I still remember the first time I saw a real life drag queen in the flesh. It was my first time to The Court Hotel, one of the two competing gay venues in Perth. It was a performance of a number from the musical, Wicked, and before me bellowed this larger than life character, with a green painted face and the witch-look down to a tee. I remember being completely blown away, a bit scared, but fascinated at the same time.
Later on in the night I found out that this was Val Uptuous (now Val Nourished), and it’s fair to say that she is legendary to the world of drag in Western Australia. Over the years, with many nights spent with friends at both The Court and Connections nightclub, I met many a drag queen. My view of them went from being enigmas who performed but remained unapproachable to the general public, to friendly faces who you’d always see out and about and maybe have a chat to. They became a necessity to take a photo with and they have garnered much more support in more recent years, from not just the LGBT community, but the wider public.
Still – I can’t help thinking that part of that fear that I once felt, part of that curiosity, is all part of the appeal in the first place. As someone who has never had the desire to take drag up myself (God I would make an ugly woman), I questioned a drag queen’s motives in the first place. And I think there’s a lot of people who do.
There’s always the common questions like:
– Do they just like to dress up as girls?
– Do they want to “be” girls?
– Is it for attention?
Naively, I partly believed that myself until the day I was told first hand that drag wasn’t just an excuse to wear womens’ clothing. Drag is actually an artform, an artistic form of expression the same way literature, music or fashion is. It incorporates bold fashion statements with dance, music and if you’re particular talented – acting. I began looking more closely at performances and learned to appreciate them as purely artistic performances.
Drag has become very popular with the younger generations, however, I am convinced that there is a lot more to it than just putting on make-up, wearing a wig and giving yourself a catchy name. This is why it pains me to see new “drag queens” popping up all over Facebook, looking like exact replicas of each other. It shouldn’t be about the “in” thing to do amongst recently matured gays. And if you are going to take it up – at least put some effort and creativity into it.
Pictured above: Feminem – who has incorporated a colourful drag flair with nightclub DJing.
I also think it is concerning the amount of younger gay guys who don’t seem to have any career direction in their lives, and their whole lives seem dominated by drag. When all is said and done, I am not of the opinion that drag is a great career move. Sure, the real breakthrough drag acts (honourable mentions to Val, Feminem, Hannah Conda and Ruby Jewels) will make money from it, and can be successful. But I think you’ll find that they have been smart about it and combined it with other talents. Not to mention, they have persevered and showed a lot more creativity than most.
By all means do it if it makes you happy, but remember the bigger picture. Remember that in ten years time when all your friends have stopped going out (and trust me, they will) you are still going to need somewhere to live and still will have bills to pay. My final gripe is; remember that you are creating a character, but separate that character from your real persona. Many a drag queen can get away with being savagely “bitchy” while in drag, because it’s all part of the act and it keeps things interesting.
But be careful that your drag character doesn’t become your identity.