So, Anastasia*, You Think You're Royalty?
Awaken Your Dormant Drag Persona With these 7 Drag King/Prince/Prinx ‘Starter Tips’
Have you had an inkling you might be from royalty? Do you want to see how it feels but you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry: dipping your toe into the sweet, sweet waters of drag feels like that first time you took the stabilisers off and free-wheeled downhill in the sunshine! I’ve laid out seven handy hints and tips to help you give it a whirl; just a few fun, accessible techniques from my own experience for you to enjoy.
My #1 takeaway? Anyone can be a King/Prince/Prinx (or variation therein). No gender identities are more or less welcome: just bring a desire to explore gender and have a little fun with this new persona, character or aspect of yourself. You don’t even have to ever take this outside of your bedroom or a rehearsal room: it’s your call. But if you do decide to take the new you to the stage – well, that’s cool too! The most important thing to remember is that it’s a process and like all things, it will evolve. The ‘You’ that you were as a kid in a kooky jumper with gelled-down fringe probably isn’t the ‘You’ you are now with your vintage garb and sharp hair-do. If we just open the door to drag and invite it in for a cuppa, it’ll become a firm friend, whatever the weather!
Clothes Maketh The Man! Dress To Impress
What kind of a dude is your guy? They’ll change over time, but who are they today? I decided to make a map of the man I’d become, so I used a character-exploration technique I learned back in drama school: I drew a big CSI-style outline of a body. Inside this shape I wrote Brent Would’s idea of himself and outside was the way the world sees him, which helped me ignite Brent’s unique style. Equally valid, however, is working ‘outside in’ and seeing what clothes call to you by browsing market stalls, vintage boutiques or charity shops. You don’t have to spend the Earth to transform yourself, but you could, equally, invest in a sickening suit. You make the rules.
Make-Up, Make-Up, Never Ever Break Up! Paint For The Back, Daaahling
You may think it’s counterintuitive to wear make-up in the pursuit of masculinity, but here’s what I think. Firstly, anyone can wear make-up, regardless of gender identity. Make-up is for everyone! Secondly, all performers – from the cast of Eastenders to the chorus of Euripides – apply make-up on set or stage, because the lights ‘wash you out’. Thirdly, using make-up helps you harden or soften your features to complete the transformation. You don’t have to be a make-up artist, just take yourself to YouTube: there are brilliant tutorials to experiment with. You could make a night of it with friends.
Come Through Chin-Strap! From Soul Patch To Solo Sash
Something that’ll help you find your fella is facial topiary. For many Kings/Princes/Prinxs there’s something very personal about the type of hair they choose to wear and the means by which they do it. I can’t repeat often enough, however, that there are no rules! Experiment to your heart’s content and let your freak flag fly. If you want something that is a little more naturalistic, then a combo of make-up and hair fibres are very effective. I stick on bristles cut from cheap make-up brushes with eyelash glue. Some artists use wool, beard wigs or offcuts of their own head-hair. Some create even more outlandish masterpieces out of anything they can get their hands on – from dolls’ parts to octopus tentacles!
Hairy Maclary From Donaldson’s Dairy Has a Signature ‘Do’. What’s Yours?
Like the titular kids’-book canine, Hairy Maclary, you can also rock a signature hairstyle. What does your King/Prince/Prinx want to say with their barnet? There are many who’ll use their own (long) hair to occupy the space of a wonderfully soft boy, love the rock’n’roll aesthetic or who are in the zone of ‘gender f**k’ performance. Some of you will have close crops in your everyday life and use that look, others will enjoy creating fanciful structures. I have a very personal attachment to my real hair in regards to my identity; Brent has always worn a wig because it’s important for me to have separation of ‘self’ and ‘performance’. By which I mean, I’m at the centre of Brent but I do like to switch off after a show, so removable hair is what works for me. Just find what works for you.
Is That a Rolled-Up Vest Top Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?
I feel like I’m really in the performance zone as soon as I get my ‘old boy’ in place. Some drag artists use rubber or plastic moulds, balled-up socks or a prosthesis: I use a rolled up t-shirt that’s amusingly large and lumpy. Brent is a more heightened, hyper-masculine King and as such, it feels right to me that his member be over-pronounced and cartoon-like. It’s an extension of my Buffon clown training and it’s funny to me, no matter how unusually shaped he is, that Brent has absolute confidence in himself – a confidence that I, Fran, can then use myself. Some people choose to forgo the fake penis entirely: gender identity isn’t dictated by what’s in your pants, after all! At the end of the day, it’s no-one’s business but yours. Give it a go, see what happens.
What Would Sauron Do? People-Watch, Of Course!
As identity pioneers, we must observe. Make like a non-evil Sauron and use your commute to unpick the rainbow of human behaviour. It’s our duty to be respectful as we observe the world around us, with a judgement-free open curiosity, and we observe in order to learn, be inspired and see how wonderfully varied the world around us is. When getting to know your inner King/Prince/Prinx, a great place to start is to look outward. How do those around you walk, move and take up space? How does that then affect others? What intrigues, repels or excites you? It can help to make notes or voice memos – but only after you’ve moved away from your subject, of course! Never make anyone feel creeped-out or observed. But I don’t need to tell you that: you’re a good egg, right!
Walk Like a Man, Talk Like a Man, Walk Like a Man, My Son
As an actor, I found the best way for me to transform my state and ‘become’ someone else was to use my body and its inner ‘knowing’. As someone who tends to be a little ‘thinky’, it was a much more immediate and instinctual route in and affords me my most authentic performances. I take a pinch of Laban, a smidge of Le Coq and a smattering of psychology and create my own hodge-podge brew. Voilà! A toolkit just for me. And you can have one just for you, too.
It’s actually incredibly simple, this transformation. There are books and YouTube tutorials devoted to the subject of drag. I’ve found, however, that there’s a lack of drag and gender training using movement and a growing interest, from all walks of London life, in this thrilling performance form. So I’ve jumped in and started running my own classes. Next up? A two-session introduction hosted by DDG Improv on 29 April and 6 May. Brixton-based improv comedy company DDG Improv specialises in safe space and universal inclusion – so take the plunge and dip your toe in! I’ll be right there with you on this exciting journey of self-discovery.
Francesca is an actor/singer/comedian/dragking and applied improvisation and theatre practitioner based in London, UK. She specialises in healing trauma through art and in delivering corporate solutions through improvisation.