‘You’re living a double life, it’s not easy’: Meet the drag queens

You have to ‘tuck’ your penis away with duct tape

While you’re struggling with what shoes you’re going to wear on a grotty union night out, these guys are juggling uni alongside their second life as glamorous drag queens.

Jacob Mallinson Bird, also known as Dinah Lux, is a Cambridge graduate currently applying for Masters at Oxford and KCL. And he’s also an impossibly fierce drag queen.

Dinah says: “I started doing drag about two years ago – there was a student drag night called denim and I was helping out so I got dressed up for the occasion. I can’t say my first foray into drag was a success, but it certainly spurred on the rest of it all.”

But the process from curious undergrad to drag queen is a long one: “It was an awful lot of watching Youtube… endless Youtube in fact.”

“There was so many tutorials on how to paint your face for drag, so I would just sit there and try to recreate it. And then the character and the persona just came from going out loads and loads.”

“To get in full drag from start to finish it probably takes like three hours. I have done a face in 30 minutes before – it wasn’t cute, but it was possible.”

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Photo credit Peter Fingleto

Going full drag can be pricey – breastplates can cost up to £150 online, waist cinchers, used to give drag queens more naturally feminine curves, can range from £20 to £100, and lace front wigs can cost well into the hundreds. Despite this, Dinah, who graduated with a first in Music this year, says:

“You certainly don’t need a lot of money to do drag – one of my friends bulk buys all his makeup online and makes all his own wigs and costumes and saves hundreds of pounds.

“I love the glamour of it all though – in terms of makeup I go pretty cheap, but I love my lace front human hair wigs, and my Louboutins, and my custom made corsets and all that kind of stuff, so I’m probably wearing thousands of pounds if you include the wig and stuff, but a good wig is a good investment – it’ll last for years.”

But it’s not all positivity. Dinah, originally from South Kensington, says: “You’re obviously going to get negative comments – there are always going to be homophobic or transphobic people with an opinion whether that’s at uni, online, in the street, wherever, but it doesn’t really bother me.”

“If I let each little comment I get about everything stop me I wouldn’t leave my apartment. Also, all publicity’s good publicity.”

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Photo credit Louie Banks

Amrou Al-Kahdi, also known as Glamrou, graduated from Corpus Christi Cambridge in 2013 as a History of Art post-grad. He got involved in drag in his second year. 

He says: “I did it at school playing female parts but the first time I decided to do drag was in my second year at Cambridge. I literally just put on loads of make-up and put on a performance in a club night for loads of people.

“But it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid.”

Glamrou created Denim, the drag troupe he currently still performs with in London. At university they were a gang of five regular drag queens and two drag kings.

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Glamrou says: “The reaction at Cambridge was incredibly positive – everyone was so encouraging and celebratory of the whole thing. It was waiting to happen in Cambridge.

“There wasn’t a culture of it before – I was the one to set it up but it was inevitable that it was going to happen. The first show was incredibly popular and had 400 people.”

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But Glamrou admits drag can be a massive commitment – getting ready for a show can take him around 3 1/2 hours.

He says: “It costs in many ways especially physically – obviously you have to shave so closely before you go onto stage and then obviously you sweat through the make-up when you go on stage. It’s caused a lot of skin problems for me.

“I always have a bad leg which causes problems in heels. I’m still limping days after a show.

“You have to duct tape your penis away which is incredibly painful.

“There’s also an emotional cost because when you’re in drag you’re living on a high, but obviously the next day you’ve got remnants of make-up everywhere. There’s an energy balance because being in drag is amazing and wonderful but there is a big cost of it physically and emotionally, and yes it is expensive.”

“We’re sponsored by MAC so thankfully we don’t have to pay for make-up anymore- which is great because you need industrial amounts, especially to do the contouring.”

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Crystal Lubrikunt is a drag queen and Fine Art & Performance third-year at University of Brighton.

Crystal says: “It was because of university that I started doing drag”

“Through my course I experimented in the performance art of playback and mime, if it wasn’t for my classmate Jayk (now drag sister Rococo Chanel) telling me that I should look into doing drag I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Crystal now performs as part of the House of Grand Parade with Rococo and Lydia L’Scabies, and their troupe even performed at Brighton Pride this summer.

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‘My look can go from Desperate Housewife to Trendy Wendy’

Crystal, also known as Daniel Turrell when out of drag says her drag character “embodies a lot of female empowerment and dominance. It is very rare she allows any kind of vulnerability to seep through.

“I can get ready and look okay in 45minutes but if I had it my way I’d give myself 2 hours and I am able to look in the mirror and take time and give the promoter their money’s worth.”

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Photo credit Erin Considine

The 20-year-old says that the reaction to his drag has been wholly supportive and positive.

“Other than the odd ignorant individual passing by the majority of reactions I have received have been incredibly supportive. There’s a lot of confusion but all round support. It’s taken time for people to take me seriously and to take my drag – as a career choice- seriously.

“You’re living a double life, it’s not easy. I’m not the bedroom queen that goes out in the dark of the night, gets pissed and comes home unheard of at 6am.”

His life changing transition from blonde to brunette

His life changing transition from blonde to brunette

Crystal says: “I work hard and always determine to give the crowd a good time. I am a performer, it’s what I love and I am eternally thankful that it is what I do for a living.

“My family are wonderful and have seen me only once but would like to see me more, it’s all about honesty and being selfish. This is who I am, this is what I do and if you don’t like it? Your loss.

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Photo credit Greg Bailey

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Photo credit Greg Bailey

Matt Harris, who’s just graduated from a Masters degree at KCL, performs under the name Scarlett Mansfield.

Matt says: “Drag’s always been something I’ve done occasionally for fun. I started dressing up and it just sort of escalated.”

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As Cher – Photo credit Amy Grimehouse

Matt, who also studied History at UCL says: “I would never describe myself as a serious performer, but I guess I started doing it more during final year.”

“I had a 2 year gap between my undergrad and MA and improved a lot during that time.”

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He adds: “I entered Trannyshack pageant last year and did a party for BFI flare at Southbank this year.”

“It takes me maybe two hours to get into drag. I can do it faster but it won’t look so good.”

“It has definitely cost me a lot over the years. God knows how much, I’d actually rather not know.”

“Occasionally people in the street have heckled me but I’ve never had any serious abuse. I seem to have been quite lucky.”

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