meet 5 drag kings challenging gender expectations
“A King show will overturn any expectations you may have,” explains London-based King Benjamin Butch. “We are performing gender to introduce a position from which perspectives can be viewed differently.” To help you take a new position, get to know...
Photography Paul Grace
"In drag - he/him. Out of drag I prefer they/them pronouns."
"Non Binary, Gender Fluid, Gender Queer are all fine, I'm quite changeable really."
"Adam All leans heavily on 'geek chic' influences. A sharp suit in pearlescent pink or a bowtie in lime green with RayBan style glasses (sans lenses) to match. The accessories as well as sequins and glitter are essential. In short, the least masculine way you can wear formal menswear. My partner, Apple Derriéres, and I always match colours and costume changes and reveals are a big part of our stage look."
"Adam can charm and alarm with equal appeal but is not the sharpest tool in the box. I spent my former working life as a decorator and carpenter on male dominated building sites and my character is developed from observations and combined with my own masculinity. Adam likes to perform, even when inappropriate, but leans on his alpha fem girlfriend Apple, to protect him in times of distress - never noticing her impatience at his less than masculine antics. You can tell, we like to explore gender dynamics and roles, in a pseudo-straight relationship."
"Sexy Galexy, Landon Cider, Stormé De Larverie, Vesta Tillly, books TV and film include: Tipping the Velvet, Victor Victoria and Cabaret. But also, I can't stress enough, how important the King community and performances are to a lot of us."
"They/them or he/him"
"I'm transgender identifying as non-binary but falling under the Trans umbrella. I identify heavily with the acronym QTPOC, being both Queer, Trans, and a Person of Colour. We use the scene to blur gender lines and I also using drag as a coping mechanism for gender dysphoria as well as a way to introduce race narratives to a predominantly white conversation."
"He is punk trash. He doesn't care about looking pretty or well groomed. He doesn't care about being controversial. He can strut on stage in nothing but boxers, 9inch platform boots and a tee, or BDSM gear."
"My tag line is 'serving porn and politics'. I will fuck myself mid-performance and/or give a heart-felt political presentation. Regular audiences will cry, feel empowered and simultaneously be aroused. I've covered mental health, Black Lives Matter, Trans suicide rates, Brexit, white supremacy, hate-crime and tributes."
"Benjamin Butch has done more for the King scene than most realise. He will be as infamous as most Queens from Rupaul's Drag Race and I will clutch as his crocs attempting to tag along!"
"He/him or they/them"
"I identify as a trans non-binary bear cub. I flirt in between being non-binary and being a trans man. Gender is fluid and my gender identity I feel is constantly changing everyday."
"I'm a stocky, furry bear cub man. I'll rock a snapback, floral shirt, jeans and silver shoes or sometimes a top hat, smart jacket and spats."
"Sammy is sassy, sexy and surreal. I love dancing and throwing myself all over the stage, if I don't leave the stage heavy breathing in a heaping pile of sweat, I haven't done my job properly. My acts are comical but there's a message - sometimes subtle or sometimes 'in your face.' I'm a mixed bag. I also am a Vlogger, my YouTube is full of sketches, comic rants and my own original silly songs."
"Brookyln's Goldie Peacock - they're a non binary badass using the term 'glamdrogynous' to describe the blending of masculine and feminine energies. Goldie's costuming is always on fleek! UK's Adam All is one of the most prolific performance artists on the scene: Not just as a solo artist but also the duets he performs with his partner, Apple Derreieres, are extremely clever! Finally there's Alexander The Great from Austin, Texas for acrobatics and unique delivery."
"I use they/them pronouns in the real world and he/him pronouns on stage."
"My costume choices vary from character to character, but in general I'm attracted to acts with big costume reveals and opportunities to do a lot of scowling."
"Oliver is a deadpan comedy performer and the master of a million miserable faces. I like to slip in political messages through the medium of satire and copious glitter. I do a lot of character based acts, but always as 'Oliver performing as this character' instead of aiming for a true impersonation."
"I could list a lot of more famous American Kings here, but the truth is that my main inspiration comes from my London King family. There's my incredible Drag Dad Adam All, alongside Benjamin Butch, Chiyo Gomes, Sammy Silver, Richard Von Wilde and many more. We are an expanding community and if you are Bristol based do come to Brizzle Boiz, launching at Smoke and Mirrors on 4th May. It's a new venture by myself and Roddy Jodphurs, we had our first gig recently and it was a great success."
Romeo De La Cruz
"Mx, them, their, they."
"I have always been ME! I never felt my birth gender and shifted between gender identities/sexualities so non-binary and genderfluid works best. My race is who I am also, as a performer you notice when you are the only one in a venue as you prepare for your act to "fit in". While Drag has always been inclusive from the days of Gladys Bentley and I'm honoured by the support, love and motivation from the community, I feel we must continue to reach out and encourage difference."
"I'm a style blender for sure. I move from smart and suited, to typical gaming nerd then a BDSM master. I love different looks but no matter what, I'm always trying to get the kit off. If I can't strip out of it - it isn't worth it!"
"Romeo is and always will be a DANCEOHOLIC! Think Magic Mike meets Paris Is Burning. I want to bring Vogue Ballroom to the King world but intensify the sexual appeal across all genders and sexualities. I say, 'Love yourself for who you are rather than what others wish to see and KING IT EACH AND EVERY WAY'."
"So many Kings have inspired me and helped me develop. Thank you Adam All, LoUis CYfer, Sammy Silver, Benjamin Butch, Richard Von Wild, Gusher, Chiyo Gomes, Rico Del Ray, Alex U. Inn (Momma's Boyz); Rusty Von Chrome."
Want to know more about King culture? Here's a small selection of King venues to get you started...
BOiBOX is a monthly Drag King Variety show, the mothership is the last Thursday of the month at SHE Soho, with brother nights at Her Upstairs in Camden, and The Glory in Haggerston, all hosted by godfather of new wave 'Kingdom' Adam All and partner Apple Derriéres.
Kingdom at The Marlborough Pub and Theatre in Brighton is held pretty frequently often featuring many familiar faces if you are a BOIBOX fan but they also have a huge community of emerging and home-grown talent from the south. See also in Brighton Traumfrau at Wagner Hall and Latest Music Bar.
Peaky Binders at the Fox in Birmingham, run by Jonny Jupiter semi regularly is an exciting new venture and worth keeping an eye on.
The Kingdom Come, Wakeley Community Centre, Sheffield, run by Andro and Eve and hosted and curated by Adam All and Apple Derriéres, has so far had one event with another in the pipeline. Also Kingdom Come is running a full day Drag King workshop with Adam and Apple on the 22nd of April.
Bar Wotever at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern every Tuesday is one of the earliest and best known London venues for Drag. It's now a King staple run by Ingo a former King back in the early 90's
Brizzle Boiz at Smoke and Mirrors in Bristol, is launched on 4th May by Kings - Oliver Assets and Roddy Jodphurs. Smoke and Mirrors also hosts a range of Burlesque nights hosted by Coochie Crunch
Museum of Transology: Films, exhibits, journals give visibility to the history of Transcestry. Fashion Space at London College of Fashion until 22 April.
Text Caryn Franklin