Published in Doncopolitan magazine.
Nowadays, you don’t have to be a ‘man in a dress’ to perform drag. The art form has moved forward a lot, and is now more genderless.
Drag is made to confuse, leave you asking questions, and dismantle norms. ‘Bio queens’ are born women, but instead of dressing as men, they too dress as female queens. Creating an exaggeration of femininity, these women bring forward another way to see, understand, and engage with gender.
“We have titles like ‘hyper queen’ which I don’t like. It sounds like we’re better than standard queens. ‘Faux queen’ is my least favourite. People can be derogative about women, saying they just put on a standard dress, get up and twirl.”
Bipolar Abdul is my town’s very own bio queen. She often finds it hard to tell people that she is a woman when in drag, worrying they’ll think less of her art.
“People think it’s easier for a female, when really the only difference is I’m not flattening my dick down. I perform with the same amount of enthusiasm, and I put the same amount of time into my make up, outfits and wigs.”
Having always been interested in drag culture, Bipolar often went out wearing boy clothes with a lot of make up on. One of these outings led her to meeting the Queens of Hallcross (our town’s only LGBT bar), who took her under their wing and asked if she’d like to join them in cabaret nights. This was just fourteen 14 months ago.
Her name stems from quite a light bulb moment. Not only is she a sufferer of bipolar 1, but whilst half-listening to RuPaul’s Drag Race introducing a lip sync of ‘Vibeology’, it hit her, : “The way he said ‘By Paula Abdul’, I looked up and said, ‘Shit, I think I’ve got it.’”
Bipolar describes her persona as, “young, in her teens, loud about what she thinks, and can get away with a lot of shit. I think it’s a way for me to re-live what I missed, being a teenage mother.” She vows to take anything that didn’t work in the 90’s, and make it work now. “I really like club kid culture from New York in the late 80’s and 90’s. They were weird. I tend to mix two cultural influences that wouldn’t be seen together, like grunge and ghetto.”
Drag queens and fashion have always worked in harmony. Just think of the recent popularity of makeup trends like contouring, a technique taken from drag culture. Andy Warhol created a glamorous, transgender queen series in 1975, featuring Candy Darling and Marsha P. Johnson. RuPaul, infamous for bringing the culture to the mainstream with ‘Drag Race’, also fronted the 2013 MAC Cosmetics, Viva Glam campaign. Marc Jacob’s SS16 featured images of Milk (Daniel Donigan), who was also part of the designer’s #SkinTee campaign, raising money for cancer. Pearl Liaison covered Dazed and Confused in custom Louis Vuitton, representing ‘Venus As A Boy’, while Violet Chachki graced the pages of Vogue Italia in couture.
To get ready it’s “about atmosphere more than anything”. Bipolar starts by putting on loud music. “The worst thing is sitting down when you have absolutely nothing on your face. That can be quite daunting. Sometimes we all get ready together and that creates a good atmosphere.” Otherwise, she gets completely ready at home, and walks to the pub. “That can be interesting ̶ half past 7 on a Saturday night, and there’s a big drag queen walking down Thorne Road.”
“Getting ready is the biggest part of the creative experience. You sit and think about colour combinations, and if you want to pay homage to certain pop culture references.” When it comes to make-up, Bipolar favours bold colours and big shapes. She doesn’t have a signature face and doesn’t like to plan her make up too much. “It just depends what comes out the end of the brush. Once you sit down and get over that obstacle, I just start to channel her.”
Drag can be a form of method acting. Bipolar goes as far as using particular shower gels and perfume to create her persona. “Because she’s young and silly, she wears cheap Nicki Minaj perfume and gets washed in stuff that smells like marshmallows. To me it’s all theatre. I can be whoever I want. I’m basically just pissing about like a child in a dress-up box.” And why not? Drag should be fun for performers and audiences alike, regardless of what’ is beneath their costume.
Artwork by Jack Wainwright.
This post is sponsored by Doncopolitan.