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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?

Cheryl: The passion for drag I have is through performing - everything else is a bonus feature. Nothing can top the thrill of death dropping and hearing the cheer from the audience. I love to make sure everyone is having a good time, whether I'm performing, DJ-ing, or interacting after the show. I will admit… I absolutely detest doing makeup! If I could have a Cheryl mask that I can slap on with a black smoky eye and a red lip, I'd hit that stage in 3.4 seconds flat. 

Ellie: My favourite thing about drag is the makeup. As a makeup artist, my skill has improved so much through drag. I love being able to paint anything on my face, transforming the way I look, or using special effects. I like everything from doing spooky dark looks to something glam and feminine. 

The Vivienne: I LIVE to perform. Looking beautiful is one thing, but making people laugh, cry or think is whole different game for me!

Who or where do you find inspiration from as a drag queen? 

Cheryl: My inspiration derives from a lot of places. People like Gaga and bands like Girls Aloud have played a huge influence in my performances and visuals. In terms of queens, Alyssa Edwards is a big influencer in my drag style so to have worked & performed alongside her has been an absolute honour! 

Ellie: My drag is versatile and unique. Instagram is my main social media outlet, I find nearly all my inspiration for looks on there by other drag artists, makeup artists and designers. I like to recreate looks, but also adjust looks inspired by other artists to make them my own. 

The Vivienne: I find my inspiration from strong women! Whether it be a real life bad ass bitch or a Disney villain. I also find inspiration from other queens, I love keeping up with trends, and setting a few too.

What do you think makes the drag community in the UK distinctive and rich? 

Cheryl: What I love about the UK drag community is that there is so much diversity but we all share the same fundamentals of UK culture.

The Vivienne: The UK drag scene is so diverse - which I live for! Bio queens, trans performers, club Kids, gender f**kery, you want it - we’ve got it! 

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

Cheryl: You can regularly catch me twirling on the stage at Her Upstairs in Camden, many of the Glitterbomb venues, including Cambridge, Reading and Kingston, among others. You can always see where I am on social: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

Ellie: You can find me on Instagram at Elliejclark to see all the work I create. I don't perform currently although I am thinking about starting once I have graduated college. I also just ran a drag masterclass for Kat Von D at their counter in Dundee which was a lovely experience and has made me excited to see what future opportunities drag can give me.

The Vivienne: At the moment, I'm based in Gran Canaria at Sparkles show bar, but I also fly back to England about once a month for gigs all over, so keep an eye on my Facebook and Instagram

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