The UK Drag Scene is Finally Getting the Recognition it Deserves

Ross Whitaker discusses the growing publicity of the UK Drag Scene, looking back on the recent Miss Drag UK pageant and looking to the upcoming first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.

Drag culture has been exposed to the masses like never before in history. Nevertheless, the last thing the little seaside tourist town of Folkestone expected was for 22 Drag Queens, from across the UK, and hundreds of drag fans, to flock to their streets for the 1st Miss Drag UK Pageant.

But this is exactly what happened last month at the Miss Drag UK pageant, the first widely publicised Drag pageant in the UK, held in the Grand Burstin Hotel.

22 Drag Queen finalists were tasked with not only presenting 3 looks and a choreographed, group opening number; but to promote themselves and raise money for charity.

With a 600 person audience made up of Drag fans, competitors and sponsors; there was an amazing and supportive atmosphere as the Queens presented their hard work and dedication.

In the end the crown was snatched by Aunty Ginger who received a £500 voucher from Give Face Cosmetics, a £300 voucher from Wai La Couture, a pair of custom shoes by Nooshoes, a wig by Wig Mistress, £150 worth of jewellery and to top it all off, a hand-made, 9 inch crown covered in crystals.

Miss Drag UK Winner 2019, Aunty Ginger. She is joined in the left picture by Judge and Drag Superstar, Amanda Bang.

Aunty Ginger, also known as Tom Henderson-Griffiths, originally tried Drag one night on a whim and never looked back. “I love the social side of Drag and meeting new people” they said, “it’s the diversity of people you get to meet and the fact that we all have something which connects us. Watching people come alive when people complete their looks and hit the bar/club/stage etc, is a feeling that never leaves you.”

They have previously competed in Drag competitions such as Wig Wars and Drag Idol UK 2017, the latter of which they were a finalist. On their Miss Drag UK 2019 win they stated, “This was my first time competing in a pageant and it was so exciting to be part of something different and unique in the UK Drag Community.”

There is the general consensus amongst Drag Queens and Drag fans that the UK scene is finally getting the recognition it deserves. As a result, with RuPaul’s Drag Race UK in the works, many Queens across the country have been emboldened to put themselves out there. Miss Drag UK was the perfect opportunity to do such.

Sapphire Stonee, a Queen local to Folkestone, believes the UK edition of the emmy-award winning show is a great idea and “can’t wait to see how amazing the UK drag scene is represented”. When asked if she will be applying she said “Of course I’m going to be applying, I’d love to show off my talents.”

Left: Carmen Getit, Rose Zinfandel, Ashley Fox and Monroe Adams
Right: Rose Zinfandel, Sapphire Stonee and Miss Victoria Carriage

However others, including fellow Miss Drag UK pageant contestant, Rose Zinfandel, are more sceptical, suggesting the american show might “not truly representing what UK drag is about (only time will tell)”.

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK will include 2 of the same main judges as the American version, Rupaul herself and Michelle Visage alongside Alan Carr and Graham Norton. Despite the inclusion of the two british comedians, many feel RuPaul and Michelle will fail to understand the intricacies of British comedy and British Drag.

Despite this, Rose still believes the show will have its benefits: “It’ll bring the UK [drag scene] some much needed exposure to hateful people. Bigotry is definitely alive and kicking so this can only be a good thing.”

Over recent years, Drag’s popularity globally has grown massively and as a result, many Queens have been given a boost that allows them to pursue their Drag as a career and work alongside their fellow sisters.

Another contestant of the Miss Drag UK pageant, Miss Victoria Carriage, noted that “Every time I get to work with Luna Lestrange and Sapphire Stonee is amazing. They are my sisters and I love them so much.”

Events like Miss Drag UK really do create opportunities to spark amazing friendships between some of the most active members of the LGBTQ+ community in a Drag industry that can otherwise be incredibly competitive.

Additionally, well-known and respectable names within the industry were all in attendance such as Dirty Denise from Give face Cosmetics, Makeup legend Ellis Atlantis and Drag superstar, and competition judge, Amanda Bang.

Blake Allum, one of the chief organisers of Miss Drag UK has already stated that preparations have begun for Miss Drag UK 2020. ” “We are changing some things to make it bigger and bolder” he went on, “we have had a lot of feedback and will start to put some of that into our pageant to make it better. We have a few things up our sleeves and will be coming out with announcements throughout the year.”

The UK Drag scene is hard at work bringing LGBTQ+ culture and issues into the mainstream. The art of Drag is fast becoming a form of entertainment in its own right.

From personal experience, working alongside some amazing queens at a variety of events around the south east of England, with some famous names amongst them, it’s clear to see that Drag inspires more than just an exploration of makeup, art, fashion or performance amongst the masses. It inspires and allows people the inspiration to be themselves and put gender boundaries to the test.

Miss Drag UK is just one publicised example of the talents in the UK Drag scene and hopefully we will continue to see much more.

If you missed the Miss Drag UK pageant, the entire day’s events, including backstage interviews, were recorded by ITV.

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