The Vivienne On Her Early Days Of Drag: ‘They Offered Me A Blue WKD And 30 Quid’

The Vivienne talks Pete Burns, making a few bob, and how drag changes lives with Grazia.

The Vivienne

by Paul Flynn |
Updated on

Can you walk me through your look today?

The hair’s quite a beachy number.

What colour would you call it, Candyfloss?

Muted rose.

Why do you think you’ve got as far as you have in the competition?

If you look at the top three then we’ve all tread the boards and paid our dues. Drag, to me is such a spotlight on entertainment and performance rather than striving to be a supermodel. That’s great but for me, if I want to watch a drag queen, I want to be entertained. In my show it’s me, a microphone and a spotlight for an hour straight. Look at Maisie Trollette, what is she, 85? Blue eyeshadow up to her forehead, so endearing to watch.

How did you find drag?

I moved to Liverpool from a tiny town in North Wales when I was sixteen to be a make-up artist. Great parents, great everything, but I needed to move to the city. Finished school on the Friday, rocked up in Liverpool on the Saturday. Blagged my way into a make-up job. Then you find gay clubs. I saw a few drag queens who were a bit [pulls face] and thought, I can do this.

They offered me a Blue WKD and 30 quid and then other bars started poaching me. Then I was DJing, performing and worked my way up from there. I’m such a creative person and drag is the one thing that you can put all your creative energies into: singing, fashion, makeup artistry, performance. Combines it all. Drag is everything. I mean, my face is held up with strings at the minute.

How has being in UK Drag Race changed your life?

It’s been nuts, absolutely crazy. I’ve been lucky enough to work as a drag queen, as my sole income for the last 12 years. I’m 27. Started just turned 17. Now its taking all those gigs to a next level. I did a gig in Glasgow last week and the queue was round the block. Just amazing. WTF? You have this expectation, now you’re a Ru girl. I just wanted to elevate my drag.

This is like the Dragon’s Den of Drag Queens. You go in, you pitch what you’re good at, then hopefully the world falls in love with you and gives you loads of money.

Who is the Deborah Meaden of that panel?

I think it would be Michelle. I’m obsessed with Deborah Meaden, they’re very similar. They want the best for you.

Who’s been your favourite of the celebrity judges?

Alan Carr has just been brilliant, hilarious. Graham and Alan have filled the American shoes of Carson and Ross perfectly. Alan’s a massive fan of drag anyway. They’ve been going to gay bars for years, watching Miss Jason getting pissed in the Two Brewers. It’s great to see them bouncing off each other. Graham was probably the first queer person I saw on telly, as I said.

What’s been your personal favourite look of the season.

Pete Burns. I’m just so glad I got to play him. Pete was the first person I ever saw working drag, on Graham Norton when he used to be on Channel 4. Pete had just re-released a remix of You Spin Me Round. My dad drove me to school the next day and all I could think about was this creature I’d seen the night before on telly. Plastic surgery, wasn’t a woman, wasn’t a man, just this fuckery of fab. Ever since then, he’s stuck with me. I never met Pete but was possibly in the same club as him once. There was a bit of controversy about the flat shoes but once I explained they were Vivienne Westwood, they understood it has to be done correct.

What do you think the show will do for drag in the UK?

The amount of people who tell me they sit and watch it with their family is amazing. A lot of my family are romany travellers, I’ve got aunties and uncles that would’ve never watched something like this in the past. Now, they’re totally hooked on it.

How do you feel it compares with US Drag Race?

We all love the US version, obviously. We got to go over and see it in production with the ambassador’s challenge. You look at someone like Bianca and she really is the perfect example of how to use drag to take over the world. She’s just done Wembley. What the fuck? She’s been on tour since January and doesn’t come off until the end of November, hasn’t been home once. That’s craziness.

It’s evident to see in ours that the queens are a lot friendlier to each other, looking out for one another, even though there are bitchy moments. Sum Ting Wong in the sewing challenge, that’s come across as maybe shadier than it was but I was genuinely saying to her, girl, maybe try looking at a different fabric? I want everyone to do well and watch the show, thinking British drag queens are just as good as American drag queens. I was bawling my eyes out when some of them went. We’re the only ten people in the world that have had that experience, so far.

What’s the financial benefits of being on the show?

Smashing! I’ve made a few bob. Can’t complain, it’s all part and parcel of it.

What’s the thing you’ve learned most about yourself from taking part in UK Drag Race?

I can see how passionate I am about it. Drag gives you confidence, it’s like a superhero cape or a suit of armour. I’ve got friends who have retired from drag and I think, that’s never going to be me. I am going to be Maisie Trollette.

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