Behind the Beard: In conversation with Drag Race royalty, Danny Beard
‘All art should be political’
After a characteristically sassy and shady performance in Vinyl on Tuesday night, the winner of Drag Race UK Season 4, Danny Beard, sat down with me for a chat about all things drag, self-expression, and how to survive in this crazy world.
Spilling the tea
Of course, I could not let us Drag Race superfans down and not ask for deets about the untucked reality of the show. With the entire filming process being contained within a month, Danny described the long days as “a lot on you emotionally”.
In such a fast-paced environment, “you don’t get time to process things” and often “just have to move on”. However, they said that in many ways this intensity reflects real life – as I’m sure many of us at Cambridge know. Most importantly though, beyond the stress, the show gives queens a “space to just do drag”, while humanising people who are often subjected to prejudice.
Chatting about my personal response to watching Drag Race, Danny agreed that it’s such a “special formula” because you get to see “the people behind the persona” in a way that you may not at any other drag performance. Although they admitted to having a lot of anxiety about the way their “sassy, shady, cartoon clown” persona would be received, Danny’s friends thought that the show captured them to a T: “emotional”, “funny”, “shady” and “stupid.” They said that while, of course, they’re “not like that 24/7, I am like that”, and that ultimately what they’re presenting is just one “version of myself.”
‘It’s your armour’
When I asked what drag means to them, Danny replied: “Drag is everything.”
Opening up about how it has “saved” them at times, they revealed how drag is their “income,” “passion,” “hobby,” and “everything I love all in one.” Despite the many knockbacks they faced getting into the industry, Danny said how proud they are now to be doing all the things they always dreamed of: finally, “it’s all happening.” They revealed how exciting it is that shows such as Drag Race have made queer culture much more mainstream, yet they were keen to point out that even though performers seem “confident and put ourselves out there,” they are no different from anyone else.
Danny explained their view of drag as an art form, as “decoration” and a “way of expressing ourselves that words can’t do.” They said that drag offers people an escape from the struggles of their own lives in a way that can be “funny” or “serious” when it wants to be, but it is also “political,” and, according to Danny, “all art should be political.”
At the forefront of their drag persona is an “entertainer,” but Danny emphasised the wider implications of drag as a statement of difference in a non-serious environment.
Looking out for our trans siblings
At times in our conversation, Danny spoke passionately about how the “right-wing agenda and distraction politics” are threatening the lives of our trans siblings. In an all-important differentiation between the experience of drag artists and trans individuals, Danny said that “at the end of the day… I can put all that in a bag”, but it’s “their life and their livelihood and their identity and who they are and they can’t take that off.”
Most importantly, they emphasised the role of ignorance in perpetuating transphobia. Generally, they suggested that most people who spew hate towards the trans community don’t actually know a trans person and, in their heads, trans folk are “villains” – when in reality, “they’re not, they’re just trying to live their lives in peace’.
More bearded wisdom
With their own TV show on the horizon, an upcoming tour, an appearance on Hollyoaks (keep an eye out), and the general mayhem of moving house, Danny seemed exhausted, but nevertheless continued to drop more of these sage-like gems of wisdom throughout our 3am conversation! My main takeaway from our conversation was their diplomatic ethos, reminding me that “no two people on this planet are the same” and that “we should all be able to express ourselves however we want.”
Danny believes that what tends to constrict us is the influence of other people’s ideas of how we should live our lives. If everyone just “focused on their own lives,” we could all get on much more happily. “Everyone’s different,” so why should we be expected to live in any other way than that which is authentic to who we feel we want to be at that time?
Speaking directly to you, Tab Reader, Danny said “you only live once, just do it.” Wise words from a royal!
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