How To Be A Drag Queen

I've written a piece for the winter 2013 edition of Beige magazine about how to be a drag queen. You may mutter to yourself "who is she to write something like this?" Well after ten years in the "biz", why not me? Only a misogynist would say I have no right to. So there.

Drag is the new club kid, everyone seems to be at it. More the merrier I say but there are a some who could do with a few pointers.
I've no time to be your Drag Mother, see me as a naughty Aunt.
This isn't a definitive guide to drag, merely ideas and suggestions. Take from it what you will.

In the UK, there are currently three types of drag.

'Trad Drag'
These ladies love sequins, a solid wig and singing covers or lip synching. They come from the tradition of music hall and variety, their poster girl, Danny La Rue. It's a grand tradition but there are some on the circuit who rely on being vile to the audience and recycling the same naff lesbian and knob gags. I've no problem with offensive material, just make sure it's funny.

'Fash Drag'
These girls are big on their labels, you won't see them down Pradamark or see their hair poking from behind their wig. Their look is high end fashion, finished, polished and can paint their face to perfection. Frequently party hosts or DJs, occasionally singers and performers. Poster girl; RuPaul.

'Alt Drag'
No rules. These dolls are not aiming for femme realness. More queer gender fuck, dressing up, playing and performing. Some have beards, some are of various genders and some are a complete train wreak. More racy, arty, political and underground than trad drag yet equally accessible. Their poster girl, Divine.

These categories can mix and mingle. I've seen alt girls in a high fashion, sequinned gown lip synching to Streisand. Boxes are for pigeons so do whatever you please, just have fun. When it stops being fun, hang up the wig.

People like drag queens, we're fabulous. You're not the first person to wear a wig honey, so no need to be a bitch. It's a terribly old fashioned and dated look. It is possible to be fierce and friendly.
However, if someone tries to rip your wig off (as a queen, it's your crown) you have my express permission to pull their hair or punch them in the tit.

Like cackling birds, drag queens tend to develop heightened camp behaviour and language. We don't have a British version of the influential show, RuPaul's Drag Race but I'm literally sickening of the overuse of “fishy”, “hunty”, “werk” and other RuPaulisms used by British based queens. Brits created modern drag*, surely we're marvelous enough to create our own language?
(* D.R.A.G. originates from the margins of Shakespeare where women weren’t allowed to perform so male actors had to Dress As A Girl).

* Powders, paints, liners and lipsticks can be purchased from high end to high street, there's goodies to be had at all prices (though I won't endorse a particular brand unless I get some product, tit for tat dear).
* Invest in some good quality brushes and foundation (waterproof if you sweat like I do).
* If you're more Y than X and going for a femme look, cover stubble with beard cover and learn how to contour your face.
* Always define the eyes. If wearing coloured lashes, wear a black pair underneath to open up the eye, otherwise it looks crap.
* Build. Start with less product, add bit by bit and blend, blend, blend.
* Hairspray your finished face. It fucks your skin but keeps it all in place.
* Always remove at the end of the night and moisturise!
* There are numerous makeup tutorials online but every face is different. Just practice.

There's nothing worse than a limp, bag fresh weave. Shake it out, brush it, cut it a little or back-comb the hell out of it, just do something.
Look after your wigs. If you're not keeping yours in a box or on a wig stand, spray it with a fabric freshener, turn it inside out and stick it in a pop sock. An angel dies every time a wig is left to turn into a ratty mess.
And on the subject of hair, if you're going for a super femme look, shave your chest and back. If you're a Bear, enhance it with mascara!

If you're dressing up for fun, go wild but if you're looking to make a career out of gender bending, I'd suggest having or learning some kind of talent. Few get by on just being pretty.
We live in a culture where you don't need talent to be famous or well known. A cold hard fact but get used to it. Sharpen your claws because it can be a jungle out there and some of those cats are lethal (i.e. insecure).

A knowledge of current and past pop culture, divas and stars is essential. I've yet to find an ultimate book of drag heritage but the internet is your friend.
My film tips include Victor/Victoria, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Paris is Burning, The Cockettes, La Cage Aux Folles, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Some Like It Hot, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Wigstock, To Wong Foo, The British Guide To Dressing Up, I Am Divine and everything by John Waters. And French & Saunders.
Be inspired by others but emulate your idols with caution, be your own special creation. Be the best you can be rather than a pale imitation. It's comforting to be part of a tribe that look similar but you run the risk of losing your individuality and blending in. And the only thing you should blend is your make-up.

Be tidy
I'm not the tidiest of people but drag filth boils my wee, especially when sharing a dressing room, which is frequently the case. Have a little consideration for others and get organised, otherwise don't moan when your left shoe can't be found two minutes before show time because of your tardiness.

Lip synchers
Learn your bloody words. It's not hard.
Listen to the song 50 times and learn the breathing and timing of the singer.
When in doubt mouth “watermelon” continuously, spin, swish your head around in different directions and smile.

Respect your transvestite and transgender siblings. Some may not appear as femme fresh as others but don't be judgemental or mean. If you expect respect and to be accepted for who you are, you have to give it too.

Go and see others perform. If we don't support live entertainment, it will disappear and we'll be stuck with cookery shows and reality show numpties forever.Hey, I feel a plug coming on. 

Come see the special Love Edition of my show “Sorry I'm A Lady”. It covers how I became the Tranny with A Fanny, my time in the British Army (hard to believe now I know. Khaki isn't my colour), as a dominatrix and artist, mental health issues and queerness all interjected with a few covers and cabaret versions of my own music. 
Vogue Fabrics, 10th-15th February 2014. 
She you there.

Photo Alex Craddock
Head piece Alun Davis

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