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Sunanda Sachatrakul

          It’s a balmy rainbow ómbre dusky sky in late summer. The crowd roars in applause. We hoot and holler for Britney, who’s illuminated by the meticulously arranged lights hanging above every corner of the 40 by 20 metre stage. She’s a spectacle. The expansive blushing sky sparsely dotted with glimmering far away suns serves merely as a  backdrop for her magnificence. In her singularity, in her one-ness, in the individuality of her being THE BRITNEY SPEARS, she’s a spectacle to behold.
          She announces in her signature laid-back Louisiana drawl, “now, I need someone to help me sing this next song.” She searches the crowd. She looks to the right of me, to the left of me, behind me and in front of me. Every cell of my body is squeezing out the one wish that she’ll look at me.
          “You! In the Britney T-shirt!” She pauses and flashes a goofy face, “Now I know that’s a WHOLE lotta y’all.” She laughs her Britney laugh, so genuine, so endearing, so in recognition that she’s made a silly fool of herself in front of 80,000 people but it’s not the least bit embarrassing.
          I must be burning up in this crowd of bodies, stuck together like melted, decade-old gummy candies. From the rippled, congealed lump, a white hot light seems to emanate from my face. The intensity of the light bores through my skin and I can’t be sure if it’s from the inside out or the outside in. Maybe I’m losing consciousness, maybe I’m dying… what a perfect place for it to happen to 19 year old me, dedicated to Britney ever since I first heard those signature chords on Bangkok’s poppiest English radio station. Hit me, baby one more time, and again, and again, and a million times over.
          “I want you to sing with me,” Britney insists again. I watch myself be lifted by the crowd, carried by the wave of deliquesced gummies, towards the stage. I watch myself somehow gracefully step onto the stage, instead of the clumsy roll I’d usually expect from my round body.
          “What’s your name?”
          “Su…nanda.” I hear myself and watch myself answer.
          “That’s a beautiful name!” Britney sincerely responds. Must not be many Sunandas in her world. “I’ve never met anyone with that name before. I really like it.”
          “Thanks, I’ll let my mom know.” I feel like I’m re-entering my body. I’m just talking to an old friend. On stage. In front of 80,000 people. And live TV around the world. DON’T THINK ABOUT IT!
          “And you’re funny!? Talk about the full package!”
          Is Britney Spears flirting with me?
          “So, Sunanda, I need you to sing a song with me. You may have heard it in my new movie-”
          “I loved Crossroads, Lucy!” I’m feeling a rush of confidence. Hell yes, I’m flirting with Britney Jean Spears. She giggles.
          “Well, let’s keep the song a surprise for them,” she gestures out to the 80,000 disfigured, conjoined gummies before us, “but here are some adapted lyrics I think you might like to sing.”
          She hands me a piece of lined paper with her handwriting on it, and a sparkly purple glitter pen and whispers, “change what you’d like to.”
          I scrawl on the page, look up and nod at her, she turns to the band, and they begin to play the music.

 

I used to think
Dad had the answers to everything
But now I know
That life doesn’t always
Go that way, yeah
Feels like I’m caught in the middle
That’s when I realise

I’m not a boy
I’m not a woman
I just need to be me
Genderqueer identity
Cuz I’m in between
I’m not a girl

There is no need to protect me
I’m not a boy
So don’t show me all the nudes you’ve got
I’m so beyond this bullshit
So don’t tell me to shut my eyes

I’m not a boy
I’m not a woman
I just need to be me
Genderqueer identity
Cuz I’m in between
I’m not a girl

And if you look at me closely
You will see I’m gender-bi
This queer will always find
Their way

I’m not a girl don’t tell me what to believe
(I’m not a boy)
I’m just tryin’ to find the word that’s me, yeah
(All I need is time) oh, all I need is time
(A moment that is mine) that’s mine
Cuz I’m in between

I’m not a boy
I’m not a woman

All I need is time (is all I need)
A moment that is mine
Cuz I’m in between

I’m not a boy

Oh
I’m not a woman

 

          At the end of the song, Britney turns to me, gives me a tight hug and takes back the microphone.
          “You’re very brave. Let’s hear it for Sunanda, the brave!”
          Now the crowd is roaring in applause for me. They are hooting and hollering for me. Finally, Britney kisses me on the cheek and this time, it’s not a spotlight. The hot white light is really radiating from my face.

Sunanda is a clown, comedian, writer, producer, radio host, and well, that’s a good place to leave it. They were born in New Delhi, raised in Bangkok and ‘never adulted’ in New York and Los Angeles, so it’s pretty fair to say they’re a global citizen, wanky as it may sound. Since moving to Melbourne in 2019, Sunanda has created and performed their solo multimedia debut show, “How Gay am I?” to sold out audiences at Fringe 2019 and Midsumma 2020. Their stand up show, “Yes, We Tan!” was Broadsheet’s Top Comedy Pick of Fringe 2021. They are also a core member of the Melbourne birthed queer clown collective, Po Po Mo Co.

Before Sunanda performed, they produced everything from an indie feature film to comedic web shorts such as Broad City’s finale webisode, “I Heart NY”. They’ve also worked with Emmy-winning talent from Hacks, Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and more shows and comedians that you may or may not be a fan of.