by Heather Duster & Sam Dunstan
Over the last 10 years Drag has become one of the most exciting artforms to be involved in. Like any creative field it takes blood, sweat, rhinestones and tears! But beyond the wigs and the glamour, how do I get started? What’s the Drag scene like in Doncaster? Well, if the thought has even crossed your mind for a second then you need to try it! It can be one of the most inspiring, freeing and rewards things you ever do.
Anyone can do Drag. In fact I believe everyone should try Drag… at least once!
Here are our steps to getting started in Drag:
STEP 1) Terminology: let’s get the language down!
If you’re very new to Drag, and only seen the odd episode of Drag Race, some of the language may be new to you. Some of this comes from Ballroom Culture in the US, some comes from other cultures and some has naturally emerged over time. Don’t worry, you don’t have to master a whole other language! There won’t be a test! This is to help you find things easier online or in your local area: Drag – an artform where the artist blurs the gender line to create art or performance. Drag Queen – artist who performs a hyper-feminine persona. You don’t have to be male identifying. Drag King – artist who performs a hyper-masculine persona. You don’t have to be female identifying. Drag Artist - an artist who blurs the gender line to create art or performance.
LGBTQ+ - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex Non-binary/Enby – people who do not identify with strictly male or female genders, usually preferring “They/Them” pronouns. Pronouns – The pronouns that a person prefers to be referred to by. These can include (but are not limited to: he/him, she/her, they/them or a mix. Bar Queen (or King) – a Drag performer who has made their career performing in bars and night venues. Look Queen / Model Queen (or King) – a Drag artist who has made their career as a fashion model or looks based influencer. Comedy Queen (or King) – A Drag artist who has made their career doing comedy in their Drag persona. This could be doing stand-up sets, sketch comedy or shows. Weave – a Wig or hair piece Mug – Face Paint – Makeup Heather – a cool girl, term of endearment towards another queen (like using ‘Love’ in Yorkshire) Fierce – Used to describe how good a performance or look is: “You look fierce!”. It’s more common in the US, but used in the UK. Tuck – When a person assigned male at birth is going into drag they may take their genitals and push them back to create an illusion of not having a penis. Tea – gossip or news Shade – publicly criticise or express contempt for another
STEP 1) Immerse yourself in the world of Drag! Just do it! Support the community and the community will support you!
Going to Shows and Events
Go to shows and talk to people! Say to people you meet that you’re interested in Drag and have an act you’d like to try. Or that you’re interested and would love to watch a rehearsal one day. Going to shows (live or digital) is so important to get inspired by seeing what’s possible. Plus you’ll have a great night, so it’s a win-win! In Doncaster, our main Drag House is FLUID/ITY, which is Bipolar Abdul, Eboni Whyte, Naomi Carter and Anna Popp. Here’s a video they made with Right Up Our Street about how they got started and advice they would give young people starting out (12 minutes): https://youtu.be/Bli_VqQ9EFQ
FLUID/ITY are resident artists at The Library, Doncaster’s newest and only exclusively LGBTQ+ bar. If you’re keen to learn about Drag, start by booking a show or getting in touch with FLUID/ITY and The Library, either by email or dropping them a message on Instagram. Say hello, that you’re interested in Drag and ask them for a chat!
If you’re over 18 then you can attend LGBTQ+ and Drag events in Doncaster, Sheffield and other parts of Yorkshire. A list of these can be found at the bottom of the article.
Connecting up with others
If the idea of speaking straight away to people you don’t know makes you nervous or you are under 18 and therefore can’t go to a bar or night space, start by following Drag artists and venues on social media (list at the bottom). Watch their Reels, videos and, when you’re ready, send them a message. The worst case scenario is they ignore you. The best (and most likely) is they give you some great advice and you feel your confidence and contacts grow. Similarly to seeing live shows, this also means you can be inspired by watching recorded performances and trying things out at home.
This is true for all Drag Artists, but especially if you’re under 18 – start to hone your craft now. The skills that Drag Artists need can include sewing, make up, performing, audio mixing and more. There are amazing free resources on the internet if you want to develop these skills. Make up: Start by following YouTube tutorials by various different Drag Artists and play around with your own style. Performing: Try joining an after school drama group, singing lessons or recording yourself performing in your bedroom. Sewing: Ask a friend or family member if they can teach you how to sew. If money is tight you can buy clothes from a charity shop and play around with them. Cut bits off, sew bits on and see what you think looks good. There are also a number of tutorials on YouTube you can watch, then it’s practice practice practice! Audio Mixing: If you’re interested in mixing your own tracks and have access to a laptop, download Audacity for free and have a play around. It’s a free, basic, easy-to-use sound editing software that you can use to mix some of the tracks you already have.
There is no pressure in Drag to present in a particular way or do a specific thing, just follow your instincts and what excites you. As you do more make up or performing you will be curious to try out new styles and eventually find your authentic style. It takes time, but it’s more than worth it!
STEP 2) Social Media – Networking at your fingertips! Turn your scrolling into stage time!
Make use of your social medias: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok or whatever platforms you use. Start by creating an Instagram account for your Drag persona and follow loads of South Yorkshire and UK based Drag artists, Venues, Promoters or anyone that is working in the scene! I’ve found most Drag artists / Venues will use Instagram in particular to promote their shows so make sure you’re following everyone to stay in the loop. It also means you have an account that people can follow as you build an audience.
The best thing Heather Duster (co-author of this article) said she did for her mental health was stop using her personal Instagram account and start using only using her Heather Duster account. This way she detached her personal life from the pressures of social media: no longer counting likes on selfies, obsessing over followers or comparing the boring Wednesday to some supermodel billionaire. Instead she saw like-minded inspiring Drag artists and used it purely as a tool to progress her Drag work. She sees social media as an extension of her Drag work instead of a reflection of her day to day life.
Take lots of pictures of yourself, your Drag face, costumes you make of other artists …you get the idea… just take lots of photos! Tag people you’ve met in those photos (everyone loves being able to add a photo to their Insta story!). Performers regularly get offered gigs on Instagram, so treat it like you would checking your emails.
STEP 3) Try something new! Open Mics, Instagram Lives, Tik Toks, etc
Open mics and events for new artists are a great place to start because the facilitators create a really supportive and encouraging atmosphere! Don’t worry that your work isn’t ‘mainstream’. You don’t need to be death dropping, lip syncing and look like a model to perform. Some of the best work I’ve ever seen has been at Open Mics because all the pressure is off and it’s just about having fun and trying something out. With digital media as well you can put something out there to gauge the reaction and how you feel about it. Well received? Great! Did you enjoy doing it? Great! Keep going. Turn that dance routine into several or that song into a 15 minutes set of songs.
Don’t be afraid to try your act, whatever stage it’s in. Trust me, your work will never be fully ‘finished’ so you might as well get it out there.
STEP 4) Competitions – And, no, I don’t mean Drag Race!
Another way to get your foot in the door is to enter a local Drag competition. Don’t be deterred from entering competitions just because you don’t think you’ll win! However you do in the competition itself, the act of getting on a stage or making sets for online competitions lets you build a whole repertoire of acts.
Taylor Trash once said to me “see everything you enter as a performance opportunity” and this way you’ll always be winning! At these competitions the judges are most likely people who are booking acts so you want to be seen by them. You’ll also get to know other like-minded people and put yourself in front of your next biggest fan in the audience.
If there aren’t any competitions on since, hypothetically, a global pandemic closes all the live venues, why not make a challenge for yourself to make something digitally?
“I’m going to make a Tik Tok that has me lip syncing to at least 3 songs?”
“I’m going to do an Instagram Reel where I’m going to sing my favourite Lady Gaga song!”
There are no parameters online, which can be scary, so setting a challenge for yourself can make it fun and let you be creative.
STEP 5) Probably the most important one…
Stay true to yourself! And stay true to your art. It’s the most cheesy but probably the best advice I can give. You’re gorgeous and going to do great. Trust yourself and make work that you enjoy! It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look like something on Drag Race or Drag SOS, because they are just small parts of a huge artform! I guarantee if you enjoy it, other people will as well. Be yourself, be too much, be outside of the boring heteronormative boxes and have fun with your Drag!
Don’t forget to follow everyone listed above as well and begin your drag journey! The Library – Doncaster’s premier queer bar and event space https://www.instagram.com/thelibrarydoncaster/ FLUID/ITY – Doncaster’s Drag House https://www.instagram.com/fluiditydoncaster/ Bipolar Abdul – Doncaster based Drag Artist and member of FLUID/ITY https://www.instagram.com/bipolar.abdul.drag/ Eboni Whyte – Doncaster based Drag Artist and member of FLUID/ITY https://www.instagram.com/eboni_whyte/ Naomi Carter – Doncaster based Drag Artist and member of FLUID/ITY https://www.instagram.com/missnaomicarter/
Anna Popp – Doncaster based Drag Artist and member of FLUID/ITY https://www.instagram.com/annapoppdrag/
Donny Lad – Doncaster Drag King https://www.instagram.com/donny.lad/ Glenda Bender – Doncaster based Drag Queen https://glendabenderdragact.wixsite.com/glendabenderdragact
Doncaster Pride – Official Pride Festival of Doncaster, every Summer www.doncasterpride.co.uk Andro & Eve – Sheffield based company running multiple Drag Events, Cabaret College and other events for new Drag artists and performers https://www.instagram.com/androandeve/ Sounds Queer – LGBTQ Events in Sheffield https://twitter.com/sounds_queer Crayola The Queen - offers coaching sessions in groups or 1-to-1: https://www.crayolathequeen.com/ Divina de Campo – West Yorkshire Drag Queen & Runner up of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, 2019 https://www.instagram.com/divinadecampo/ Tete Bang – Drag Queen featured on Drag SOS https://www.tetebang.co.uk/ Cyro – Drag King https://www.instagram.com/cyrodragthing/ Minara El Waters – Drag Queen https://www.instagram.com/minaraelwaters/ Fat Butcher – Drag Artist & Creator of Fantabulosa https://www.instagram.com/fattbutcher/
Fantabulosa – Drag Show for kids https://www.instagram.com/fantabulosa.show/ Celeste St Clair – Miss Drag UK Finalist https://www.instagram.com/celestestclair/ Myra Dubois – ‘The Siren of South Yorkshire’ https://www.myradubois.co.uk/
Frieda Slaves – Drag Queen https://www.instagram.com/freidaslaves/ London Queer Fashion Show https://www.instagram.com/londonqueerfashionshow/ Yard & Coop, Leeds, Bottomless Drag Brunch https://www.yardandcoop.com/bottomless-drag-brunch-leeds/ King Confuza – Trans non-binary Drag Creature https://www.instagram.com/kingconfuza/
Klub Kids – Company producing Drag events across the country