Drag Queens, Duct Tape and Cambridge Degrees: In Conversation with Sink the Pink | Essential Ibiza
Published by essentialibiza.com, July 2015
Is there any bitchiness between you all like we see on Ru Paul’s Drag Race?
RD: God no! That’s all beauty queens and pageantry.
DM: We still can throw shade but it’s like your sister throwing shade. There’s no malice, just a lot of love.
AL: As a family we are so diverse. There’s like every different kind of version of person you’d want in a family. Whereas Ru Paul’s drag race is very one-dimensional.
DM: Actually the guy who designed all our outfits, Jay Barry Matthews, comes from Australia and he says the scene is the same there – very bitchy.
Why do you think that is?
DM: I think there’s a lot of insecurity, so you feel like should be shady.
JB: I think for a long time drag was seen as taboo, and now it’s sort of like we’re seen at the top of the hierarchy of the gay scene, because of things like Ru Paul’s Drag Race. So I think people get carried away with themselves when actually they’re no better than anybody else.
AL: But doing drag is so empowering. All my friends that don’t do drag, as soon as you put a boy in a pair of heels it transforms them and I think that feeling can lead you to look down on people.
JB: With Savage and Sink The Pink, the amount of people that have come to our nights and started doing drag just because they look at us and think, oh my god, you guys look like you’re having so much fun! And that’s because we genuinely are.
DM: They feel the love and they want to give it back.
RD: That’s how I got into it actually, I used to go regularly and then I entered the Sink The Pink contest and ended up winning it! We’ve actually got two Miss Sink The Pinks here! But I’ll be losing my crown this Saturday.
Do you feel like perceptions of drag have changed quite rapidly over the past few years?
Dinah Lux: When I first started, one of my friends didn’t want to go out with me in drag because for him it was really weird. And that was only three years ago. It’s not that he was being rude or anything before, it’s just something that was less accepted. But now it’s on trend and he does drag himself!
JB: It’s very on trend! I’ve been doing drag for 10 years now. I started doing it in Belfast and then I moved to London and I stopped doing it for almost a year. But then I started going to Sink The Pink and I thought, oh my god, I need to start doing it again! Just because when you stop doing something you love, you feel sort of repressed. And it made realise it was what I wanted to do – it’s such a massive part of your life.
How did you all get into it?
JB: I was a little gay boy that got kicked out of their parents’ house and I needed money! So there was a drag competition to win £500, which is quite a lot in Belfast in terms of rent. And I won it and then went on from there. My experiences in Belfast and London have been so different – London being a much better and inviting environment.
So doing drag was a total act of rebellion for you?
JB: Oh yeah, totally! And it’s only now that my parents see that I’m doing well and doing great things – like coming here to Ibiza – that they’re like, oh right, you’re not just dressing up as a woman for no reason, there is a point to it.
So how about everyone else, how did your drag stories start?
DM: Originally I started helping out with the set build at Bestival, but I’ve always been doing drag ever since I was young. And my family always come along, and my brother and sister are so happy that I’ve found this because it’s so natural for me.
AL: I started doing it as part of my university degree in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. Part of one of my last projects was the misuse of the word gay – how it’s perceived and people’s opinions in general. And one part of it was transgender-related and I thought, I can’t just write about this, I need to actually start doing it. So I started dressing in drag to experience the real feeling of how people perceive me in it. And then my friend Lottie was part of Sink The Pink already and she said I should come along. And I love doing it – putting on a bit of make up and high heel shoes – it went from there!
RD: So I was a real little emo, misfit kid back in Birmingham where I grew up, and I was always into acting and performing, which ended up in me moving to London to do a drama degree. And then from coming to Sink The Pink and finding this outlet, I fell so in love with it that I wormed my way in! So there’s been a really lovely symbiotic relationship between Sink The Pink and my degree. I’ve just graduated and it’s been a really lovely experience for me – a real blend of my own personal passion and then this family that I get to be a part of.
DL: I’ve dressed up all my life but then when I was about 18 I seriously considered being trans for a while, and in the daytime I’d be a lot more gender fluid. But eventually I realised I wasn’t trans and that drag was a much more healthy outlet for me to do it. And so then I did drag endlessly. I remember I met Glyn [Savage founder] outside an art gallery and I was in full drag when everyone else was in suits. And Glyn was like ‘Who are you!’ And then I entered Miss Sink The Pink. And did not win – it was snatched from me! But then Sink The Pink was the most amazingly welcoming family. I went to Cambridge and I actually did my dissertation on how Sink The Pink invites everyone in to a safe space – there’s no judgement when you walk through the door. And now I’m going to Oxford to do my masters in music.
JB: Smart and beautiful!
When you dress up is it like channelling a different element of yourself or do you unleash a totally different alter ego?
JB: I think it heightens your sense of self. I don’t think any of us actually changes our character.
RD: In the same way that Dinah was talking about being gender fluid, I think that’s a really big part of it – not being confined to presenting myself as a man. It’s a nice not be in a rigid box.
JB: When I was young I was obsessed with popstars like Britney, and I used to just endlessly watch their performances and want to do the same thing. But you know; I was some country bumpkin who was never going to get to wrap a snake around me. But guess what, I’ve done it! We do these things called summer and winter balls, which are massive versions of Sink The Pink and at my first ever one I did a recreation of Britney’s performance at the VMA with a real-life python. It was amazing! A tick on my bucketlist. It’s on YouTube, look it up!
RD: For me, seeing that was completely inspiring. I was like that’s it, no messing around now, I’m going for it.
DM: It’s actually like it’s gone full circle, because your last performance at this summer ball you were a snake and you were AMAZING!
What kind of reaction do you get from people?
JB: It’s actually 90% positive. I personally have never experienced any trans-phobia.
RD: I get more shit as a weird gender-fuck boy during the daytime then I do in drag. Definitely.
DL: That’s because it’s harder to categorise. People can understand what’s easily definable, and then if you’re somewhere in the middle it’s confusing for them. I’ve never had an issue on a night out when I’m in drag, but I do a lot of fashion stuff where I’m in drag all the time, and then when I’m in the street during the day it can be horrendous. I was in Paris on the Champs Elsyées, and I turned round and someone kicked me straight in the chest. Luckily I was with loads of friends, but someone else got punched. And I’ve been thrown out of a moving car. It’s intense – there’s some crazy stuff.
AL: On the other side, I went to LA and did drag just to go out of a night and they look after you so well because they really appreciate what you’re doing – so you get free drinks, you’re given a table, and it’s the same here too. They love what we do and they’re so appreciative. I guess because at the very least we’re visual entertainment. And we’re fun people anyway, we make the party! We get minor shit but people want it, that’s why the Pinks and Savage are so successful. Sometimes it’s really strange because we’ll be dancing on a podium or whatever, just having fun, and people just stand there and watch you!
DM: This is what I’ve noticed – you get girls right at the front and they just love watching you. I think it’s kind of like a role reversal, they’re in the place of the man looking at the woman and it’s empowering.
JB: As a drag it’s your duty to put on a show and obviously there are many variations of drag, but we just want to be the best we can be. If you’re doing it you’re doing it for a reason – you’re obviously an attention seeker and we’re there to pop those balls!