Diego Garijo is known for his career as a mixed martial artist. But many people may not know that he also moonlights as a drag queen called Lola. Although fighting and drag may seem like total opposites, Garijo explains that, to him, the two don’t contradict at all.
“Before my first drag show, I felt just like I do before a fight. In the early days of MMA, I would sit in the same changing room as my opponent before the fights,” he said. “We’d sit, staring at each other, wondering: ‘Can I beat him?’ It was the same at my first drag show competition. A tiny room, eight adults, everyone sizing each other up. I wasn’t nervous though. I have strong nerves. Or maybe I’m just too stupid to be scared.” 
Becoming a Drag Queen Called Lola
Garijo started his MMA career in 2006. However, after seven victories, he had to put it on hold in 2012 due to a detached retina. He’s partially lost his vision as a result. But he wouldn’t let such an injury stop him from fighting. In 2018, he moved into the bloody sport of bare-knuckles boxing. He explained, “I wanted to try it out without the gloves. I wanted to really feel it, I just love fighting. I would probably risk going blind for it.”
Meanwhile, he’s performed as a drag queen called Lola Pistola for over a year. But this interest started at a young age. “There is a photo of me as a six-year-old in which I’m wearing my mother’s bra and panties. She brought me up alone, and I had a couple of gay cousins, so I wasn’t exposed to many traditional masculine stereotypes. Maybe that’s why I can be very feminine. I think people wonder if I’m gay, but they don’t understand that femininity and sexual preference are two completely different things.”
Despite what people may assume, Garijo is straight, with a wife and kids. “Drag, I see it as a performance art, and sexuality is a point completely removed from that.”
Leaving His Comfort Zone
Garijo became inspired to start drag after he took a course on emotional intelligence and was encouraged to leave his comfort zone. “I really enjoy talking in front of lots of people and being the center of attention, but when the word ‘drag’ crossed my mind, I knew: damn, that’s it! I threw myself right into it.” From there, he started dance classes, learned to walk in heels, and got help to pick outfits.
His fearlessness is how he views fighting as well. “I’m not scared to go out there and lose a fight,” he said. “That’s what most people are terrified of. If you talk to a fighter, they feel such shame if they lose a fight: ‘I disappointed my family and all my fans.’ I don’t give a f***.” 
He doesn’t care what anyone thinks — not even his own mom. “My mom says I look ridiculous and hideous in drag, and she’s ashamed of it. But I don’t give a f***. I’m still doing my thing and enjoying it and having a good time.”
But fortunately, Garijo felt accepted as Lola by the drag queen community, in addition to the trans and gay communities. More surprisingly, his passion was also accepted by “big tough fighters.” “Maybe they are also hiding an element of themselves that they would like to bring out more.”
Garijo explained that he was bullied as a child. “It made me feel small, like an outsider. I’ve always been ashamed of everything. Maybe that’s why I’ve created a personality that has no shame. I was humiliated so much as a kid that I swore to myself I would never let it happen again. That’s why I take a step forward in combat when others would take a step back….”
Nevertheless, he works through this childhood trauma to stay mentally strong. He taught himself how to keep going no matter what. And this strength carries him through his drag queen performances as Lola and through his fights.
“I’m known for beating people who are better than me because they mentally break,” he said. “There are fights where they’re literally tired of beating my ass, and they quit mentally. So whatever quality that is — maybe I’m too dumb to get scared — that gives me the confidence to do drag or be more feminine around people.”
And for everyone wondering, what’s worse, getting punched in the face and breaking an acrylic nail? Garijo answers, “Breaking an acrylic fingernail. It’s a nightmare.”