Tab Interview: Jodie Harsh
JODIE HARSH is coming to Cambridge, but can you handle her? TABATHA LEGGETT talks drag, hair and celebs with the DJ and party girl.
She’s been described as a ‘pantomime dame,’ a ‘waste of space’ and ‘the real queen of England’. Jodie Harsh, the wig-wearing alter ago of Jay Clarke, is a DJ-cum-club promoter-cum-celebrity who regularly appears in best/worst dressed sections of tabloid newspapers. She prides herself on not succumbing to the pointless celebrity culture that we find ourselves endorsing, and yet, until now, I’ve never been sure what exactly it is that makes her famous.
Jodie is outrageous. She’s fabulous. And she epitomises the very best of celebrity culture: she’s talented, hard working, a writer, a singer, a DJ, an actress, a model … the list goes on. Jodie is one of those people who genuinely believes that anything is achievable and, whether you love her, hate her, or love to hate her, you have to admire her tenacity and ambition.
Tabatha Leggett: You first started doing drag at the London College of Fashion. Why did you decide to do this, and how did your peers react?
Jodie Harsh: It was boredom really, I wanted to express myself in the clubs and run around causing trouble in a disguise. It seemed to be the most creative thing I could come up with at the time and it stuck. I think everyone I was around thought it was cool, and that’s remained the same.
TL: What was your childhood like?
JH: Great, no complaints. I grew up in Canterbury and I’m glad I waited until I was 18 before I moved to the big city of London, even though I was desperate to get there before.
TL: You came out as gay as a teenager. Was it difficult for you to tell your family and friends?
JH: It’s very rarely as easy as anyone would like it to be. My family have always supported me and my friends are the best you could imagine. If anyone had a problem with me being gay it would be exactly that – their problem! Not mine … I’ve always been completely happy in my skin.
TL: Did you always plan to become a DJ?
JH: It was a happy accident. I needed a warm-up DJ for a club I was running five years ago but ended up stepping in myself. Within months I found my diary fully booked. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds though.
TL: You regularly feature in magazines and tabloid newspapers, including Vogue’s style column. What’s the secret behind your success?
JH: Stand out from the crowd, work hard, do something interesting, be nice to people, don’t forget who your friends are.
TL: Alongside Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson and Peaches Geldof, you have been dubbed one of the ‘cool kids’ in London. What makes you so cool?
JH: I have amazing hair! I guess it’s because I’m creative and carved myself a niche at a young age.
TL: You once said that you ‘don’t want to be known for being just a celebrity with no talent’. Do you think that such celebrities dominate the media nowadays?
JH: I don’t have much of an opinion of those types – the Kerry Katonas of this world. I rode the celeb wagon for a while and to be honest it’s not a world I feel very part of any more. I’m a DJ and club promoter. I do get booked to play these fancy showbiz parties too and I do have some quite famous friends, but I don’t go out on the town looking to get papp’ed falling out of lame nightclubs with my nipples exposed.
TL: What has been the proudest moment of your career to date?
JH: I would say meeting Madonna, but actually it’s the charity stuff I’ve done. I do a lot of charity work for Stonewall, Terrance Higgins Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust.
TL: Do you think the gay club scene in London has changed over the past few years?
JH: It went stale for a while but it’s bounced back. I travel the whole world for my job and to be honest London has the best gay scene because it’s so varied. I’m not saying it has the actual best clubs…but it has the most! I love that in one night you can do G-A-Y, Beyond, Popstars and Rudeboys! Variety is the spice of life.
TL: What about in the rest of the country?
JH: It’s great, I’ve played in most of the cities. I love Cambridge, Leeds, Brighton … I’m looking forward to bringing Circus to a lot more places in 2011.
TL: In terms of style, who influences you?
JH: I get bits and bobs from everywhere. I love Ashish, Unconditional, Matthew Williamson, Westwood … I have so many favourite designers. Madonna has rocked a mean look in the past, Roisin Murphy alway kills it big, and of course GaGa is never shy of a fashion-forward garm.
TL: Does dressing in drag allow you to strip away your inhibitions and become someone else?
JH: Not become someone else, but become a larger version of myself. I love it. Try it!
TL: On an average night, how long does it take you to get ready? Can you talk us through your routine?
JH: About two hours – shaving, hair, make-up, styling…it’s kind of boring really. I do it all with loud music and lots of coffee.
TL: What are your plans for the future?
JH: A Circus tour in 2011 taking in loads of UK cities, with The Junction getting an exclusive sneak peak on 30th October. I suggest you book tickets for it ASAP because it’s going to be quite a show!
TL: What can people coming to Circus at The Junction expect?
JH: A full on show – loads of visual things happening – and great music. I promise you a banging electro set you’ll dance to until your feet bleed. Wait ’til you see my gogo dancers, too …
Jodie Harsh will be at The Junction presenting her club night Circus on Saturday 30th October. Click here for more details.