, and their hopes for the future of Tokyo’s drag community.

endigo drag queen tokyo

Photo by Alejandro Morales Rama

Prince of Rock; King of Youtube

Endigo’s background includes formal music training at Sweden’s prestigious Adolf Fredrik’s Music School. During their teen years at the school, Endigo discovered Japanese rock and visual kei (Japan’s answer to glam rock), and with it, their love for Japan. In particular, the flamboyance and gender-bending fashion of visual kei inspired them.

“I’d always been drawn to girly aesthetics,” Endigo says, using air quotes for the word “girly.” “Other kids bullied me for it. V-kei (visual kei) became a place I could explore that side — fashion and androgyny — under the cover of believing I was cisgender.”

Endigo’s rock star career began on the eve of their high school graduation in 2012 when they released an EP with their Swedish visual kei band, Overworld. The next four years were a whirlwind of albums, festivals, anime conventions, video game compositions and tours through Europe and Asia.

Outside of Sweden and the visual kei scene, Endigo is best known as a Youtuber. Launched in earnest in 2014, Endigo’s channel started as a bit of everything: unreleased tracks, new metal music on their laptop, vlogs, Let’s Plays, and visual kei reviews.

As Endigo’s following grew, they began to capitalize on meme music, creating humorous, absurd, highly shareable content like “Big Chungus.” Their music is playful and irreverent, bouncing from singsong video game melodies to death metal screamo in an instant. At roughly 665,000 subscribers at the time of writing, things seem to have worked out well for the weird, bully-magnet kid from Stockholm who grew up liking “girly” things and video games.

“I don’t have a magic formula,” Endigo says of their Youtube success. “My main motivator is remembering that I will be dead soon, and everyone I know will be dead soon — I mean that in a good way! Nothing matters — in a good way! It doesn’t matter if you make a fool of yourself. Have fun now. Don’t wait.”

Queen of Shinjuku Nichome

In 2019, Endigo fulfilled a lifelong dream and moved to Tokyo. During the years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shinjuku Nichome — Tokyo’s Gay Town — became an important refuge and community for Endigo.

“Nichome saved my life. Going there helped me feel like a normal person again,” Endigo says.

Endigo’s escapades in Nichome gave them time to reflect on their identity, as a person and as a performer. The line between Endigo’s image as a self-described cross-dressing entertainer and a drag queen had become blurred. So, too, had Endigo’s gender identity.

“I formally came out as nonbinary in February last year. That was a long time in the making,” they say. “I always knew on some level that the dresses, chest plates and wigs were more than just expression or fashion and meant something deeper. I started getting into drag earlier and earlier each morning. My hair got longer. It became a daily thing. And suddenly, I realized my old ‘boy mode’ had become the costume and the drag was me.”

The Royal Court

Endigo laughs while reflecting on their run on Drag Race Sverige. “As with everything else, I just fell into it. ‘Whoops, I’m a drag queen now!’”

Loud and chaotic and terribly emotional, they knew they’d bring something typical Swedish drag queens wouldn’t. Highlights of Endigo’s run were their phenomenal guitar solo and original song in the show’s second episode and their coming out story as a trans, nonbinary individual.

“It was nerve-wracking going in,” Endigo says. “Having struggled with my identity all my life, to now talk so openly and boldly on the world’s largest platform for LGBTQ discussions … The response has been overwhelmingly wonderful.”

Endigo praised their fellow contestants for their love and support, particularly their close friend Imaa Queen.

Endigo’s pride as a Tokyo queen and their decision to claim the city as their adopted hometown in the first episode stirred controversy. Endigo has taken it in stride, however, and even incorporated the hate comments they’ve received over the years into their new “drama queen” look — a paper dress created by Endigo’s personal designer Sanya from hundreds of actual comments. It’s a defiant statement from an otherwise unruffled, seasoned performer.

Meanwhile, Endigo’s Drag Race Sverige viewing parties in Nichome have been lively affairs. Endigo video recorded the audience’s reaction on the night of the season finale to show their friend and fellow contestant Admira Thunderpussy, who won the season.

“I’m so proud of the Nichome community, even if I’m the new kid,” Endigo says. “I’m so impressed by all the talent I’ve seen among the drag queens here. I picture a future where Tokyo drag is so iconic globally, people come in from all over the world to see a lineup of 50 queens. Full symphonic orchestra. Swinging, dancing circus. A massive spectacle!”

Endigo is sweeping their arms around as if they can already see themselves on the stage, a ball of pink bright enough to light a stadium.

“I think Tokyo could be the place for a revolution,” they say. “I can be a part of making that happen.”

The box set of Drag Race Sverige and Drag Race Sverige: Untucked is available now on WOW Presents Plus in Japan.