Drag queens are men who dress up as women for the sake of entertainment (and possibly financial gain). They should not be confused with transvestites (men who wear women's clothes for emotional gain) or transsexuals (where a male feels he is really female and vice versa). Drag queens are different to dames in pantomime1 as they are meant to look more or less like the real thing, though both are parodies of the female form for entertainment.
Drag queens are usually found in gay bars or at hen nights2. The acts often lip-sync to other people's songs to comic effect, perform quick changes into increasingly theatrical costumes or sing different lyrics to other people's songs, but these are usually gutter-level topics. Many drag acts impersonate other people, with their own brand of humour added. There are drag cabaret bars dotted around the UK; there is one in Blackpool called 'Funny Girls'.
Myths that Need to be Expelled
Not all drag queens are gay.
Drag queens do drag for entertainment, not for other reasons.
Some drag artistes have entered mainstream entertainment, such as:
Lily Savage - a character created by Paul O'Grady, Lily hails from Birkenhead in Merseyside, UK, and is known as 'The Blonde Bomb-site'.
Danny La Rue - insists he is a 'female impersonator' but for the most part, he fits the definition of drag.
If you have not seen a drag show, don't worry, it is usually harmless fun and not to be taken seriously. The easiest place to see drag is panto, though as has already been noted, the fundamental difference is that drag queens look more feminine than their dame counterparts.
If You Want to Do Drag, Follow these Steps Carefully
Pick a name with a sexual slant to it.
If you want to do quick change, invest in Velcro instead of zips because if you try to do a quick change in 45 seconds you can almost guarantee that:
- The zip'll break.
- You won't get that silver garment off again.
- You'll fall out of the dressing room and ruin your make-up, which took you an hour to do, and you'll look a real mess.
Don't do any of the camp classics such as Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive' or 'I Am What I Am' as they have been done to death.
Costumes! To be a successful drag queen, you need costumes - and a lot of them! If you can sew, the cheapest thing is to make your own. There are, however, various costume shops that will be happy to make your costumes for you as long as you choose the material. Have plenty of feather boa, because a drag queen can't have enough boa! There are specialist shoe shops out there that deal in ladies' shoes for men. A rule of thumb though: if you go to a normal shoe shop, buy the next size up, as women's feet tend to be thinner than a bloke's, if you don't follow this, you'll have feet that hurt, and you'll walk in a silly manner and fall over - it isn't funny, and can be very painful!
Rehearse your comedy, and don't forget a punch line - it's not cool, it's not funny and most of all, you won't be invited back.
Have fun - if you are enjoying it, so will your audience.
Copyright and Licence
If you perform in a pub or working men's club, you are covered by the Landlord's Music and Dance Licence (so long as you don't try to pass someone else's works as your own). If you appear on stage in a theatre, normal copyright rules apply, the same as if you appear on television.
You do not need a licence of any sort to become a drag queen, the same as you don't need one to be a singer or a dancer. But if you want to join Equity (the British actor and performer union) you can do as you'll have more rights than trying to go alone.