For the past month Drag artist SirVyx, also known as Riley, has been hard at work creating 31 unique makeup looks for her Instagram followers. We sat down with her to discuss Makeup March, the mainstreaming of Drag, and growing up Gay in the UK.
Hey Riley, So for the last month you’ve been doing Makeup March. How’s that going?
Yeah it’s really good. It’s quite stressful trying to make sure all the content is at a level where i’m really happy with everything that’s going out but it’s a fun challenge and I get to push my artistic boundaries every time I do something different.
What made you decide to do it? 31 days in a row seems like a lot of ideas.
I got a bit bored to be honest. I was doing the same kind of makeup all the time and then only really posting to Instagram when I was doing gigs. I have a degree in fine art which included studying both makeup and performance so I felt like, not using these skills, I was missing a bit of a trick. Drag is an art form after all. A powerful art form that defies the concepts of society. Makeup is my medium. I actually did a whole series where I created landscapes on my face like ‘a starry night’ by Van Gogh.
How would you describe your Drag?
Honestly, I don’t really know. Especially at the moment as I’m currently going through so many different looks daily. I don’t really know if I have an aesthetic. Being a bearded Queen, I guess I have an alternative aesthetic. People expect Drag to be impersonating a woman when actually Drag is so much more than that. Drag is open to everyone, it isn’t gender specific. I guess that’s what my aesthetic is; Androgynous.
How has being a bearded Queen been received?
Having a beard while doing drag is a little bit like Marmite. People either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground. I would say that in some respects people struggle to take me seriously as a performer. People think it’s me being lazy or not wanting to shave. Actually it’s that I’m not trying to convince anyone that I’m a woman. That’s not what my drag is about and that’s not who I am.
Is there any other Drag artists out there who inspire you?
I think all drag is inspiring. Sorry for the cliche pageant answer. But i really do think all drag is inspiring and it takes real courage to go against what society says is okay and normal and ask “what even is normal?”.
We had the first UK drag pageant recently what’s your experience with the UK drag scene?
I actually attended the Miss Drag UK pageant, it was such a wonderful event that was filled with such love, admiration and support from the local community. It was really wonderful.
I’m based in Kent and we’re like a close knit family down there. We all know each other and support each other where we can. It’s a wonderful little scene that’s forever growing. I’m three years into the game now. I host open drag nights for new performers that don’t quite have the experience that they need to get gigs. All the queens are getting younger, or maybe that’s just me getting older, anyway, it’s definitely encouraging to see!
Kent is quite a conservative stronghold. How has Drag been received in the wider community.
It is, but I’m quite lucky to have never felt threatened or unsafe. As a group we all take precautions. It’s taking that extra five minutes to make sure someone gets home okay. If me and my friend ever went out where I was in full drag, I will never be the last one to get out of the cab. We always make sure we look after each other and that’s probably why i’ve always felt safe. The issue is why do I have to do that and why don’t I feel comfortable. But that’s a whole different question.
However, things are changing. I get to meet all different kinds of people whilst performing. We always say about how we shouldn’t judge anyone but i think that’s hard when you’ve been targeted in the past. I’ve never felt targeted while in Drag but I have out of Drag. Those moments stick with you and haunt you. I remember being approached by a group of people I probably wouldn’t approach myself who then surprised me by saying, “my brother’s gay, I think you look great! Can we get a photo for me to send him”. Those moments are really wonderful. They remind me that though it’s hard not to paint everyone with the same brush, it’s important to remember that we don’t necessarily know everyone. All we can do is learn and try our best to educate ourselves. I think that’s happening in Kent and with the amount of pride events that are propping up around the local area I think [being a Kent Drag Queen] is a really wonderful opportunity.
Exactly! Things are definitely changing and Drag is becoming much more popular. Are you excited for Drag Race UK?
I’m excited to see what’s gonna come from Drag Race UK and i’m really keen to see how vastly different it will be to the American version. UK drag and American drag are very different, including their audiences.
American humour is very different.
Yes, I don’t know if they are going to find it funny or be like, “well that’s just rude”. Anyway, I’m excited to see what it will look like.
On the topic of change, American Horror Story’s Cody Fern was recently dubbed ‘Hollywood’s Genderfuck Rebel’ because he wears sheer shirts and eyeliner to film premieres. Is a man wearing eyeliner considered a ‘Genderfuck Rebel’ now?
I hadn’t heard about this and I don’t really know much about it but comments like that often come from a lack of understanding. Society doesn’t have to have boundaries. It doesn’t have to have specific pressures that say something belongs to a certain group of people. You want to rock a smokey eye? Go rock a smokey eye. What does gender and sexuality have to do with that? The comment is also kind of weird because it’s Hollywood, everyone wears makeup.
That’s a good point. Overall, it seems Drag, in many forms, is becoming much more prominent and visible. What effect do you think this has for young, closeted LGBT+ kids?
Well I’ve done a fair few prides in my time. In Drag that is. I think it’s really incredible to see how many more young people are coming out to those events and beginning to feel more comfortable. I’ve had people who are in their early teens come up to me knowing their sexuality, knowing who they are, and they are just out and proud. God, I couldn’t even imagine being that young and that confident in who I was. LGBT+ culture is really prominent at the moment and as a result there are more discussions being had and a more open society is being created. It’s now been 6 years since I came out and things have come along leaps and bounds. You can see that reflected in a community that is continuously growing. Just like anything, with time comes change.
For more of SirVyx’s looks check out her instagram @heysirvyx.