Now then…this blog already feels ever-so-slightly misleading.
While this blog is being typed by the fair hand of inclusive, asthmatic, bilingual, gay dad in a dress, Connie Orff, it’s also really being typed by her male alter-ego, the rather more Clark Kent-esque, Alun Saunders (no specs).
Whilst developing and writing my latest play, Tuck - which is all about Drag performers - I decided that I really should have a better idea of what it is to be a Drag performer.
The Art of Drag
I noticed a ‘Drag Course’in London advertised on Facebook and after a little digging, signed myself up to a course in September 2017.
Michael Twaits: mentor, leader and teacher of The Art of Drag spent ten weeks teaching us not how to do our make-up or where to buy good tights but, instead, allowing each one of us (12 mixed genders) to discover our unique Drag character and what form our performance would take at the final showcase - the culmination of our learning - at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
The Drag Grads of Autumn ’17 were a beautifully diverse bunch, with Drag Kings, Mings (honestly) and Queens of all ages and varieties.
I knew that I wanted my Drag persona to be a comedy queen, ‘traditional’ in some sense, with an authentic Welshness.
I worked on my material, rewriting as I went and was asked relentlessly what my name would be, but nobody asked how I might look. It did of course dawn on me that soon I would need to prepare my 'aesthetic'...
At the make-up counter
I imagine that many girls experiment with make-up as they go through their teenage years.
"I performed as a ‘dame’ once, on a food safety educational show on the back of a truck."Alun Saunders
Today you can see that Drag has had an incredible influence on the colourfulness of many women’s make-up look.
But I grew up as a boy, so I never learned. I’ve performed as a ‘dame’ once (it wasn’t a panto, but a food safety educational show on a truck…that’s showbiz).
So, my make-up skills were minimal. But there comes an essential step before you begin applying make-up…
What on Earth do you buy?
Standing in a popular pharmacy-come-toiletries store in Cardiff’s Queen Street, I began to roam the counters and shelves, looking at brands and products.
Not only did I have no idea what I might need to make me look like a fabulous, colourful, contoured Drag Queen, I noticed something else: This didn’t feel like my territory - should I even be here?
I spotted a gentleman I recognised - a member of the Cardiff Drag circuit and thought ‘Here we are, just what I need!’
Unfortunately, when approached him to ask what I should purchase and what I needed it for, his reaction was “What are you asking me for?”
I was disappointed to not be offered some kind advice, particularly from somebody who’d been doing it for years. I moved on.
And hey, I’d like to make it clear that no women have given me dirty looks; nobody has shoved me out of the way and nobody has asked me to leave the make-up section.
"Yes, I’m a Drag performer and I’m looking for some long-lasting, durable products, please."Alun Saunders
Perhaps because I’d created this territoriality in my own head, it was simply unfamiliar territory. Silly, eh?
More than that, since I gained the confidence to respond to kind offers of “Can I help you at all today?” I’ve had nothing but interested (or excited) responses to my re-coming out…
‘Yes, I’m a Drag performer and I’m looking for some long-lasting, durable products, please.’
By now I’m the proud owner of a rather vast collection (my mam tells me that I already own far more make-up than she ever has), and as it begins to outgrow the make-up bag my sister kindly bought me.
I think I’m going to need a tool box to accommodate it all. One like my mam had for her actual tools; she’s always been very practical.
I have professional make-up from Kryolan in London (I had a very nice experience and was given lovely advice by the staff there), bits from high street shops, bits from the branded shelves within the high street shops, and lots of glittery stuff which is horrible to clean off.
As I further embrace the Connie Orff side of me, and as more and more varied gigs come in, I’m trying my best to experiment and improve my skills and slowly getting there but hey, I’m still a rookie.
And remember, Drag make-up is done to be seen from afar. If you’re going to critique a Drag Queen’s make-up, then please be kind or be prepared for a fierce comeback!