When compared to the exquisitely expressive art of
Drag Queens, the wonderful world of Drag Kings appears to exist with far less
attention from popular culture. When I speak of Drag Queens amongst my friends,
most of them seem familiar with the craft, so much so, they can even name and
discuss examples. However, when I raise the term ‘Drag King’, I am often
confronted with a response similar to, ‘Wow, I never even knew they existed’. Nonetheless,
Drag King performers are storming stages all around the world, treating an
array of audiences to bold shows which captivate and challenge creative minds.
The idea and practice of performers transforming
themselves through male personas is by no means a new concept. For instance, English
playwright, poet and actress Susanna
Centlivre is notable for her work as an actress in ‘breeches roles’. Dubbed as “the most successful female playwright of the
eighteenth century”, she performed regularly in traditional
male attire. In other words, she became accustomed to fitted knee-length trousers
and popular masculine garments; clothing worn mostly by men around the 1700s. Since this
time, Drag Kings have progressed and developed; increasing in popularity whilst
making use of sophisticated resources and techniques. Distinguished impersonators
and cross-dressers across the 19th and 20th Centuries
include theatrical performers such as Annie
Hindle, Ella Shields, Vesta Tilly, Bessie Bellwood and Hetty King. Not to mention other provocative entertainers
such as Blues singer Gladys Bentley and the more controversial LGBT civil
rights icon; Stormé DeLarverie. Referencing
the OED, during 1972, the term ‘Drag King’ was initially published in text to
represent the description ‘woman masquerading as a man’. Referring to the updated version, we can see the definition as ‘A woman who dresses up as a man; a male impersonator’. Bringing Drag Kings
into the 21st Century, the field of performing arts and creative
industries offer a wide range of practitioners specialising in drag king
performances, workshops and transformations. Some of my favourites include Phantom,
Spikey Van Dykey, Adam All and Landon Cider.
The International Drag King Community Extravaganza
is the largest event of its kind and is entirely run by volunteers. Hosted in a
different city each year, the IDKE is known for its extraordinary performances,
workshops and events which push the boundaries of gender. In order to achieve different
levels of gender illusion, drag kings combine methods of breast binding, application of facial/body hair, masculine haircuts, styles or wigs, performance props, staging,
illusive male genitalia, manly clothing, as well as altered posture and movement.
Despite being relatively unheard of to the masses, Drag King shows are becoming
more and more accessible, with both troupe and solo performers making a name
for themselves amongst artistic and LGBT communities. For example, ‘Boi Box’ is
a monthly Drag King show held at ‘She Soho’, a lesbian venue situated on Old
Compton Street in London. There are also many opportunities for Drag Kings to
compete and network, with The San Francisco Drag King Contest being significant
as supposedly the oldest and biggest Drag King competition in the world.
drag scene plays host to a magnificent mixture of gender bending cabaret,
comedy, burlesque, circus, theatre and performance art. The art of drag has
been saturated with fascinating historical events, and continues amaze through
the footprints of modern day practitioners. Drag Kings take their place in the
spotlight, giving us a glimpse into a remarkable and inspiring world which
deserves to be adored and celebrated.
So Izzy went and did Burlesque. If you’re not familiar is a dance that tells a story or revels in an a theme, and alot of times it can be sexual and involve items of clothing coming off.
Angel Burlesque asked me to perform in their Vagina Show. The Angel’s are about body positivity, including bodies of all sizes, shapes, ages and bow trans. With the Vagina Show being about women they wanted to include trans members. I got recruited a week before the show. They also had a wonderful speaker, a trans woman body builder Amanda, who talked about Cis ideologies versus Trans.
My act was Sisters from White Christmas. I played a diva outgoing sister. It was cute. Because of how short of time we had to planned, some of our routine was planned the other half was improv. So nerve-racking but know one could tell it was improved so score!
Some of the other acts I saw from the TV in the dressing room was a cookie monster bit. The girl cookie monster loved cookies and vaginas. Half the cast where back up dancers dresses as cookies or vaginas. The cookie monsters pasties were giant googly eyes.
There was a “Let it Flow” number where mother nature comes in and sings about periods. She had worming wings, but the feathers were made of “bloody” pads.
The show ended with Nasty Women based off a Janet Jackson song.
It was such a nice body positive atmosphere. I wouldn’t trade my inclusion into it for the word. Minus the cut I got falling back stage. That sucked haha.
Actress Marian Martin in a Satan-themed burlesque cape. Martin actually played a dancer named ‘Pinky Lee’ in the 1943 film, ‘Lady of Burlesque’ which was based on the novel ‘The G-String Murders’ written by strip tease queen Gypsy Rose Lee. Martin was not a burlesque performer, but her costume is in the satanic burlesque spirit of this post. Actress Marian Martin and a burlesque cape featuring our pal, Satan, 1930s X
Here’s the thing. I used to be super outgoing. I’ve been in many outgoing job roles. I used to be a burlesque performer and producer. But the last 12 months or so have been really hard for me and have resulted in the worst anxiety I’ve had in my life.
I want to recapture the old me, I want to go to the con and be *me* and not what my anxiety makes me.
I recently started back at work after a year of parental leave and that has helped - there have been a lot of changes but it’s good to be back doing something I enjoy and am good at. I’m almost a different person there - me again. I want that to be the person who goes to the con.
To that end I’ve decided to try and be super social at the con (I used to be the “life and soul” *sigh*). I will be forcing myself but I will do it!! And I will be doing it by offering to paint you up with flowers! Yes if you want some extra flowers than your flower crown, come find me! (this me). I have sparkly face paints and some simple flower stencils (it’s the quickest and easiest way and I haven’t done stage make up in a while so I’m a bit rusty). So… I can put them on your face, your arms, anywhere really - super quick and easy!
If you haven’t seen a Burlesque or Pin-up show, I definitely suggest you look into the ladies @wttburly or @pinupsontour – They have many United States shows coming up, so take a look at their websites and see if they’re coming around your town soon! 👯
This Lady of the Night piece was actually raffled off at their tour, presented by @harleyharpurr
Hi!! How'd you get the confidence to perform burlesque as a plus size woman? I'm fat & trying to love myself and just need some tips
I hope you don’t mind me posting this publicly.
Body acceptance has been a long journey for me. 10 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do this, and even when I first started I was self conscious about some things. But it’s been a matter of pushing myself as an artist that’s silenced the doubts.
My best advice is to continue to expose yourself to plus size bodies, to remind yourself that you’re your own harshest critic, and surround yourself with people who are on the bopo path themselves.
Because a day off is never really a day off when you’re self employed (and also have no life/hobbies/partner) all my emails are now answered & my diary is up to date 🙏 I have a few dates still available for #gorelesque performances this Halloween season & limited availability this month & next for photoshoots 📸 Get at me 💌