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British Eleganza Part 2: Conversations with UK drag artists Bruise, Cookie Monstar and LoUis CYfer

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Welcome to British Eleganza, a series of article showcasing the talents and stories of UK drag queens and artists

In our first instalment, I discussed the importance of celebrating drag entertainers outside of Drag Race, and explored the meaning of drag with Cheryl Hole, Ellie Clark and The Vivienne.

 In Part 2, I am continuing the conversation with drag artists Bruise, Cookie Monstar and LoUis CYfer. Bruise is an equal parts freak and chic drag queen heralding from Glasgow. Cookie, also known as Richard in this article, is a classy, sassy, dynamic queen with more than one character up her sleeve. LoUis is a drag king who is part gender warrior, part female masculinity activist. We talked about everything from the creation of drag names to social media and the craft of constructing a look.

How long have you been doing drag and why did you start?

Bruise: I have been doing drag makeup for three years and I started performing two years ago. I began doing drag because I studied contemporary art and in my final year I chose the theme of gender for our graded unit - I wanted to push the boundaries of my work. It began as a one-time thing, but here I am 3 years on!

 Richard: I started in August 1996, 22 years this year. I had moved to NYC to pursue an acting career and fell into drag. I discovered a bar called The Crow Bar in the East Village which had regular shows and I became curious about the whole scene. Someone at work suggested I do drag, so I entered a local competition and the rest, as they say, is history.

LoUis:  I have been performing professionally as LoUis CYfer for 4 years. I was troubled by societies’ ideologies about gender during my MA studies and decided to use my creativity to explore that, coming up with the character LoUis CYfer. After I graduated, I worked on the doors at various cabaret venues. I noticed a lack of Drag Kings at shows, so I entered a competition called Drag Idol and I won. I’ve been doing LoUis ever since.

 

                              Drag artist Bruise 

How did you come up with your drag name?

Bruise: I used to paint bruises and love bites on canvas, I loved how they were always different but still beautiful in their own way. I thought that could be my name because I never look the same twice, I’m constantly growing and trying new things with my drag, be it makeup, new looks or performances.

Richard: Out of playing. The restaurant where I was working in NYC – myself and my friend were bored while working a shift so we created two characters – one was called Sabrina and the other Cookie. I added the MonStar bit later.

LoUis: My name, Lucy, comes from the Latin Luicifer - meaning light-bringer. I felt being a Drag King I might bring some light to the idea of female masculinity as a performance art. The name is masculine, but with a secret. In LoUis CYfer you can see the word LUCY spelt in capitals through his name as a sort of Easter egg to the relationship between myself and my alter ego. 

What do you think is the importance of social media for drag artists these days?

Bruise:  Social media is a key point in today’s generation of drag. You need to say and do the right things because once it’s online it’s there forever. I like to take peoples’ opinions into consideration, asking on social what people would like to see me do next. Plus, I have a range of merchandise available on dragqueenmerch.com and Redbubble.com.

Richard: It’s a very useful tool to market yourself, but I think people can spend too much time on it. I come from a time before social media when we did it all by hand, physically spreading the word. I like to see my “stars” when they’re being “stars”, not when they’ve just woken up or posted pictures of their meal – it dilutes the illusion.

LoUis: Social media is imperative for drag artists, but every platform has different advantages. For example, Snapchat is a great platform for my followers to see my raw side, whereas Instagram is where I’m very brand focused. It’s substantial admin but it enables a lot of growth, it is a constant networking opportunity.

 

                              Richard/Cookie

What excites you about the UK drag scene right now?

Bruise: The UK drag scene is in its prime right now! In Scotland alone I’d say we have over 50 queens and it’s growing constantly. Glasgow is one of the most creative drag scenes you will ever come across, it is very conceptual. I’ve met some of my best friends in the UK drag scene and managed to go to places I never thought I could, all because of drag!

Richard: The diversity – there’s so many different genres of drag and it’s so popular right now. Artists are experimenting and pushing boundaries in new ways, it’s an exciting time!

LoUis: I’m most excited about the migration drag artists are making from cabaret spaces to theatre. Having two shows in the West End that focus around drag is a huge step forward for visibility, and hopefully, we will see a Drag King centred show that promotes our end of the spectrum. Besides this, the best thing about our drag is the relationships we build as we strive towards recognition away from the binary brains at the top of the pyramid.

 

                             LoUis CYfer

Where can people come see you perform and/or what projects are you working on right now?

Bruise: You can see perform on Thursdays at Trigger nightclub in Glasgow. I’m also doing a drag masterclass at NYX makeup this month and will be starting my Youtube Channel later this year. Of course, you can always see what I’m up to on Twitter and Instagram!

Richard:  With Cookie it’s easiest to go to my website which is updated with shows monthly and Sheila does “Busy Lady Bingo” every Tuesday, more info can be found at www.sheilasimmonds.com!I’ve just finished a feature documentary “Pink Feathers” which is currently screening at festivals all over the world. London screenings will be around June/July. And, of course, I’m on Instagram.

LoUis: You can see me in drag every Wednesday at the Admiral Duncan in Soho, or you can come see me in Lancaster this summer as I take on the role of D’Artagnan in a queer retelling of The Muskateers, with Duke's theatre. I’m online at Twitter and Instagram

 

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