DRAGCON UK RUVIEW

Rhiannon D’Averc spills the tea on the UK’s new drag event.

As soon as we got our first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, we could only expect that there would be a corresponding event to go with it. True to form, Ru brought all her squirrel friends and kitty girls along to put on a show for us at Olympia this January.

The event was certainly star-studded if you are a fan of the show previous contestants from Jujubee and Bob the Drag Queen through to Trinity the Tuck and Derrick Barry were all in attendance. Each of the queens had their own booths where you could line up to get a photograph with them and perhaps a signed picture or some merchandise. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted, though – queues of three hours long were reported at Blu Hydrangea’s booth alone!

Talking of queues, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way right now. You may have seen memes circulating joking about how Ru stated in one of the UK episodes that Brits love to queue which turned out to be prophetic, as the lines were so bad on the Saturday that some visitors were turned away. Needless to say, given the price of the tickets, people were pretty unhappy about this – but with G4S on the door, perhaps it wasn’t too surprising an occurrence…

London Runway visited the con on the Sunday, which was a lot better managed in terms of the wait times and the crowds. On the other hand, the show was still very busy – one of the most crowded events we’ve seen at Olympia, and we’ve been to a fair few. Getting a good view of the main stage was a difficult task, and required planning in advance to reach the queens you wanted to see performing live.

Some of the most exciting stuff, however, was going on at the live talk stages. Titled ‘Tea’ and ‘Shade’ respectively, they featured talks and panels on a wide variety of topics. We dropped in to a few to hear what was going on and grab some interesting quotes for you.

Our favourite moment had to be when newcomer Scaredycat talked about how drag has affected her music (and vice versa). Despite sitting with Jaymi Hensley, of Union J fame, she had no problem delivering the following soundbite: “Fuck Simon Cowell!”

The panel, which also featured Ashkenazi, did bring up some very interesting points. Jaymi talked about how, despite the fact that there were two gay members of Union J, none of them felt comfortable to live their lives as out gay men. The pressure from the music industry was just too much, and Jaymi noted that he felt like the entirety of his time with the band was a drag performance – that he was putting on an act as a straight guy.

Mental health in the music industry isn’t easy – they felt at the time that they had a hundred people telling them who to be and what to do, rather than being able to be who they wanted. The panel seemed to unanimously agree that manufactured bands have a very hard time of it, especially now that the industry seems to churn them over and leave them on the scrapheap very quickly. They were, however, quick to point out that they place no blame on the artists themselves – that when you’re struggling to make ends meet, any deal that gets you into the music industry is one you feel you have to accept.

One amazing feature of the show was the inclusivity factor. Sign language interpreters were present at any panel and stayed for the duration, which isn’t easy with fast-talking shady queens! They were also on the main stage, where they not only signed every word spoken but even signed and danced along to every piece of music played.

Talking of the main stage, one of the highlights for us was the lipsync competition open for members of the public who wanted to show off their skills. We watched as, by unanimous agreement, an extremely fabulous young entrant showed off the most jawdropping death drops and sassiest walks. When it came time to decide the winner by the loudest cheers from the crowd, there was no competition. What a champ!

We did catch another great panel, in the form of the Fashion Photo RuView presented by Cheryl Hole and Jujubee. Despite their constant jokes that neither of them were really considered to be fashion queens, they did a fabulous job of choosing whether to toot or boot the season one stars’ before and after looks.

Cheryl Hole’s best fashion tip was to get yourself a thigh high (“Just one thigh high?” joked Jujubee), because you can easily dress it up or dress it down. Juju declared that a little black dress was the one – “You can wear it anywhere. You can wear it to a funeral, you can wear it to a wedding…”

An audience member asked the pair what they would wear on the last day of the world if it was coming to an end. Jujubee said, “I’d probably wear a really tight bodysuit… to run away from whatever was chasing us. It would be fashionable and easy to move in!”

“Michelle would hate that, wouldn’t she?” Cheryl noted. “I would wear…”

Sensing hesitation, Jujubee jumped in with a Davina De Campo reference: “A red wig and a silver dress?”

“Sold!” Cheryl agreed.

There were plenty more little soundbites and quotes from the panels, but given the shady nature of queens, maybe we should end it there!

There’s already been strong hints that there will be another DragCon in the future, so make sure that you keep an eye out for tickets next time it comes around. In the meantime, the queens for the new season of the US show have just been announced, so there’s plenty to look forward to!

Read more from Rhiannon D’Averc at twitter.com/rhiannondaverc.

Images via World of Wonder/Getty

Illustrations by Joe Bailey

Full gallery in issue 46!

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