We spoke to one of Edinburgh’s leading drag queens

“You are a man in an Alexander McQueen dress and you feel ethereal – a queen of the night, ready to share your drag with the world.”

The art of drag has existed and has been celebrated worldwide for centuries. It’s a movement that is deeply loved by many, but not necessarily understood by some. What is drag? How can that man in 8 inch heels walk better than me? What good have drag queens ever done?

Well, it was the greatly loved drag queen Marsha P. Johnson who threw that first stone at the Stonewall Riots on June 28. 1969, starting the revolution against the violent oppression of LGBT people in 1960s America and paving the way to a more loving and accepting world, encouraging hundreds of others to follow suit and fight for equality.

Marsha P. Johnson

Queen of the night

Drag is timeless and is especially popular right now in 2017, with shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race thrusting the topic into the mainstream media, the world of drag has rocketed into the spotlight. It exists everywhere, in every city. Even in here in Edinburgh.

If you head on down The Rabbit Hole at CC Blooms on a Tuesday evening, Alice Rabbit and her visionary sisters will thrill you with an evening of live drag and leave you begging for more.

I ventured down Alice’s hole last week to speak to her about what drag means to her and her creative family and why queer safe spaces are so important to LGBT youth.

Alice Rabbit, Edinburgh @alicerabbitxoxo

Photo by Craig Waddell

So, let’s start off nice and simple. When, and why, did you decide to start up the Rabbit Hole? 

“I had been performing on any stage I could get my hands on, I never had a huge drive on having a show for myself but there were a lot of people who were interested in the idea and I soon warmed up to it. Luckily, the amazing Owners of CC Blooms gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse with their new LAB space and it looked amazing… and I’m a sucker for basements.”

What impact do you think queer spaces like the Rabbit Hole have on LGBT youth?

“I definitely think queer spaces like the Rabbit Hole have a great impact on LGBT youth. I remember that when I first came to the LGBT scene here in Edinburgh, I definitely did not fit in. There weren’t as many people who dressed up as there are now and even within our own community, the mindset was much more black and white towards gender, sexuality and fashion. Now, the scene is a lot more “come as you are ” and I definitely think that the Rabbit Hole has helped with that because we are a solid representation of people from all walks of life and backgrounds, coming together to have a damn good time and we want everyone to be able to feel that way too.”

What does drag mean to you?

“Drag, to me, means salvation. From the minute that I left school, I was stuck in a limbo of what I wanted to be in life. I had looked for work for a very long time and I just didn’t have much luck with that. I had left my parents and was living with my drag mother off her money and it was horrible for everyone. But, doing drag helped me put myself out there a lot more and I learned the hustle. If it wasn’t for drag, I’m sure I’d be homeless by now.”

Some people are confused about drag and whether there is a connection between drag and transgenderism. What would you say to best explain the difference to people?

“I think people definitely need to stop putting drag and transgenderism into the same box. For subject matter, drag is entertainment and art. Transgenderism is who someone is inside. Yes, we have had trans people find themselves through drag and trans people still perform as drag queens/kings because it is separate.”

Drag and the world

Shows and spaces like The Rabbit Hole are present across the country. There’s Cha Cha Boudoir in Manchester, The Nightingale Club in Birmingham and Sink The Pink in London.

But how does drag differ from place to place and do different societal situations affect a persons drag?

I spoke to one of my all time favourite queens from Berlin, Germany to hear her opinion on things.

Hungry, Berlin @Isshehungry

Photo by Studio Prokopiou

I first came across Hungry in a smoky Berlin karaoke bar in 2016. She had me absolutely gagged with her looks and definitely hungry to see what more she could bring to the table. Starting out in Berlin but a few years ago, Hungry has worked her way up to international stardom with over 18,000 followers on Instagram and countless bookings across the continent. So, when I heard that she was going to be performing in my hometown, Manchester, last Friday I just had to go down and see her. And I wasn’t disappointed.

She took the time to talk to me during the interval and was extremely sweet and thankful for the warm reception she received in the packed out bar on Manchester’s infamous Canal Street.

So, Hungry, what does drag really mean to you?

“Drag is ruining my life,” she says. “Well, no, drag is my life. And however fun it might sound, it’s a lot of work, if you want to do it right and constantly better yourself. But I couldn’t give it up just like that.”

When did you actually start doing drag and what made you decide to give it a try?

“She [Hungry] descended in 2014, but it wasn’t my fault. I wanted to try it once so a friend of mine took me out to buy some hair and another did my face and we went out to this big drag party at Monster Ronson’s.” (A karaoke bar in Berlins eastern Friedrichshain district). “It wasn’t for another four months that I went out again and met Pansy Presents who gave me a stage and the opportunity to make Hungry a frequent thing. At that time I just needed a distraction from a mean break up but it quickly became a passion.”

“Moving to London, I was welcomed into Sink the Pink and also started working at The Box. Both gave me a massive push to bring better looks and work on my own unique signature.”

Photo from Siegessäule

What is the best part about being able to do what you do?

“I love being able to give people a glimpse of reality that could be. An organic, breathing image of another dimensions life form. Like Alexander McQueens Platos Atlantis, Hungry is the human being that adapted to completely new surroundings. And with being that, I just want to inspire people to be more. Put more passion into things. And it’s amazing seeing this being appreciated.”

How do you see the future of your own drag and that of drag as a whole?

“Well, spreading world hunger?” she jests. “I travelled a fair lot last year and loved meeting new and like-minded people. I hope I get the chance to keep on exploring that way. I’m not going to think further than that, as I didn’t pick a career with the steadiest of futures.”

“Drag as a whole is just as tricky to predict. A friend once described drag as part art and part community service as it doesn’t take any education to become a drag queen. And that, to me, might be the issue. If drag were to become more professional, it could surely become even bigger. It needs to take itself seriously. I’m not saying that I am perfect in any way, though. But I am serious about what I do. At times too serious.”

“You’re born naked and the rest is drag” – RuPaul

Drag is whatever you want it to be, and that is what makes it so special. Anything can be drag: if you’ve created it and it’s an expression of a part of you, it’s drag. Whether you’re in 8 inch heels and a ball gown or whether you’re simply experimenting with some funky makeup designs, embrace your drag and be the inner club kid you know you are.

And if you want to check out some local live drag, don’t forget to head on down to CC Blooms every Tuesday at 9pm for Alice’s Rabbit Hole and on the final Sunday of every month you can check out Such a Drag at Electric Circus.