A staple of the gay ‘scene’, the drag queen is often a polarising position of power – some of us adore them, others hate them, but one thing is certain; men dressing as glamorous women for our absolute entertainment has never been more popular in Scotland.
Earlier this month one of our biggest tabloids ran a story about a high profile political activist quitting his Parliamentary job to head to London, pursuing his dream of becoming a drag star. Would this have been a story in our daily newspapers just 10 years ago? If not, what’s changed?
With an explosion of interest and acceptance of drag acts following mainstream shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race, KaleidoScot travels to Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh and speaks to some of the nations drag royalty (and some newcomers) to find out their story, what inspired them to get into drag and to ask what’s with all these new Queens!
JON PLEASED WIMMIN
Profile: I’m from London originally, but have been living in Edinburgh since 2001. I DJ all over the world, from Ibiza to Sydney and can be found regularly at Automatic and The Church of High Kicks at CC’s Blooms, Dare! in Dundee and #Pleased in London. I’m a DJ and a musician, scoring two top 30 UK hits in the 1990’s with ‘Passion’ and ‘Give Me Strength’ on Warner Bros / Perfecto Records. I have a new single coming out in December called ‘Don’t be Scared (Of Yourself) on Razor Recordings. As a DJ i’ve had many unforgettable gigs. Playing at Neil Tennant’s 50th Birthday party was pretty special as was playing at the launch party of Depeche Mode’s Ultra album.
Your Inspiration / Idols: I’ve always been obsessed with playing with image and clothes, so when I left school in 1985 I went to the London College of Fashion to study fashion design. In the late 1980’s I worked with a designer called Rachel Auburn, who DJ’d at seminal clubs like Taboo and Kinky Gerlinky. It was at Kinky in 1990 where, along with two pals (Darren & Peter), we created The Pleased Wimmin. We did ‘cabarets’ and caused general mayhem (pushing prams into the crowd while wearing shell suits with stilettoes, that kind of thing) So I would say it was a natural progression from the melting pot that was fashion and nightclubs in the mid to late 80’s. Rachel Auburn and Gerlinde Kostiff (who ran Kinky Gerlinky) are probably mostly to blame for creating the monster. My family love it, when my first single Passion was out, there were huge posters around London to promote it, my Mum dragged the neighbours out to show them one, proud as punch, bless. My drag idols would have to be Divine, Leigh Bowery, Joan Collins, Jerry Hall, David Bowie, Kate Bush for starters.
On Picking the Name: Coming up with my drag name, well it’s really boring…basically, when I started getting loads of DJ bookings in 1991, promoters were asking me what to put on the flyers / posters, so I just said Jon (of The Pleased Wimmin) as I was known as part of the trio. Over time it just got shortened.
On New Queens: There’s a resurgence amongst the younger gays, mainly due to the Rupaul show becoming such a mainstream hit. I do love Rupaul, but i think it’s important that we maintain a sense our own identities as British queens. We have a long history of drag and a certain edge that we need to hold onto. They need to have Ideas, talent and style. I’d say to them don’t be scared of yourself and have fun!
Profile: Hey everyone, my name is Miss-Tess Tosterone, I’m from the beautiful city of Glasgow. As of October this year you can see me in Edinburgh every Friday, DJ’ing at Planetbar and you can also see me at Menergy in Glasgow in AXM. I’ve always considered myself to be a singer, a dancer and a comedian. I think above all though I’m an entertainer, no matter type of drag. My drag is what, in the drag world, we call “fishy”. This just means I resemble the social traits paired with being a woman. I’d say my style was a little more “ann-summers-esque” – Most of my outfits are lingerie or leotard orientated where my extremely long legs are always on show. Most importantly for my drag I think is the character, I’ve built such a strong character that people have got to know and get on with.
Your Inspiration / Idols: I got into drag when I lived in Birmingham, I worked for a nightclub and bar and they had asked me to perform in drag at a charity night we were hosting. I was a bit hesitant at first but once I performed I loved it and wanted to continue. I’ve been doing drag for just over 2 years now. My family knew from the start that I was going to do drag, they seen the posts and pictures on Facebook. My dad was worried about my safety at first because of the area I live in and how people would take it. Now he’s completely fine with it and they’re all so supportive. I only have one person in my life that I would say is my drag inspiration and that’s my drag mother, Bee Fiarse Beaujambes. She has known me since I was young, before drag at the age of 13/14 and she’s always been in my life. She still helps me even to this day. She’s always going to be the inspiration that carries me ’til the end. I do have drag queens that I look up to and respect for the things they do, like Guillotina Munter, owner of Menergy Glasgow, and Trixie Cummore and Trisha Birmingham from Birmingham. I love the smile and laughter I see in people’s faces when I’m on stage. If people are having fun, then I’ve done my job.
On Picking the Name: My name was a tough one to pick, even though people think it’s really obvious, but we sat discussing names when I lived in Birmingham and obviously with me being from Scotland, I was getting names like “Lady Loch Of Scotland” and “Tellur Nessy”. One day someone said it’s funny that I’m gonna be in drag because of how much testosterone I had at the time, so from then on I was known as “Miss-Tess Tosterone”.
On New Queens: I personally think the fact that LGBT rights have progressed so far, compared to how it used to be in the 60’s -90’s [is what’s behind the resurgence of drag]. Our generation has been encouraged to simply be yourself and to be as creative as you can. That mixed with the fact RuPaul’s drag race has become so popular especially in the UK, we’re learning that drag has become a way to express yourself. Let’s face it, give ANY queen a pair of heels and they’ll strut like they’re at new york fashion week. Bravery makes a good drag queen, not to be afraid to step out in a dress and a face full of make-up. I think creativity and love for the art also makes a good drag queen. I’d say just don’t be afraid to make mistakes – make-up can be washed off, wigs can be sprayed and you can learn to walk in those heels. I think people need to understand there are so many types of Drag Queens and not everyone is the same, we should all give credit and dues to any queen willing to show their love and creativity with the world.
Profile: Hey I’m Lafaunda Cox from Glasgow. I can usually be found stomping the stage at Underground Bar in Glasgow’s Merchant City, especially on a Sunday evening. I have a sharp tongue and a quick wit which is especially helpful when hosting. I like to put my singing in dancing to use when performing live and lip syncing. I’ve only been doing drag since July this year – my first time performing was at the auditions for Pride Glasgow.
Your Inspirations/Idol: I am greatly inspired by the creativity of all the Glasgow queens and have a beautiful drag family around me, headed by the wonderful Bee Fiarse Beaujambes. Latrice Royale of drag race game taught me that it’s okay to be chunky but funky as well as large and in charge. My family have been extremely supportive and some even asked questions to try and understand it more. Every moment I get to entertain a crowd is special and as long as the audience is having a good time, I’m happy.
On Picking the Name: I wanted something witty with a double meaning and an equal measure of filth. A friends’ mum actually inspired it.
On New Queens: Drag is a form of self-expression which allows you to escape what society expects of you. There is a great power that comes from being a man in high heels and it is a great way to break down the barriers between people. I have met friends I would never have spoken to just by putting on a wig. My advice is, don’t copy anyone else. Drag is extremely personal. It’s good to look at others for inspiration, but your drag persona is the ultimate extension of everything you ever wanted to be. Own that – You need sharp wit, a personal style and tenacity.
Profile: I’m Miss Romy Deepcheeks. I’m from Aberdeen (although have an English accent – moved here years ago). You can catch me at Cheerz Bar in Aberdeen every Thursday night for quiz night and every Saturday for a night of whatever. I can also be booked to do private parties – hen do’s, birthdays etc. I sing, I love a wee Abba number! Entertainment is all about having fun, making people laugh and making sure they go home having had a brilliant night. I love feeling totally glamorous and pleasing my crowd.
Your Inspiration / Idol: I got into drag when my first boyfriend took me to Funny Girls in Blackpool. Having not come out until I was 28 (I was married with kids etc, but that’s another story for you) the gay scene was still very new to me. I loved Funny Girls so on my 2nd trip to Blackpool with a friend, we thought we would do drag for one night only for a laugh. Needless to say we looked shit but i loved it and wanted to do it again when I got back to Aberdeen – that was 14 years ago! I didn’t really have anyone to inspire me at the time as drag was very new to Aberdeen and there were no other queens, so just looking on the internet etc gave me ideas of what to do. I do love DJ Zoe from Funny Girls. You should follow her on Facebook. She is my inspiration. I also love DJ Carmen from Flying Handbag in Blackpool. She gave me brilliant make up tips on my last visit and that’s what I base my current look on.
On Picking the Name: Well, there was a character on Queer as Folk called Romy and I liked the name as it was unusual. The Deepcheeks part came from one of my work colleagues at the time in reference to how much dick I could take – well you did ask! My family all know about Miss Romy and are supportive. My daughters (20 & 17), who live with me, just love it. The eldest frequently brings her friends into Cheerz because they think it must be so cool to have a dad as a drag queen. There’s not alot of kids can say that. I love being a drag queen and still get a buzz when I know I look good. Still get excited when I get a new frock, new wig etc. It’s a job that is never a chore to do.
On New Queens: I think drag is becoming more popular because they love the glamour – show me a young queen who doesn’t crave attention! I’d say confidence, style & sharp wit are most important for newbies, just don’t ask to borrow my wigs.
Profile: Hello – my name is October Fist (like the German beer festival but with a bit more something-something), and I’m from Glasgow! You can find me performing at Menergy in AXM or hosting Ball Drag Bingo at Hillhead Bookclub each month! I guess you could call me an entertainer, my goal is to always make sure the audience go away with a smile on their face (and I go away with a free drink in my hand). Recently after doing a show I met a girl who had travelled up from Lancaster who knew of me through Instagram. She was so overwhelmed coming to her first ever drag show and meeting so many queens she started to cry when I was talking to her. It was such a surreal, but humbling moment to realise that even if you’re just a ‘lil gay boy in a dress parading around on stage, what you do can still really touch someone. It was a lovely moment!
Your Inspiration / Idol: I’ve been messing around with drag for roughly 2 years now. I first got into drag watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and one day decided to give it a try myself. I did it for Halloween and I was hooked. Youtube was my drag-mamma back in the early days, but now I’ve got a good circle of queens around me who I can rely on! I’d say Raja (winner of season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race) was the first drag queen who really made me go “wow, this is amazing!”, athough she’s model-thin and undeniably beautiful, so we’re quite different really! My biggest inspiration is probably Willam Belli (again from Drag Race), she’s a bit of a bitch and has a big jaw, so I can relate to her. My family do know, my dad made me send him some pictures of me in drag so he can show them to his friends to “really confuse them” and my mum keeps hassling me to do her make-up for Halloween this year, so yeah, they’ve been pretty supportive. I’ve always been the weird one in the family, so I don’t think this really surprised anyone.
On Picking the Name: Well I studied German at university, so I always wanted a play on something German, and I was born in October. I just pieced two and two together and threw in a lewd reference to fisting and history was made!
On New Queens: Being just 22, I’m one of those younger gay men, so I can only really speak for myself. I think the popularity of Drag Race has made people realise that drag is more than just a middle-aged man in a dress making jokes about being a middle-aged man in a dress. Drag has so many facets to it, and Drag Race has helped to thrust those more into the mainstream. Drag’s got some fresh wind under its wings now, and it’s definitely riding high, and I’m so glad to be part of it! My advice is that a self-deprecating sense of humour, good taste in shoes and high quality make-up are important. I mean you can wear some Maybelline if you want, but you definitely weren’t born with it. Most of all, have fun! Drag is about having a good damn time. Who cares if you look a bit silly or walk funny in heels at first – you’ll get better with time. Just make sure you’re enjoying yourself! Oh and follow me on Twitter @theladyoctober
BEE FIARSE BEAUJAMBES
Profile: My Name is Bee Fiarse Beaujambes, I live in Glasgow but I’m originally from a wee village in South Lanarkshire. You can find me in Underground bar every Tuesday and Sunday evenings for Karaoke and Saturday afternoons for Bingo. I also MC the monthly Menergy @AXM which has a different US drag star headlining every month! I’m a performer first and foremost; I love to sing, dance, sashay and make people smile. The best part of my job is making people feel good. The party never stops when I’m in charge! Performing at Pride in front of thousands has definitely been the most exciting highlight for me. I used to dream when I was walking through a field with my ipod in, that I was performing to thousands and never believed it would happen – well it did and it made me realise that anything is possible if you work hard.
Your Inspiration / Idol: I’ve been doing drag professionally for almost 4 years but I had an interest and passion for it since I was about 11. I watched a film as wee country boy called Too Wong Foo, which has Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes playing fierce outrageous drag queens. I remember when my mum would leave the house; I would sneak into her cupboard get the make-up out and pretend I was them. Lots of queens have a Drag Mother but I found my own way and have now picked up a litter of glittery kittens of my own! I’m inspired by anyone who puts on some make up, a wig and a pair of stilettos, but my idol would have to be RuPaul. He says that drag is a political statement in itself, leaving the house as a man dressed as a woman is like saying “hey society, fuck you…I don’t follow your rules”. Ru is intelligent and fierce, he inspires me and if I am to look up to anyone in my six inch stilettos its Mama Ru. My own mum absolutely loves it; she is my biggest supporter and fan! My whole family know what I do, although my grandparents have never seen me in action, I’m sure they would enjoy it. I find if your family love you for you, they will support you in anything you do.
On Picking the Name: It kind of happened by happy accident, my friends had always called me B for short, so I wanted to incorporate that into my drag name and being a life long dedicated follower of her-fierceness Beyonce, I also wanted to play around with Sasha Fierce, so I thought “I’ll make it FiARSE” because arse makes it funny then my mum turned round to me and said “oh Beefy Arse, hahaha” I added the Beaujambes just to bring a touch of sophistication, I’m a classy bitch after all!
On New Queens: I think RuPaul’s Drag Race has definitely been a major factor in a re-birth of drag in this country. I think historically, drag in the UK was very narrow and limited to sequin dresses and feather boas, which didn’t speak to me or my generation. I think the fact that drag is now something accessible and can be whatever you want it to be is the reason so many young queens are becoming BIG QUEENS! I know from living in Glasgow and doing nights such as Menergy the drag scene is bursting with Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent! I’d say it’s really important to have a hard work ethic, willingness to learn (and sometimes fail) and a passion for drag. Oh and never become your ego, never allow your ego to overtake the performer, we are just boys playing dress up after all, don’t take yourself too seriously!
Profile: I’m Nancy Clench, originally from Fife and I currently call Glasgow my home. That’s all about to change, however, as I’m in the process of packing my sizeable trunk to scuttle off down south and overthrow Vanity von Glow as the top Scottish Queen on the London Scene. First and foremost I’m a comedian, but I can be a dab hand at pretty much all talents – apart from lip-syncing, that’s a waste of time – those lips can kiss my ass. Most people would probably say I’ve no talent – but something’s gotta be there to get 5 stars at the Edinburgh Fringe! Performing at there was most definitely a highlight, although the hallowed stage of Trannyshack has got to be up there too, but there are so many more.
Your Inspiration / Idol: Nancy appeared a long time ago, probably before most of these new queens were born! I’ve been on the scene for 5 years now, that makes me feel old. I’ve never been one for listening to other people so I don’t have a specific idol and I’ve never had a “Drag mamma” – I just did my own thing – and at the start it was shit, I know that. Nobody inspires the Clench. My family come along to my shows, and given that they make up the majority of my jokes, I’m surprised they keep coming back. I guess that’s just a ringing endorsement!
On Picking The Name: Formally, I was Dame Nancy y’know. I wrote to the Queen to give back my Damehood when she let that homophobe Brian Souter get Knighted, so now its just Nancy Clench. Liz was fine with that and we still talk regularly – she’s well excited about me coming to London.
On New Queens: Well you see, boys want to do drag more because when they come over to my place, they check out my closet and just want to be involved. Grindr has a lot to answer for. But what’s really important is talent, talent, talent. So many queens like to dress up and there’s nothing wrong with that – but Drag is performance art, so make it such. And for fuck sake learn to pick up and microphone and talk to punters! Just be yourself and do your own thing – everyone has their own agenda so don’t let people take you down the wrong path!
Nancy Clench has been a strong supporter of LGBTI rights in Scotland and an active campaigner for equality, including the Equal Marriage campaign. She has been a regular staple of the Glasgow gay scene for many years and has proven to be an outspoken Queen who shouts loudly for what she believes, as do many of the drag queens around Scotland. Speaking to KaleidoScot before heading to the bright lights of Soho, she told us:
“My time in Glasgow is coming to an end. Who’d have thought, four years ago when I took to the stage in Speakeasy, forgetting all my lyrics to my songs and just shouting at the audience, that I’d be where I am today. London is a new and exciting chapter to my life, and I do want to thank everyone in Glasgow and across Scotland for making me the Queen I am today. Without those audiences, great friends and amazing family I wouldn’t be able to take this career to the next level – so I’m looking forward to it! Come to my Farewell Show, Tales of Glasgow, at The Riding Room on November 1st at 8pm. Tickets available at http://www.nancyclench.com “
With thanks to Erica Von Stein and Perlie Frisch for use of artist photographs in this article.