Exploring the life of Tempus, a student drag queen

This diva has more sass than you

Bradley Birkholz travels from California to Cardiff each year to study English Literature at Cardiff University. But he’s also on another journey – to create his drag queen persona Tempus.

Here’s what he had to say:

“I decided to start doing drag after watching Rupaul’s Drag Race, a popular American television show where drag queens compete to become America’s Next Drag Superstar. It was the first I had ever seen of drag culture.

“It all looked so fun, and the idea of putting on a performance of gender and playing with people’s expectations, while getting to dress up and have fun, just really appealed to me.

“There’s so much art and creativity that goes into drag. I’ve always loved dressing up, when I was younger especially, and seeing how talented the drag queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race were really inspired me.”

So what goes into creating a performance of the opposite sex?

“It all starts with making a character, and thinking about what sort of character you want your drag persona to be. What name will she have, what sort of clothes will she wear, what sort of performances will she do? Appearance is a lot to do with it; obviously you have to look the part for people to perceive you as the opposite sex. But drag lets you exaggerate gender and play with it a lot more than you would just cross-dressing.”

Bradley’s ‘coming-out’ video is his most viewed to date

“I personally don’t really agree with the gender binary. I think gender and sex is much more complex than most people realise. Drag is the very representation of that. A famous drag queen once said, ‘What you see isn’t always the truth’. You see a woman performing but that woman may very well have a penis. It plays with the audience’s expectations.”

Do you see a division in the genders?

“Drag is a great example of how gender is more complex than a person’s genitalia. Gender is a societal construct, nothing more.”My YouTube journey has had lots of mixed reactions, before and after drag. My Coming Out was actually perceived quite positively by my viewers, but quite negatively by my family. Starting drag was similar. My viewers were all very supportive and loved the videos.

“One of my Tea with Tempus episodes is actually one of my most viewed videos to date. With my family, on the other hand, it was like a second coming out. My dad unfollowed me on Facebook and my mum panicked thinking I might be transgender. I’ve had several people unfriend me on Facebook since I started making YouTube videos.”It’s all very strange to me, because I actually love being a guy! And I would never want to be a woman. Occasionally I think it’s fun to impersonate the female gender and people find that offensive.”

What has the reaction been since you started filming?

“The conservative women of my family find it offensive. But most of that is steeped in Biblical conservatism, as with most anti-LGBT and drag sentiment.

“In the Bible it says not to impersonate another’s gender; which is ironic considering there’s no set rules in the Bible of what a gender actually is, or what counts as impersonating it. As far as I know some of the men in the Bible wore dresses and had long hair, so I’m perfectly in line dressing up as Bella Tempus.

Tea with Tempus was a somewhat spontaneous idea I had once I started drag. I haven’t actually performed in any clubs (yet!) since starting, and I really wanted to do something with my drag. I already had my channel, which is my proudest project and hobby to date, so I figured why not include my drag in that!

“Tea, in drag culture, means truth, or gossip, and it had an alliteration with Bella’s last name, Tempus, so the name sort of fit. I decided they would be sort of episodic talk shows where Bella performs, or just talks to the camera, or features local artists.

“So far I’ve already done two collabs with local queens which has been a lot of fun. My first video (and drag looks) were pretty bad, but as with any hobby, you get better at it with time, and it’s fun to see my drag and YouTube channel grow and improve with time.”

Have you had much of a response from the student community?

“I actually have had a lot of response from the student community, mostly my friends. They love my drag persona. I was sort of surprised by the response I had. Some people that never spoke to me would approach me and say they loved Bella and wanted to see more of her!

“I had quite a few instances where people I barely knew, or didn’t know at all, would give me compliments on my drag or channel, and that was a huge confidence boost, especially since I started out very insecure with Bella.”