And probably even painted good face!!! One can't really have a proper drag history without noting some of the pioneering queens who lead the way. Continuing from the queens from Stonewall on, these are some of the talents that were going to burst open the closet doors and push drag and glamour for all to see.
One of the most famous drag queens of the 20th century has got to be the late Charles Pierce. His impersonations of Bette Davis, Mae West, Joan Collins and other famous stars brought drag to the forefront of theatre and radio. He performed sell out concerts in theatres across America, his whit and humor being the main draw to his work. He described himself as a male actress rather than a drag queen – the ‘original, over-the-hill, valley girl’ The 1960s and 70s saw the development of a number of drag stars. Jim Bailey performed on over seventy television shows, performed a series of concerts with Liza Minnelli, had several runs in Las Vegas and even performed to the Royal Family.
Divine who was featured in the original John Waters film Hairspray and grew to notoriety after eating a real dog turd in another of Water’s films, Pink Flamingos.
Candy Darling was one of Andy Warhol’s Superstars, and a muse for The Velvet Underground. In the 1980s, Lypsinka rose to fame performing long, show length soundtracks featuring edited snippets from old Hollywood films. Her meticulously precise lip syncing amazed audiences across America, landing her slots on The Joan Rivers Show, amongst others. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the rise of the club kid. Particularly in New York we saw a 90s version of Studio 54 emerge with Michael Alig and James St James at the helm. The club kid era saw the rise of model and muse Amanda Lepore and the fabulous performance artist Leigh Bowery. The club kids were known for going out in elaborate and controversial costumes.
One of these clubkids, who rose to international fame, was RuPaul – arguably the world’s most famous drag queen. With a career that spans several decades, RuPaul is the undisputed queen of drag queens.
In the 1990s RuPaul was to drag what Naomi Campbell was to modelling – RuPaul was the world’s first drag superstar. His career has included a string of dance singles, a duet with Elton John, and a presenting slot at The Brits. He also modelled worldwide, including a campaign for MAC, and landed his own TV chat show in 1996. In 2009 RuPaul created RuPaul’s Drag Race, which was a fusion of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway. The drag queen with the most Creativity, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent too the crown. The show was a hit success, with a sixth season getting ready to start. Drag queens have often been featured in films, in a variety of different roles. The most noted of these are Priscilla: Queen of The Desert, Hairspray, The Birdcage, Rocky Horror, and Hedwig and The Angry Inch. These films often showed the beautiful, glamorous side of drag mirrored with the difficult lives of their male counterparts suffered. The internet allowed more drag queens to find fame. Jeffree Star rose to fame on MySpace for his cult following from emo kids and his offensive rap lyrics. He recently signed a record deal with Akon’s record label.
Lily Savage, Danny LaRue and Dame Edna Everage make the trio of famous British drag household names adding to the cause. Combined they have over 100 years of drag experience.
Lily Savage was one of Britain’s most successful queens, most noted for her show Blankety Blank. Previous to that Lily performed for eight years at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London.
The late Danny LaRue, was quite the talent, and rose to fame in the West End, performing in seven major shows, and a string of Royal Variety performances. Dame Edna, whilst not British, has received wide success and admiration with British audiences.These three queens are a small handful of drag queens who have hit the big time in Britain – there hasn’t been a drag star that’s matched their fame in recent times.
There are, however, a number of queens working in and around London who are making a name for themselves, and have been for a number of years. DJ Jodie Harsh’s fame, whose music I have featured several time here, has long outlasted that of her biological namesake. Tasty Tim is another favourite on the gay clubbing scene and Lady Lloyd has recently come off tour with Ke$ha, and is a model for Vivienne Westwood.Maria Millionaire
Leeds has a large number of exciting drag artists. To say it’s gay scene is relatively small, it’s number and popularity of drag queens in the city is immense. Anna Glypta was one of the first drag queens to perform and promote drag in the city, helping shape Pride events and much of the community. Another big name in Leeds is Miss Orry – famous for being one of the original Blackpool Funny Girls, and who has appeared on Deal or No Deal and Emmerdale. Other notable Leeds drag queens include Carla Jackson, Anja Bach, Roxxxy, Raven Mandela, Gisele Batrice, Bears Aloud, Cheryl Hole, Daisy DuPount, Pixie Monrue and Maria Millionaire. We will be looking at some of these girls up closer soon.