How to be a Female Drag Queen

After twelve years of performing as a female drag queen, I've learned a thing or two. I gratefully receive mail from bio girls who want to branch into it so have written a basic go to. As I've said before, I'm nobodys Drag Mother, but I'll be your Auntie.
There aren't any rules to drag, these just apply to my approach to it. Take from it what you will and have a butchers at my other blogs How To Be A Drag Queen and Back to School..Drag 101

1. Is it hard to get into drag?
Yes. There are plenty of people who will tell you you can't be a drag queen because you're a bio female and that drag is only M2F or F2M (particularly those whose only exposure to drag is watching RuPaul's Drag Race and proclaim themselves to be experts). That's utter crap, drag is in the art, not your gender.. There are women doing it, bearded queens, there are trans people doing drag, now that's progress! Anyone can do drag, just respect it's heritage and make it your own.
Drag is expensive, time consuming and you need to be multi disciplined. I'd advise getting into it properly if you have an insane desire to show off. Or have rich parents. 

2.  How do I get gigs?
It's a cliche but it's not what you know, but who. Go to events and clubs, find a group to knock about with and share ideas with, enter competitions, get seen, do free shows. You will do a lot of free shows. And you always will.
Get yourself a strong look, a thick skin and have something to sell.
When I moved from to London from Vienna (where I was doing pretty well around clubs in central Europe), I had to start all over again, it was tough. I sulked a lot and then realised there's no point. Without a (decent) agent to believe in me, I've relied on determination, a love of performing and a bit of hustle to get gigs. If nobody is booking you, create your own, put on a show. Just don't expect to be rolling in a bed of money. Event promotion is tough, few make profit.

3. How do I (insert makeup related question)?
Doing heavy girl makeup isn't drag, you need to pile it on and exaggerate everything. You are attempting to look like a super, over the top, camp cartoonish idea of a glamourous woman, not a cute glittery version of yourself.  I spend an average 90 minutes, 60 at a push and try to make it neat. The face is the focal point, what humans are instinctively drawn to. Invest in a good base, and good brushes. Youtube is full of tutorials. Practice and use heavily pigmented and stage makeup. High street stuff won't cut it. Always clean your face at the end and moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.

4. What about my body?
I don't cinch because women come in a variety of shapes. I'm not a shapely lady (but a big old apple) and can't sing in a corset but it's up to you. One thing I don't do is get my tits out, for me, it defies the whole point. You're asking people to question what they think they know about gender. Drag inhabits a space between masculine and feminine, this should reflect in the whole package. The biggest compliment I get is when people think I'm a fella, even after talking to me.  Keep them guessing. Tickle them with a feather, not the whole chicken.

5. Do I need a talent?
Yes, I think so. If you want longevity, get onstage and perform. If you have a talent for comedy, singing, magic, dance, storytelling, acrobatics, sword swallowing, circus etc all the better. If not, think beyond a straightforward-beginning-to-end lipsynch  and get creative. Chop it up, tell a story, use props, always give it to them hard and commit to what you're doing. Nobody likes a lazy lipsynch.
Don't depend on venues being able to play music from your phone or USB. Burn it to CD (slower the better) and label it with a marker. Buy high res music, stolen stuff from YouTube sounds dreadful on club systems.

6. What should I do about outfits?
Avoid generic high street clothes unless you're going to chop them up, wear them backwards, make them into something else or wear a shit load of accessories. What's the point of looking like any other girl in a generic frock down the disco? You're a queen, stand out.

7. How do I define myself?
 I was once asked how I wanted to be introduced onstage, 'Tranny with a Fanny' fell out of my mouth and it became my strapline. It's mine, it's taken. Thanks.
I sometimes say 'Drag Goddess'. In America, female queens are called Faux Queens, something I'm not personally fond of. Faux means fake and there's nothing fake about me honey. Drag Witch is good. Bio queen, whatever. Hell, you're a human doing drag, call yourself what you want. 

8. Wigs?
I tend to go for unrealistic big wigs these days, I'm also partial to a turban too. I spent the first three years not wearing wigs at all and wrapped a myriad of feather boas around my head, looking like a big feathery microphone. Chuck whatever you want on your head, just wear a damn wig cap. You are creating unrealistic illusion, a fantasy. We don't need to see the daytime you poking out.  

9. Are there problems with misogyny?
Unfortunately yes. You will on occasion get a shady queen trying to tell you you can't do drag. In my experience, these are usually ones without a modicum of talent. Incredibly insecure too.
I recently lost a semi regular gig because of my gender. Despite storming it with the audience, the owners wanted a straightforward  man in a dress.  That glass ceiling is a right bastard, we still live in a world where misogyny is rife and people underestimate the audiences capacity to have an open mind. If I complain, I'm accused of being a bitch, same if I'm tough in business. Sod them. I keep on trucking, not to spite them but because I believe in what I'm doing. 
Suffice to say, I won't be going to Cellar Door again.

10. Is there drag etiquette?
* When a queen has a crown on (usually their wig), address them by their drag name.
* Backstage areas get messy. Keep your shit together, respect those around you and don't steal. Rude.
* Be confident. Confidence is pivotal but there's a fine line between it and arrogance. No need to be an arse. 
* If you're asked not to make mess onstage, don't make mess onstage.
* Never plagiarize another act. It's tacky and you'll be remembered for the wrong reasons.

* Double air kisses is a standard drag greeting (at a bit of a distance to avoid smushing your makeup).
* Don't be noisy or trying to pull focus when another queen is performing, a bit of mutual respect is appreciated.
* Go hard or go home.
* Have fun.
* Be nice.


RuPauls Drag Race UK...not happening just yet.

There's been a good year of speculation about a UK version of RuPaul's Drag Race. Queens have been having minor breakdowns and histrionics at the thought of it happening It's not. Well not just yet anyway.

Rumours have been posted on various websites and fanpages but no official conformation has come from RuPaul or World of Wonder (who produce RuPaul's Drag Race). 

Whenever a 'source' revealed information, drag fans of the internet went berserk. Then a Twitter page started tagging every drag queen in the UK. Again, madness. This was followed by rumour that the show was coming to Channel 5 in September including a picture featuring British TV star and drag hag Jonathan Ross flanked by Michelle Visage and RuPaul. It didn't take much detective work to discover this was a load of cobblers.

1. The photo of Michelle is from her Celebrity Big Brother profile shot.
2. There is no way Ru would not be in the middle
3. Ru wears fancy dresses, not fancy dress.

A quick Google search revealed the same fancy dress sequinned union jack frock in the same pose. Someone has clearly been having fun with photoshop.

Again, you could hear the gullible shrieks of drag delight from Dundee. Finally a supposed trailer appeared, more hysteria.

Finally, Jonathan Ross revealed in Attitude (who themselves fell for the rumour) that while he had approached a few channels about doing a UK version, it hadn't been picked up yet.
Calm your shit down dears.

So why all the rumours and speculation? Whoever has been spreading title tattle as gospel, honey, the jig is up. You have successfully managed to make my facebook feed full of insane drag fans. You've done a magnificent job of winding everyone up but it's time to give it up. Do you work in PR or the tabloids? You really should. I commend you for an excellent rouse but maybe channel your talents into something worthwhile?

Why do I care? Well I write for World of Wonder who produces the show (I'm currently on #VisageWatch while Ms Visage, the lady of the big bassoms, is in the Celebrity Big Brother house) and have hosted the official UK screening of RuPaul's Drag Race for the past two years in London (and will be doing so again for season 7, details imminent). I'm also a bit concerned about the hysteria the show causes among rabid fans.

 I recently performed with Latrice Royale, have worked with Bianca Del Rio, Michelle Visage and have met a few of the Drag Race stars. Nice people, hard working queens, great performers. But the way some drag fans react to them is as if they are celestial beings. They all shit out of the same hole as you darling. They are drag queens who have been on TV. That's it.
Yes they're great but do you treat your local queens with such reverence? It saddens me to hear of incredible non Drag Race 
American queens getting zero tips from an audience, followed by Drag Race alumni who make it rain (even if they don't know the words and spend the whole performance begging). Tip the fierceness, not the fame.

And while I'm here, I'm sick of drag bores who “cluck”, “bitch”, “Mamma” and “hunty” themselves silly and profess to know everything about drag after only watching a well crafted and produced TV show. It'd be like saying you know about world politics if you only watched Fox News. No, no you don't.

Support and tip your local queens, they are as talented and incredible as the ones on TV. Most translate better live when you can actually smell them.
Please talk to them like they are real people (we don't need you spouting clich├ęs in our faces) and finally, don't be gullible or
 believe a thing until RuPaul Charles spills the tea himself.


P.S. I've been short-listed for Best Drag Act at the London Cabaret Awards!!!
Don't think I'll win but really is nice to be nominated, never mind short-listed! 

Why Harry Hill's Stars in Their Eyes is brilliant

New year, time for new Saturday night prime time TV schedule and ITV have brought us a recycled and pumped up version of 90s singing competition Stars in Their Eyes and it. is. brilliant!!!

I missed the first competitor (Kylie impersonator and dog groomer from Slough) as I was tuned into series 4 of The Voice on BBC1 (the format as dull and predictable as ever and new edition Rita Boreoff makes me sleepy. I'm sure she's a lovely girl but she's all PR, no product). Within minutes of turning over to 'Stars', I was excited.

It's glorified karaoke with added panto and doesn't try to be anything else.
The contestants aren't looking for fame, they want to sing a song, dressed and sounding vaguely like their pop idols and have their moment on the tele. The sketches and links between each song are typical Harry Hill;  a man arrives with a bag of smoke, there's a little chant about Slough, Adele's missing baby hidden in a sideboard, huge paper mache heads and the entire cast come on at the end to sing garbled lyrics over the theme tune. This is British working class entertainment and it's finest, most honest and most surreal.

I'm usually against format changing of good shows (Andi Peters destroying Top of the Pops for example)  but this is a bold and brilliant move from a station usually conservative and dull in it's programming.
Social media detractors have complained about Hill and his team destroying the format of the beloved 'so bad it's good' show yet this is largely from a generation of TV viewers used to a manipulated back story, forced tears and Ant N Dec or Dermot O'Leary looming around. Reality talent competitions are promoted under a guise for a 'search' for the next big thing. Yet with so many former contestants cast aside, the audience are now fully aware that the only winner is Simon Cowell.
In Stars, there's no snobbery, nasty critiques, chair turning or dismissing peoples talents. Everyone is celebrated.

Maybe its too clever for people who prefer to be forced fed how to feel with emotive Westlife key changes and clever editing but I urge you to jump on the celebration of  the absurd. Don't watch it expecting a credible array of talent. It's a daft, silly cartoon with a spot of karaoke.

Stars in Their Eyes 2015 is everything prime time TV should be. It's camp, ridiculous, funny and did I say camp? And hurrah for that being on mainstream TV.


So that was 2014

Another year has flown by, and what a year!

I started off being in a protest advert about the Sochi Winter Olympics (that nobody saw) but did my own little protest song. Had my solo show Sorry I'm A Lady commissioned by Central School of Speech and Drama as well as a special Love Edition run at Vogue Fabrics. Was a mentor for the 8 week long Trannyshack Academy with one of my girls, Ruby Wednesday going on to win the whole thing!

Hosted the official UK screening of RuPaul's Drag Race again and performed with season six winner Bianca Del Rio four four nights at The Meth Lab as well as judging a ball with fellow drag goddess, Michelle Visage.
Played with a new character, Fat Madonna (she's had enough of yoga and macrobiotics, moved to the north of England and got fat. And goes dogging) and was photographed for a book about boobs, Bare Reality.

Was on a panel about fat performers (I'm not one, just a performer who happens to be fat) and Jean Paul Gaultier complemented my wig. I DJed for the Mayor of Camen, Sink The Pink, Songs of Praise, Dalston Superstore, The Black Cap, my nights POP! (which goes monthly from February), Handbag (90s house party) and the final Popstarz at The Coronet.

Closed the Sink The Pink Summer Ball with fellow pop poof Dan Gillespie Sells 
singing Enough is Enough (No More Tears) and did my annual hosting at the Fringe! Queer Film FestivalPopped to Glasgow, Hastings, Bristol and Manchester and discovered a whole plethora of amazing drag at Cha Cha BoudoirManaged to clamber onto the pub drag circuit, leaning that any of my slightly obscure stuff just won't do. They want a familiar sing-a-long, that I can do.
I finally got over myself and took Sorry I'm A Lady to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which was better than I could have ever imagined. Even got a four star review in a national paper
Performed to a few thousand people on the main-stage at Copenhagen Pride and then did my multi task, singing and DJing thing for the wonderful T-Lounge.

Started recording new material with Nessim Molder (coming soon) and writing a concept album. Did a turn or two at Shoreditch House and directed my first panto staring The FamilyyyFierce which was incredible. I worked them hard but my goodness it paid off (so good, it's having a redux, tickets).
The documentary I founded, D.R.A.G. (Dressed As A Girl) about the East London alternative drag scene, has been sliced and diced and will be released in 2015.
Also had a little documentary made about me...

Holestar - The Tranny with ........ from Jonathan Stow on Vimeo.

I appeared in a Vice mag article about Faux Queens (which is odd. I'd never call myself one, nothing fake about me), was interviewed for Out There magazine and Marcus Reeves for his Behind The Mask show and photographed for an exhibition about makeup transformations that will be at the MOMA. In New York. Yep, going to NYC, it's been a while.
2014 was
 closed giving the Alternative Christmas Speech for This Is Cabaret and taking Let's Get Quizzical to the Royal Festival Hall.

For 2015, I intend to take Sorry I'm A Lady on tour to reach more queer people to encourage them to be who the hell they want to (funding and finding a producer who believes in it permitting) and returning it to Edinburgh.
I want to make more more music as well as finish my concept album (based on a theory by art group The Residents and young people's limited capacity to listen to an entire pop record).
After many a false start, hopefully my Dragony Aunt column, 'What's Your Problem?' will finally get off the ground (not having a maternal bone in my body, I'm nobodies Drag Mother but everyone's Drag Aunt.).

Of course my ultimate ambition is still to perform at the Eurovision Song contest. Anyone have contacts in San Marino, Malta or Cyprus? (I'm deadly serious!!!)

It's been ruddy good year. After eleven years of dressing up and parading around like Dolly Parton on acid, I still love it and grateful to anyone who has supported me in any way.
I'm never going to be rich and famous but if I can inspire at least one person to love who they are, then my work is done.

Have a fabulous 2015!

Homo and transphobic hate crimes in Soho

Soho used to be a fun filled den of iniquity where gays, prostitutes and drunk legends convened to play side by sideThe law may have become more favorable for LGBTQI people in the UK but there has been a recent increase of homo and transphobic hates crimes in the area.

I used to think Old Compton Street in Soho was Disneyland and found it one of the most exciting places in the world, where anything seemed possible. It didn't matter what you wore or who you chose to sleep with, it was all part of the joyous cocktail of humanity.
In the late 90s, I was sat outside Old Compton Cafe one sunny mid-week afternoon (a 24 hour cafe that was utterly brilliant at any hour to eat, drink, smoke and hang out in various states. It's now Balans Cafe). Three noisy lads came stomping down the street, rowdy, swigging beer cans and started shouting aggressive homophobia once they worked out they were in Gay Town. A man nearby stood up and shouted “no boys, go away, you're on our patch now”. Another stood up supporting him, then another until all of us who were sat outside various establishments joined in. They soon awkwardly shuffled off towards Shaftesbury 
Avenue looking well and truly embarrassed to have been told off by a bunch of poofs. We all nodded and smiled at each other. Justice had been done.
It felt like a bold act of 
comradery that while the world might not tolerate queers just yet, Old Compton Street is sacred gay ground. Gay area, gay rules. Fast forward to summer 2014 and it's not the same place.
Within the past few months alone, there have been numerous homophobic attacks in Soho. Not merely verbal, many physical. Several queer friends have been attacked in an area that used to be our safe zone.

A friend who has done a huge service to London's queer community was told he wa
s a disease and needed to be cleansed before being beaten. Another was pulled around by their hair for intercepting a young queen being abused. Numerous other have been told they're disgusting freaks, called every name under the sun and threatened with violence for being so abhorrent. Simply for being different to the heteronormative norm. What the fuck is happening?

Where are the police and what are they doing about this? Every time an incident happens, people are actively encouraged to report the incident in the hope that there will be some kind of justice. However, the punch on the nose I received for intercepting a transphobic attack 
on New Years Day 2013 has remained in the vaults. We had the guys phone and it happened on Piccadilly, but were told they can't trace the phone and there is no CCTV evidence. One, it was a phone that you'd need a contract for. Secondly, no CCTV on Piccadilly? Really?
The police couldn't be bothered. Some queers get bashed, ah well, too much paper work to be arsed. Yeah, thanks for that.
Despite my own crap experience, we should still report attacks.
I've always been of the belief that the law will act if there are statistics. Well I'd like to think so.

It's not just physical attacks that are the problem. There are numerous hustlers and shady dealers who hang around certain spots in Soho who are openly hostile and verbally homo and transphobic. As are some of the rickshaw drivers who loiter for punters. Same goes for the door staff of various clubs.
I moaned about the lack of police presence in Soho recently on Facebook and was told that they are very helpful regarding gay owned and run businesses. Quite possibly when it comes to box ticking and doing their 'community bit' but where is the on-the-street action? Where the hell are they when these attacks are happening so regularly in such a small area? 
Why hasn't the press picked up on this? If this kind of abuse was regularly happening to any other minority group, there'd be an outcry. 

So what can we do? Rally a queer lynch mob? That sounds fabulous and as much as I'd personally like to spend time in a locked room with a baseball bat with these bigoted arseholes, if you fight fire with fire, you just get more fire.
Look, I'm nobody. Just someone angry with an opinion who thinks innocent people deserve to be and feel safe. 
We need proper action. Do you know somebody who knows someone who can actually do something? Contacts in the mainstream media? A pushy MP? Someone with power and influence?
If there is something in the national press about this, surely the police would have to act or have a visible presence on the streets?
Ultimately homo and transphobia needs to be eradicated but until that happens, we need the law and Westminster to get off their arses and support us.
We need to support each other too. Less apathy, more action.


Note. There are numerous homo and transphobic attacks happening regularly all over the UK and this needs to be addressed as a whole.
I've written about Soho as it's an isolated area where many incidents are happening.

P.S.  It's all good and well preaching to the converted but this needs to be more than a gay media issue but a national one for any change.
Many people believe since queers can now marry, all the problems have just magically disappeared when out here on the ground, it seems to be getting worse.