May 7, 2012
They don fake lashes, high heels, luscious locks and chicken fillets, all in the name of Drag.
Men have been dressing as women for entertainment since Shakespeare’s time — but not quite like Perth’s drag queens.
Ryan Wright by day, Drag Queen Katya Kokov by night, first became interested in the scene in 2010.
“I went to Fair Day and I met two other drag queens — Ruby Jewelz and Hannah Conda — and they suggested that I do it one day, so I did,” Katya said.
However, it was not until last year that Katya emerged for the first time — for a friend’s birthday party.
Katya went on to compete in The Court Hotel’s ‘Queen of the Court’ competition, where amateurs showcase their drag abilities with lip synching, costumes and dance routines.
Katya placed second, after a queen by the name of Ava Gin. As their prize, they both received paid jobs at Connections Nightclub.
Becoming one’s ‘queen self’ takes time.
“[It can take] anywhere from an hour-and-a-half to three hours, depending on the look,” Katya said.
Katya never leaves the house where Mr Wright lives with his parents, but is instead materialises at a friend’s house.
“[My parents] don’t mind that I do it, they just don’t want to see it,” she said.
Don’t let the smiles fool you, Drag is a cut-throat business.
It is a very competitive scene according to Katya’s friend, Benjamin James AKA Veronica Jean Jones — VJJ for short.
“It’s [because] it’s such a small scene,” VJJ said.
“You have your big queens, and they’re so overprotective of their job because the thing is, one minute you’re in, the next minute you’re out.
“If there’s a new person [who is] better than you, they’ll take over — and that’s your job gone.”
Connections Nightclub entertainment manager Barbie Q. Coals has spent 14 years in the Drag game and, like every other queen, has had to deal with her share of criticism.
“I’ve seen queens come and go,” Barbie said.
“The ones that are around now that are just starting — in five years’ time at least half of them will be gone because they couldn’t handle it.
“It sounds terrible, but that’s how it is.”
For Barbie, it takes about three hours from having a shower to leaving the house.
“I’ve been called too fat, too skinny, a boy in a dress… it’s endless,” she said.
“I have to brush [the comments] off because it [would] be too much to take on board.”
But it’s not all bad.
Katya’s favourite part of drag is getting ready for work.
“I just like doing my face and watching the transition from male to female take place,” she said.
Katya’s job at Connections consists of bar tending and ‘room theatre’ which means running around, making sure everyone is having a good time.
There are, of course, drag productions — Katya took part in her first show ‘Grease’ earlier this month, playing the role of Sandy.
Barbie played Danny Zuko in the four-minute show.
Much of their income, however, goes toward their costumes.
“I get about [$400-500] a week … and I spend [$300-350] a week on [drag],” Katya said.
A wig, for example, can cost anywhere up to $700 for a good one.
Shoes too, can get expensive for those with larger feet.
“I’m a girly size 10, but I’m comfortable in an 11.5, and if there was a 12, I would be in heaven,” VJJ said.
There is a Perth queen who is known to cut shoes down the middle, place half on each side of her foot and tape them on.
Katya has found that the biggest misconception about drag queens is that they all actually want to become women.
VJJ agrees, but says that every now and then there will be one who does.
“They’ll do drag and it’ll engulf their life so much that they want to live it as a woman,” she said.
Katya said it gets on her nerves when queens are judged on how much they look like a real girl.
“That’s not what it’s about,” she said.
“Everything is supposed to be bigger and more outrageous.
“What I want out of drag is to entertain people, not confuse them.”
VJJ said queens do not like to be called by their real names when they are out and about.
“When we’re dressed up, we’re a business and we’re a character, we’re not ourselves,” she said.
Photos: Casey Sharpe