British Eleganza: Conversations with UK drag artists Cheryl Hole, Ellie Clark and The Vivienne
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Over the past few years, drag has increasingly emerged into the spotlight of mainstream media – largely thanks to shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race. While the popularity of Drag Race has in many ways helped to provide visibility and support for drag and LGBTQ issues, it is nevertheless a narrow snapshot of this diverse community. Every day there is incredible work being done by drag artists outside of the show’s sphere, which many fans of the show don’t engage with. Case in point, many UK Drag Race fans don’t know any queens that aren’t RuGirls, and are often unaware of the drag scene in their home city or town. At the end of the day, the more we celebrate local drag performers and creatives, the stronger the UK drag community is as a whole. With this sentiment, I am starting the series, British Eleganza, to showcase the talents and stories of UK drag queens and artists, beginning with the incomparable Cheryl Hole, Ellie Clark, and The Vivienne. Cheryl Hole is a fixture in the UK drag scene who describes herself as the Gemma Collins of drag, a hard-working camp Essex diva missing a few marbles from the jar. Ellie Clark is an AFAB drag queen and makeup artistry student taking social media by storm, one killer look at a time. Last but by no means least, The Vivienne is the official RuPaul’s Drag Race UK ambassador, a self-proclaimed triple threat, and one of the UK’s most accomplished drag queens. In our conversation, we talked about what it takes to become a queen, the meaning of drag, and the drag community in the UK. What encouraged you to become a drag queen and how long have you been doing drag for? Cheryl: I have always had a drag influence throughout my life. I have done theatre and dance shows since the age of 6, and the art of drag is always present in the theatre world. I first started getting into drag in 2016 and had my first gig in August of that year. I hit the ground running and haven’t stopped since! Ellie: I tried drag for the first time in February 2016 and began going out in full drag in July. I got obsessed with transforming my face into different characters using makeup and I found the whole process fascinating. The Vivienne: I’ve been doing drag for 10 years now. I was working as a make-up artist in Liverpool when I got a bar job where a couple of queens performed. I just had to try it and the rest is history! What does drag mean to you? Cheryl: I love drag because I get to produce the work I have always wanted to do. Throughout my life, I have always been influenced by strong female role models, whether in popular culture or in my personal life. I always wanted to be the girl on a world tour selling out arenas, now I get to do that with big show numbers... just on a smaller scale. Ellie: Drag is my form of art as well as gender expression – through drag I’ve become more aware of my sexuality and more comfortable with it. Plus, it encourages me to see what I can achieve with makeup – how far I can change the shape of my face with paint. If I walk into a club in drag I feel like a walking art piece because it’s taken time and effort. Drag has totally changed my life for the better and made me a much happier person. The Vivienne: Drag means everything to me, it’s in my soul, it’s my creative outlook, it’s my political view, it’s my armour. What do you love most about drag: the performing, the fashion, the makeup and transformation, a mix of each?
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