Photography Kez Coo

the actress whose dream role is a slug with multiple personalities

If you think that’s cool, you should see her in drag.

by George Douglas-Davies
|
26 April 2018, 9:35am

Photography Kez Coo

Tallulah Haddon describes herself as, “a small person and feminist-femme-queer un-hatched alien egg from south London”. She’s also a highly talented actress and drag king superstar. Her role as Leila / Shadowfax in Channel 4’s explosive female-led sci-fi series Kiss Me First explores female friendship through alternate realities. Though the storyline is centred around the typically masculine realm of gaming, neither Tallulah nor her co-star Simona Brown’s characters resemble the over-sexed Lara Crofts previously dreamt up by the imaginations of men. “Leila is a young woman who is isolated but has a lot to offer to the world if given the opportunity,” Tallulah tells i-D. “She is hardcore, honest, intense and doesn’t give a fuck.”

Much like the character she plays, it seems Tallulah doesn’t give a fuck either. As a child, she grew up surrounded by art, nudity and even played the (male) lead role in The Emperor’s New Clothes, giving her her first taste of gender play. A passing glance would tell you she’s not like other girls, with a shock of bleach blonde, corkscrew curls, framing a pre-Raphaelite-esque face that more often than not tends to be painted in half the colours of an eyeshadow palette all at the same time. “I want to play characters that are strange, dysfunctional and nonsensical, who confuse other people and make them genuinely question their existence. Maybe a slug with multiple personalities?” Can someone make this happen please?

As in film, the cyberworld is populated with negative stereotypes of women. Often created for the gratification of men, female characters reflect out-dated gender roles, and LGBTQ characters are virtually non-existent.

As in film, the cyberworld is populated with negative stereotypes of women. Often created for the gratification of men, female characters reflect out-dated gender roles, and LGBTQ characters are virtually non-existent. Like it is for many female gamers, this is something of a bugbear for Tallulah. “Gaming culture for me has always been severely patriarchal. As a teenager I felt quite excluded and learnt to express myself in other ways. It felt that the female characters were accessories and often the subject of violence and abuse. However, I feel that has improved with games like Life is Strange, which is primarily about a female friendship.”

Tallulah recently visited South by Southwest, the festival that celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries. There she witnessed first-hand how new technologies can be used for the betterment of women’s opportunities and rights. “At SXSW, I experienced a VR that showed real life footage of the pushback of protesters at an abortion clinic. Virtual reality can be used to provoke thought in a protest and fine art context. I want to make work that represents queer characters and strong femmes and create my own worlds where characters can stand alone, without being stereotyped by those who have, up until recently, held unconditional power in this industry. And to obviously make America into a giant trampoline, therefore, great again.” Can we get Trump to jump?

"The male gaze is ever present and persistent, so with drag kinging I play with the deviant aspects of masculinity and deconstruct male authority and power."

Even off camera Tallulah continues to experiment with gender, and she turned to drag after taking a course for young queers at the alternative stage school Marisa Carnesky & Duckie. “I might look sweet and feminine, but I'm an actual creep underneath. I love to freak people out by subverting their assumptions of me, often that comes across when I perform as a pervy man.” But Tallulah doesn’t just want to make people feel uncomfortable, and of her art she says, “drag for me has always been about dismantling the patriarchy and ridiculing the presentation of female characters. It is an art form open to all and is not owned by anyone. The male gaze is ever present and persistent, so with drag kinging I play with the deviant aspects of masculinity and deconstruct male authority and power. I even present elements of femme drag in my everyday life by over lining my lips and wearing wigs.”

For her most recent performance she teams up with her partner, who has been transitioning for several years now. “We made work about queer sex and what an alien landscape that is to the outside world, when the outside views it through myth, idiocy and danger. Exploring your own queer identity and gender can be a stab in the dark, but a brave and defiant one.

Living alongside someone who is having such an intense and complex experience with gender identity has altered the lens through which I view my own gender and revolutionised how I perceive the world around me.”

The world is changing, and Tallulah is one rising star among many young women determined to break the glass ceiling. Though she is currently learning to paint her nails using only her left hand and hopes only of breaking a world record for something strangely specific and menial, one thing's for sure -- this isn’t the last you’ll hear of her.

Get i-D straight into your inbox by signing up for our newsletter!

Credits


Photography Kez Coo

Tagged:
Film
LGBT+
DRAG
tallulah haddon
kiss me, quick