Roem: “There is so much color in Tilburg, but the city doesn't show it yet"

| Sanne Leenders

June is a month full of color in which we all emphasize that you can be who you are. In this edition we speak with Willem Pasterkamp. Better known as Roem. Roem has been known for several years on platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. Later, the talent show program RuPaul's Drag Race Holland caused even more commotion in the life of the brand new resident of Tilburg. According to Roem, the Tilburger is colorful, but is the city colorful too? You can read all about it in this edition of Unfiltered.
Photos: RAWCAT media 

It might not be the first place you think of when you think of a progressive village: Urk. Yet this is where Roem lived for 20 years. "As an openly gay man and drag queen, it was not the easiest place for me to live. I studied to be a teaching assistant, because I always thought I wanted to be a theater teacher." That turned out just a little differently. "Eventually I became a man in a dress," jokes Roem. "That's my career now."

"I was afraid of drag queens"

Roem used to be terrified of drag queens. Something you can't imagine now. "I was obsessed with parody videos as a kid and then once saw a video where two drag queens were imitating Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. It scared me, but at the same time drew me in a lot. The transformation with wigs and makeup, I loved it! When I was twelve, I created a YouTube channel where I walked around in wigs. So not much has changed."

RuPaul's Drag Race Holland

Roem found and still finds the portrayal of a character interesting. But also the clothing, make-up and putting on a show. The total picture, in other words. Roem: "Before I knew it, I was in the bathroom with my sister's make-up. As soon as my parents left for church, I went to work. When they came back, I quickly jumped in the shower so they wouldn't see anything. That's how my drag and the growth of my own social media channels began."

Five years later, in February 2020, Roem was asked to appear on the television series RuPaul's Drag Race Holland. "I was immediately labeled a social media queen, because dancing in a gay bar was not something I did. Who goes there all the way from Urk? My outlet has always been social media because of that."

"By playing someone else, you find yourself."

Punk, big spikes, chokers, leather and neon colors. Roem claims to not look like the glamorous woman, but the "futuristic cyborg". A kind of fake human with a robot look. Some of Roem's clothes come from Tilburg. Roem: 'When I moved to Tilburg I met the designer Joëlle who makes the most beautiful dresses under the name House Of LaJoel'. It's all huge, really a princess fantasy!"

But, a beautiful dress is not the only thing drag embraces. Roem: "It takes about three hours to get the look you see in the picture. When I look like this, I create content for YouTube, TikTok and Instagram or collaborate with a magazine. Thanks to drag, I've gotten out of my comfort zone more. I used to be a bit shy and didn't dare say much, but when you have the clothes and everything on, you feel different. Here in Tilburg people love carnaval. Therefore I think that these people understand how you feel different when you walk around with a costume, a wig and a face full of make-up. It does something magical to you."

"Drag does something magical to you"

Roem walked around with that thought for a long time. And to be fair, we all know how good it feels to escape reality for a while, in which you think something can't or shouldn't be done. But why hide that behind a shell? That was what Roem was wondering. "Now in everyday life I also wear men's and women's clothes interchangeably. What does it matter? Why can't I wear extravagant makeup when I go to town? The walls go down, so to speak, and the lines between everyday life and drag become blurred."

"Even in Urk they talk about Pink Monday and the Tilburg fair"

Roem has been living in Tilburg for about a year now and has never been to Pink Monday. "It was not possible for me to go here from Urk," he says. Unfortunately, the coronavirus throws a spanner in the works this year as well and Pink Monday as we are used to cannot take place. "I would have really liked to experience it, because even on Urk you can hear people talking about Pink Monday and the Tilburg fair."

"A lot of creative people live in Tilburg."

We are curious what a fresh resident thinks of the city. Roem: "My image of Tilburg is still forming. In my opinion, Tilburg has a village mentality that appeals to me. The people are down-to-earth and don't like to go crazy, but everything is possible. Yet I would like it to be Pink Monday every day here. Because during such a day it is very pleasant here, but on Tuesday you are 'weird' again to some people. People say that they don't care what I look like or if I walk hand in hand with my boyfriend, but in reality it can be different sometimes. This is not only in Tilburg, I also notice this in other cities."

"To me, Tilburg is also a city full of creative people. A jumble of people who can do anything: painting, makeup, artist or model. The people in Tilburg are ambitious and there is a lot of potential!"

Everyone in drag for a day

Roem, unlike many others, does see color in the city. "Tilburg has a rainbow crosswalk and here and there pride flags are flying. When I walk through the city I see beautiful buildings and nice places. Tilburg really does have character. But as far as I'm concerned, it's precisely that character that they could show a bit more." So, character and more color. Should Roem become mayor of our city for a day, there is a solution. Roem: "We put all Tilburg residents in drag for a day. I wish everyone could feel completely free and untroubled for a while by means of drag. Not to judge too quickly, but just to be together. Not just on Pink Monday, but even on a cold winter day in December."

Unfiltered opinions of the people of Tilburg

Within this section, we give creative people from Tilburg a stage. A ticket to... the expression of their unfiltered opinion about the city. Are you curious who else has something to say about Tilburg besides Rutger van de Wiel? Then take a look at these interviews: