Veteran drag queens show how it’s done

TILLY HANNAN

The drag queen scene on the Gold Coast is going strong, thanks to drag veterans Natasha St James, Sellma Soul and Scarlett Fever.

Veteran Gold Coast drag queens Natasha St James, Sellma Soul and Scarlett Fever

Veteran Gold Coast drag queens (from left) Natasha St James, Sellma Soul and Scarlett Fever perform to sold-out crowds in “Draglicious”. Photo: Tilly Hannan

 

The three performers team up to put on the fierce, hilarious and entertaining dinner show, “Draglicious”, every Thursday night at the Avenue in Surfers Paradise.

The girls regularly perform to sold-out audiences, serving up a blend of cheeky and risqué comedy numbers, captivating costumes and high-energy performances, the show includes comedy, games, real singing, dancing and lip-syncing.

Yet, despite the show’s successful turn out each week, the three queens said they believed the drag culture on the Gold Coast was somewhat lacking in comparison to that of bigger cities such as Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

They said one reason for the shortfall was that the Gold Coast does not have a gay nightclub.

“Our gay and drag culture here in the Gold Coast is five, 10 years behind places like Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne,” Ms St James said.

“It’s not like that the Gold Coast is lacking any possible venues, it just depends on who is willing to spend the money and take the risk on the queer community here,” she said.

“Honestly, in terms of a business perspective, you would be a genius to open up a gay club at this point,” Ms Soul said.

Sellma Soul, who is also known as Ethan, competed in drag on this year’s season of The Voice in Boy George’s team.

Unfortunately, Ms Soul did not take the crown, but she said the experience was worth it and had given her opportunities she did not have before.

“I’ve done a lot of work since The Voice, it’s been an eye-opening experience,” she said.

“I walked into Woolworths the other day out of drag and this old lady was like, ‘Oh my God, are you Sellma Soul from The Voice?’,” Ms Soul said.

“It was a very humbling experience, but it was also terrifying that what I do now is in a very public forum, and I have to watch what I say a bit more,” she said.

Sellma Soul competed on The Voice

Sellma Soul competed on The Voice 2019 as part of Boy George’s team and said although she didn’t win, the experience was worth it. Photo: The Voice Australia

 

However, experiences on the drag scene are not always positive.

Natasha St James, who has been doing drag for seven years, said discrimination was just part of the job.

“If you were a fly on the wall and watched how people interacted with us outside while we are in drag, you would be VERY sad,” she said.

Sellma Soul agrees.

“Discrimination is a constant thing when you’re a drag queen,” she said.

“As Sellma Soul I present myself as someone very confident and sometimes intimidating, but as Ethan, I am the complete opposite,” Ms Soul said.

“When people don’t understand what we are they react in one of two ways: they become inquisitive, which is what we want, as it is our job as a community to help educate people who are asking questions rather than going ‘you should already know’,” she said.

Natasha St James agreed.

“The other reaction is aggression and confusion, and that stems from a place of fear and ignorance,” she said.

Sellma Soul said Queensland was very conservative and said she realised how much the state needed a community with drag in it.

“I have realised how needed we are in Queensland, especially as drag queens, because we are still fighting for equality and safety,” Ms Soul said.

The three drag queens said another problem was being compared with other drag queens, especially one on televisions such as those on the show, RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“We always get stereotyped with other drag queens that have been on Rupaul’s Drag Race,” Ms Soul said.

Sellma Soul

Sellma Soul said Queensland needed a community with drag culture in it and said drag queens were still fighting for equality. Photo: Tilly Hannan

 

However, the girls said they believed the show was very important for the queer community, and especially for the drag community, worldwide, because it was drawing attention to drag as a performance medium and making it more popular.

“Thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race and the commercialisation of drag, everyone’s loving it,” Ms St James said.

The popular US reality competition series documents RuPaul in the search for America’s next drag superstar.

The show has had two spin-off series so far, with one in the United Kingdom and another in Thailand, but now the nine-time Emmy Award winning show is coming to Australia and is expected in 2020.

The show feels like a mixture of Next Top Model, Project Runway and Australia’s Got Talent, only with a drag theme.

Popular Australian drag queen, Courtney Act, who has also been seen on Australian IdolDancing With The Stars and Celebrity Big Brother UK, placed runner up in season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Ms Act has been the only Australia drag queen to compete on the show until now.

Though sick of being compared with drag queens from the show, Scarlett Fever said not auditioning for RuPaul’s Drag Race would be a mistake for her drag career development.

“We would all be fools not to apply,” Ms Fever said.

“I think, in my opinion, it’s going to be a double-edged sword,” she said.

“I am very excited on one end and I’m also very curious and nervous.”

“It is going to be a completely different dynamic compared to the US version.”

The announcement about the Australian version of the show has sparked speculation about who will be on the judging panel and whether RuPaul himself will make the trip to Australia.

Natahsa St James

Natahsa St James has been doing drag for seven years and said discrimination was part of the job. Photo: Tilly Hannan

 

But these local drag queens are questioning the reliability of the judging panel if he does not make an appearance.

“The only way this will be a fair competition is if RuPaul himself judges,” Ms St James said.

The three drag queens also had thoughts on RuPaul’s Drag Race American judge Michelle Visage, who has been on the show since season three, being chosen as a judge.

“I think Michelle will have to be one of the judges, she judged some local pageants in Australia a few years ago and she loved it,” Ms St James said.

The show has been criticised on social media by former competitors for its editing techniques, which make the drag queens taking part in the show seem more aggressive and unprofessional than what they claim to be.

The editing technique has been dubbed the “bitch edit” and Ms Fever said she was concerned about this happening in the Australian version of the show, and the way it would make audiences perceive the contestants.

“You could get the ‘bitch edit’ in post-production,” she said.

“Everyone who is at the top of their game in regards to being successful in Australia has so much to lose,” Ms Fever said.

“And all the other queens who just want to get onto the show have so much to gain,” she said.

The international perception of the show was also a concern for Ms Fever.

“Our humour in Australia is completely different here,” she said.

“For example, here you could call another queen the C-word and everyone here would know it was a joke, and can laugh about it, but international audiences think you’re genuinely being nasty,” Ms Fever said.

Ultimately, however, the three queens said they believed Rupaul’s Drag Race coming to Australia would be a positive development for the Australian drag culture.

“Drag is just a journey that we are all on, and we all want to be the best that we can be, and competitions push you to do the best,” Ms St James said.

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