Can you imagine if someone had told you on New Year’s Eve what would happen in 2020? I often forget how much the world has changed in the last eight months. I started this year at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, surrounded by my amazing friends and many sweaty strangers, one of the few people at the Mariah & Friends party doing drag (aside from our gorgeous hosts, Baby Lame and Crystal of UK Drag Race fame). I was so excited for the year ahead. I had BIG plans.
2020 was going to be the year that I took some huge steps with my both my drag and other adventures. After I was a finalist in Lipsync 1000 last year, I’d decided to enter Miss Sink The Pink in March. I was also excited about going to Glastonbury in June with the Block 9 drag crew. On top of this, I was also finally going travelling in a big way, taking off in November for six months to see Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
Of course, as we now know, none of that was possible. Due to the pandemic, both performing and travelling have now changed dramatically. While the opportunities for both of these things have slowly started to return, it’s with significant changes and compromises. For me, it’s sucked a lot of the joy out of these experiences, so I’m in no real rush to get back to them for now. Currently, I don’t have much interest in being enclosed within a club or on a plane right now. Hopefully, this will change in the coming months. Or next year.
I’m lucky that drag isn’t my only source of income. I can hide behind my computer screen at home, writing for money at times like this. However, many of my friends rely on the entertainment industry for work. Whether it’s performing, DJing, creating costumes or working behind the bar, they need our much-loved nightlife scene to earn a living. So, I don’t blame any performers for rushing to take any drag jobs they can get their sparkly hands on right now. It’s just not something I’m ready for yet. However, it’s made me think a lot about why doing drag and what I miss the most.
I miss the hot sweaty masses
I’ve never been a big fan of a sit-down, sedate drag show. I love big, sweaty extravaganzas, with hundreds of people joyously bopping along to your performance. It’s why I love Sink The Pink, competition finals and festivals. The bigger, the merrier, the better.
I miss being on stage in front of a sea of enthusiastic faces, all living their best lives. For me, the audience is a huge part of why I love performing. I love waving to people as I dance around onstage. I love having little drunky chats with strangers in the audience. The whole reason I met my amazing flatmate Ruby is because of this. These connections are important.
I miss this more than anything about doing drag. I miss other people. I miss the overwhelming IRL experience. I miss the collective energy. I love the intersecting joy of queerness, drag and clubbing. So even though I’d rather not be inside an enclosed bar or club now (even if they are socially distanced), I hope that one day soon I’ll find myself surrounded by the hot sweaty masses again, all singing in unison to the Spice Girls or Whitney. I’ll never take it for granted ever again.
I miss my drag family
I live in a borough of London that’s filled with drag performers (shout out to HarinGAY), which means one of the loveliest but also weirdest parts of lockdown has been running into my drag family. Usually, we would embrace each other with hugs and air kisses — but now, not so much. Saying hello to other drag performers from a safe, social distance has been extremely weird. We usually live our lives practically on top of each other.
I miss being backstage, surrounded by a sea of people painting faces, passing around glue sticks and bottles of vodka. I miss spending days in rehearsals, putting shows together, hanging out between numbers. I miss the excitement when we’re creating something amazing together, working our asses off and then partying like crazy after.
I miss going on adventures together. Loading vans full of drag bags and heading off to put the camp into camping at a festival. I miss visiting drag friends in other countries, performing at their club nights and meeting a whole new drag family. This is one of my favourite things about doing drag.
I miss having a reason to dress up
Lots of my friends have continued doing drag at home during lockdown, dressing up for Zoom parties and performances. For me, painting a face and then not being able to go out to party feels a little depressing. Sure, you get to take some great photos but I really love doing drag because I love performing. I miss having a reason to dress up, to create a show, to paint a face, to put in the time, energy and money.
I’m pretty fabulous in everyday life, so I don’t need to do drag to prove anything. But I do need it as a platform to allow me to express a lot about my experiences as a woman (2022 UPDATE: I no longer identify as a woman but as genderqueer) in today’s society. For me, it’s not always about doing an amazing look. Sometimes, it’s about commenting on the way our society constructs our gender roles — and other times it’s about just doing something silly. I miss being able to play with this in a public space, surrounded by other colourful, queer beings.
I miss Pride and festival season
This summer saw all the usual Pride parties and festivals cancelled. Even as incredible as the Pride Inside campaign and the broadcasting of past Glastonbury performances was, it obviously just wasn’t the same. Summer is usually the busiest time in a drag performers calendar (followed closely by Halloween) but this year was very chilled. We probably needed a year off but it was still sad to not be out in the sunshine, dancing around with thousands of other queers.
I miss the joy that Pride and all the many amazing festivals bring to summer. I even miss the queuing and the schlepping, the mud and the wristbands, the hangovers and the glitter that just won’t wash away. Being able to celebrate who we are is an important part of the queer calendar. I miss how much these events bring people together.
2020. It won’t be remembered as a particularly fun year, right? Suddenly all we can talk about is death, paranoia and unemployment. It makes you realise how privileged our lives normally are. There’s no use in complaining about not being able to do drag or dance among hundreds of other people. We’re in a pandemic. People are dying. The whole world is in chaos.
However, it is ok to miss these things. To miss the parts of lives that have been put on hold that we cherished. It gives us something to work towards, to truly value in the future. I genuinely look forward to being silly and lighthearted again one day. To let go of the troubling times we are in now and be absolutely ridiculous without being anxious about social distancing or infection rates.
I miss doing drag. I miss my performer family. I miss being part of something big and amazing, surrounded by like-minded people. We all have to have faith in the future and know that one day we’ll find a way to all be together again.