Courtney Act: ‘Reality TV Has Wonderful Parts, But There Is Trauma’

The beloved drag queen talks memoirs, Drag Race and her West End debut.

Courtney Act

by grazia |
Updated on

In 2009, RuPaul’s Drag Race premiered in the US. It became a sensation, bringing the art of drag to a mainstream audience and making stars of its contestants. Through its twelve seasons – as well as spin-offs, All Stars side-steps and international editions – Drag Race is responsible for transforming little known talents into globally famous artists, and its influence cannot be underestimated. But some queens have made more of an impact than others, and few have used the show’s springboard as effectively as Courtney Act, who has earned legions of fans via Celebrity Big Brother, Dancing With The Stars Australia and dating show The Bi Life.

When Courtney walked into the workroom for the show’s sixth season, she was already a star. Having already competed in Australian Idol – she auditioned out of drag, was turned down and returned, to great success, as Courtney – she had a dedicated fan base in the drag world. But she didn’t rest on her laurels: the polish she brought to the competition – the outfits she brought to the runway each week were unparalleled, and her make-up was flawless – took her to the final three. Now, she’s plotting her next step, taking centre stage on the West End for the first time.

December sees the premiere of Death Drop, an irreverent, drag spin on the Agatha Christie murder mystery trope. For Courtney, saying yes came easily.

‘I read the script and I just thought it was super fun,’ she tells Grazia. ‘And I just loved the idea of being onstage in the West End, and getting to work with a group of really fun loving people. I'm so used to holding my own on stage, and it’s nice just to be a part of the show.’ It’s also a welcome return to the craft of drag after a year that laid most performing arts to waste. But Courtney has been using the time to reflect.

‘I've been writing a memoir this whole time’, she explains. ‘To be honest, had the rest of life occurred in 2020, I don’t think it would have got written. So I’ve woken up every day with a sense of purpose, which was really important.’

A legal resident of the US as well retaining Australian citizenship, Courtney is nevertheless right at home in London. ‘It’s funny,’ she says, ‘a lot of people ask why I moved from LA, when I could be where it’s sunny, but there’s something about London’s culture and people. It’s a totally different vibe. People like to go on dates here, which they don’t do in LA or Sydney.’

Death Drop is one of few shows preparing for a West End run in the coming months, as the arts fight to recover. This production will be following government guidance to the letter, with regular tests for the cast, socially distanced seating, temperature checks for audience members and refreshments ordered via apps. Courtney is thrilled to be along for the ride. ‘I love being on stage,’ she says. ‘I grew up in the theatre, and doing pantomimes when I was a kid. And I realised the other day that all those rules of theatre hat I learned when I was, you know, eight years old have really impacted my life in many other ways.’

Death Drop
©Death Drop

Courtney is not the only Drag Race US veteran in Death Drop. Monet X Change – Season 10 queen and All Stars 4 winner – has flown in for her own West End debut. It’s a testimony to the way that the show has united hundred of drag artists together. ‘In reality television there are many wonderful parts and components,’ says Courtney. ‘But there is trauma involved. Especially having your anonymity levels change, having your life change in such a way is such a shock. All of a sudden you’re touring the world, not sleeping much. But you just have this common bond with these girls, even if you haven’t met them before: you have inside trader information and an instant connection. It’s lovely to know that these people get you, on so many levels.’

Will she invite Monet and the rest of the cast over for Christmas? The run does give them a few days off... ‘I’m sure there’ll be something that will come from it,’ she says. ‘I’m looking forward to forcing my vegan cooking on people. I’ll do a nice Tofurky.’

Death Drop - the Dragatha Christie Murder Mystery is at the Garrick Theatre from 4 December until 17 January.

For tickets visit

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