When a renowned drag queen takes the stage, their ultimate objective is to achieve perfection—a trifecta of 10s across the board. And a crucial component of their performance lies in their dazzling costumes. These queens utilize fashion as a powerful tool for immersive storytelling, often drawing inspiration from hyper-specific moments in pop culture. Recent examples include Jimbo’s custom pink marabou dress, which paid homage to fanciful poodles, Sasha Velour’s hand-embroidered magenta cocoon gown, reminiscent of mesmerizing firebirds, and Shangela’s captivating cactus couture. Behind all these winning style moments stands a go-to designer who has been instrumental in creating these sartorial masterpieces—Diego Montoya.
Montoya’s love affair with fashion design can be traced back to his childhood, long before he became the creative force behind the iconic runway looks on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Born in Lima, Peru, Montoya was raised by a grandmother who happened to be a skilled dressmaker. It was within the walls of her sewing studio that his passion for fashion was kindled. “She would allow me to ‘assist’ her in crafting these intricately layered christening gowns and frilly party dresses for our loved ones,” Montoya reveals to Vogue, reminiscing about those early days. Although he may not have been old enough to actively contribute, he eagerly handed her the tools she required and became captivated by the process unfolding before his eyes.
The seeds of Montoya’s future career were sown during these precious moments of observation and fascination. As he watched his grandmother manipulate fabrics, bring designs to life, and transform them into tangible works of art, a spark ignited within him. This formative experience instilled in Montoya an unwavering passion for fashion, leading him on a path that would eventually intertwine with the world of drag.
Today, as a sought-after designer, Montoya continues to channel the influences of his Peruvian upbringing and the guidance of his grandmother. Through his exceptional artistry and meticulous craftsmanship, he brings forth a unique vision that complements the vibrant and extravagant world of drag. Montoya’s designs not only adorn the queens, but they also embody their individual narratives and amplify their stage presence. Each creation becomes a living testament to his talent, as he seamlessly weaves together fabric, color, and texture to produce show-stopping ensembles.
Diego Montoya’s journey from the sewing room of his grandmother to the global stage of drag showcases the transformative power of fashion and the profound impact of familial inspiration. With his remarkable skills and innate creativity, Montoya continues to shape the world of drag, leaving an indelible mark on its captivating tapestry of glamour, storytelling, and self-expression.