For my series Killer Queens, I have photographed around 40 individuals from Birmingham's (UK) LGBTQ+ and drag community. The colourful portraits celebrate and explore performance and self-expression.

The series addresses current issues surrounding identity, sexuality and community spirit, and tells a strong collective story about discovery. The scope of the work and participation demonstrates the growth of this counterculture in contemporary Britain. I am passionate about archiving what the scene looks like at this point in time and realise the historical significance in documenting and telling the countless stories of my subjects.

The talented individuals I have worked with do not see this 'playing with gender' as a caricature to insult the opposite sex. They are motivated to entertain and educate. Drag quite literally offers them a podium for inclusion and diversity. It provides an opportunity to share views and opinions, to make voices heard. 

In recent years the expansion of the identity spectrum has enabled individuals to connect with themselves and others in new and innovative ways. For some, the artistry which embodies drag, has played a huge role in this, hence why I believe it is important to give a platform to this topic.

I am fascinated by the ways in which drag artists can create endless variations of characters, in the most unique ways possible. They do this by playing with different fabrics, colours, patterns, textures, shapes and forms. With these photographs, I aim to make aware that despite that everyone is born in a specific shape and form, we have the freedom to discover new appearances and attitudes through re-invention. We are never fully formed.

Intrigued by their multi-layered identities, I am driven to get to know both the person behind the stage name and the persona that goes hand in hand with their performance attire. I seek to connect with the characters they play at nighttime when fabulous, exaggerated and dramatised from head to toe, but am equally starstruck by how they present themselves to the world in their everyday, ‘natural’ look. Photography enables me to feed this curiosity I have about my subjects. My camera gives me an opportunity and motive to observe, get up close and interact in a way that I otherwise would not be able to, or perhaps, would not have the courage to do.

The series consists of both digital and analog portraits (35mm and Polaroids), which are driven by colour. I experiment with different shades to evoke and communicate a certain mood or message, but also to literally display and visualise the colourful, lively personalities of my subjects. With the use of simple backgrounds in various colours, I try to give a twist to the theatrical environment my subjects are accustomed to. I see the studio as a stage without an audience or decor.

At first glance, the images look like glamorous perfection, but on looking more closely you start to notice the details; the fake hairline of their wigs and the texture in their skin, coming through the surface of many layers of glossy makeup. Photography uncovers raw beauty, which I value and am keen to articulate throughout my work. Essentially I play with the same idea as my subjects; the disconnection between desire and reality — the person they feel like being that day, in that moment, and the person they are behind that mask. I study and observe this balance and its limits.

The working title of my project references Queen’s song ‘Killer Queen’. It is a play on words that I use to introduce an alternate meaning and interpretation of the word “queen”. Through my eyes, you do not have to be royal to be a queen.

Ginny Lemon


"Drag to me will always be about fun & fashion.

I first started drag in 2016 as away to escape the trauma of my sisters death and to explore another field of art.

I like to combine my hobby of collecting vintage clothes and creating music, which formed the hideous combination of Ginny.

The message I try to convey is one of laughter and hope within such a dark world.

To me gender and drag to be separate, I do not think in the male and female to me it is all a spectrum waiting to be explored.

My commentary is more about modern culture orlack thereof. In drag I am playing a character my genitalia has nothing to do with it. 

I feel stupid and fabulous, so I act just like the way I’m dressed!

My aim to educate children about gender
and sexuality as separate agendas, my goal is to show acceptance to all, to promote trans visibility and to help people log off social media and enjoy life.

I see myself as an artist, who understands that entertainment pays the bills."

Pork Pie

Paulette Mii Cherry

Teal Sparkes


"The first time I truly encountered drag culture in the flesh was about a year ago when I first started going out in and experiencing the Birmingham gay scene.

I saw that there were queens who just came out in drag for the fun of it and I realised it was something I could be a part of.

With drag I am able to express myself in different and exciting ways every time I get ready.

Being in drag allows me to not hold back and ironically makes me more of my true self even if I am hidden under two inches of foundation.

Within my drag I do often parody the idea of gender as a whole and the different boundaries that has been set on the bases of if we are male or female.

I don’t really see myself as trying to present as female, but rather as a living piece of art. 

Drag means something different to everyone and I think in this day and age it can mean anything you want it to, but for me personally drag is definitely an art form.

I have always had an interest in fashion as an art form, however, I’ve never had the money or the body to really be a part of the fashion world. But drag allows me to turn cheap and accessible clothing into a work of art and experience my fashion fantasy."

Mama Mamba


"My first encounter with drag was when I was just 14 and my mum took me to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I found myself in awe of the main character, Frankenfurter, a futuristic transvestite.

I’ve always been naturally drawn to the queer minded and LGBT+ community, because we share the same kind of views.

I do believe that the gender binary is very outdated, and a lot more complex than people perceive. I feel as though as lot of people need to be educated on this, and drag could be one way to open peoples minds and explore this construct.

It definitely took a bit of building up, and still now going out in drag can be very daunting.

Also, being a plus sized woman in very little clothing can beterrifying. But the more you do it, the more you learn to cope with it and embrace itregardless, and I’ve definitely come a long way in terms of confidence since I first started. 

Once I'm in a safe space (e.g. at the club) then it’s fine, but it’s getting to that place that can be scary as obviously it draws a lot of attention, and usually from the wrong kind of people."

"The main things I want to prove are: women can be drag queens.
This is often something that gets questioned a lot, many people will say that we aren’t ‘real’ drag queens, but if someone is putting just as much time, effort, talent and artistry into something, then I don't see why their genitals has to define their art."

"My stage name is Mama Mamba, and one of the first songs I did a lip- sync too was ‘When You’re Good to Mama’, so Mama came from that. Mamba came from the snake black mamba. I have a huge love for snakes and have a pet one which I used in a performance once. They are seen as dangerous and exciting, which is what I like to expel in my performances."

Jupiter & Minerva

Elliott Barnicle


"I like that I’m slightly different. I must admit, there is a part of methat does slightly enjoy confusingpeople as I don’t present myself aswhat the majority would expectfrom a drag queen. 

I’m not 100% where I identify myself on the gender scale so its nice to experiment.

Drag just gives me confidence full stop.

As soon as the makeup comes off I’m like don’t look at me in shy haha!

I like to make people laugh and for people to be entertained and enjoy the performance I present.

For me, my drag is very much a creative outlet/art form. I’m a graphic designer by day so its another medium I’m able to let my creative juices flowing. More recently I’ve also used it as way to gain confidence as I struggle with that in my day to day life so it’s nice to have my ‘time to shine’ so to speak when I’m in drag.

People that have known me before I started my drag journey and even people that only really know me out of drag like my work colleagues are always confused as to how I have the confidence to be on stage, because that’s not a part of me that they ever get to see.

I always tell people who are looking to try  to just enjoy it and not overthink anything, we all have to start somewhere! I remember shaking with nerves the first time I ever went out in drag, its a scary thing!"

Cosmic Crum

Dahliah Rivers


"I was first introduced to drag when I would watch Lily Savage on TV when I was younger. I was obsessed with this larger than life woman being so powerful and having all the attention in a room. She also reminded me on my late Nan, who was just as camp!

I didn’t consider doing drag till I started going to club nights in the city around 2 years ago, nights like ‘Second Self’ and ‘Glitter Sh*t’ and thought to myself “this looks fun – I want to get involved!”. Since then I’ve gone on to win a drag competition called ‘Midnight Mass’, hosted and performed with acts from all across the UK with my drag collective ‘Mother’s Meeting’, performed in sold out murder mysteries with acting troupe ‘Killer Queens’, become a resident judge at the Church of Yshee and most recently, taken up a bi-monthly residency at The Fox; ‘Nobody’s Talking About Dahliah’

My style of drag takes inspiration from the Golden Era of Hollywood actresses, though I try to not take myself so seriously. I quite like the juxtaposition of appearing as a glamorous model with the voice of a bricklayer. If you see someone out wearing a ginger wig and a sequin dress, 9 times out of 10 it’s me. If they also have a red wine in their hand, it’s definitely me! 

Drag gives me the confidence I’ve never had in my regular life. I’ve always been very introverted and suffered with anxiety from a young age, but as soon as I throw on a wig and a pair of heels I’m confident and ready to take over the world!  

"My performance style has on several occasions been noted as “a mix of old-school and new-age drag”, though what that means exactly I’m not sure! I always like to take a nod to old Hollywood movie stars and replicate the way they held themselves and performed. 

Most of the time it’s graceful waving arms in the air and swishes of my dress. My favourite style of performances to do are always big musical numbers; there’s nothing I enjoy more than reaching the belt in a song and hearing the audience sing along and cheer. Truly, truly magical.


What's that you ask? How do I feel about receiving Silver for Best Midlands Cabaret Newcomer? Oh, I had no idea I was even nominated! Haha... Kidding! It’s such a privilege to be listed alongside some absolutely incredible performers, so naturally I’m gob-smacked to have gotten silver! 

I’ve felt a huge support from the scene since I started to push my drag more and being nominated for this just shows the level of support. I can’t even begin to thank everyone for taking the time for voting for me; I’ve got big things planned for the future and this is just the start, ain’t nobody gonna be raining on my parade!"     

Dominus Von Vexo

"I remember my first encounter with drag was at the Halloween event at the Nightingale Club. I saw Miss Marty performing thriller when I was 18. I thought it was great! I knew I wanted to get on that stage as a performer, not necessarily in drag but to dance and perform. It wasn’t until years later I actually go into drag, I was 23 when I started drag."

"I don’t feel that my drag persona is a different character but more an extension of myself. I feel great because I love my costumes and I love that it allows me to explore glamour. But I feel just as confident expressing myself in androgyny or as just me. A strong part of DOMINUS is that its an attitude, and I carry that attitude in myself."

"I consider myself more of a burlesque queen than a drag queen. My message is to empower those around me, those I teach, the audience when I perform, those looking at my looks. I aim to instil the confidence that society so readily rips away from us all due to beauty standards, racism and homophobia to name but a few. With confidence it changes your life completely."

 

 "Through my performance I want to empower others by fighting for equality, defeating gender stereotypes and be an example of a suicide survivor and mental health activist. I want to make the world a better, more accepting place."

RiiRii LePour

Ashleigh-Marc

Anna Nass

Paul Aleksandr

Eva Lution

Peaches Monroe

Misty Fye

Jay Andre

Ambriel Addams

Jenna Davinci


"I’m an entertainer but doing what I do is a statement.

Drag can be whatever you want it to be, whether it be art or an escape and it’s a platform to give any message you want across.

I see my drag as a laugh to be fair, it’s a chance to be that superstar that I wanted to be when I was younger.

I’m inspired greatly by the pop culture icons that I grew up with in the 90’s/00’s, like Madonna for example.

I’m a lot more confident in drag, before I got into drag I would never of dreamed of performing on stage.

I perform comedy numbers, a few times they’ve poked fun at politics.

It normally takes 3 hours to get ready, I put on some music and just relax and paint."

Cycki Brokat

Effy Raine

Effy Raine


"I'm Effy Raine. Raine being my favourite weather and me being a chubby human, it made sense. Effy Raine, heavy rain, it’s a terrible pun but I just kinda love it!

My first encounter with drag was Drag Race. Some of my friends had hyped about it and I ended up watching it. I had been dressing in costume all my life and had dabbled in dressing as a man, but dragrace opened up my mind to explore further.

Drag to me was expression, a way to put out what was going on inside my mind in a healthier way. From there it grew. My artform within itself grew, but it opened up my life to exploring gender, a sense of community and a form of protest and activism.

At first I just liked playing characters and wearing dramatic outfits, but I love exploring both masculine and feminine throughout a spectrum. As a nonbinary person it fulfills a notion that regardless of what is under the clothing I can express myself.

In day to day life I’m just a little emo stuck in 2005, collecting fruit in animal crossing and getting anxious about having to interact with other people. You could say Effy is a little different, I can’t explain how it all changes really.

Drag has boosted my confidence so much, I always had issues with my body with my queerness, with how I presented. Drag has really changed my life, I found and continue to explore who Sian is, especially with my Trans identity. I’m even learning to accept my body the way it is. If my 16 year old self could see me now… they would probably be concerned haha, but happy to know it gets better."

Damaris

Ezra Skag

Lucius Blac


"My drag name is Lucius Blac. I orinally started out as Jak Blac. I changed to Lucius because he was once a character I used to write roleplays with and the way I described him was such a pull I wanted to make him a reality. I thought the name fit the sense of style and vibe I give off when fully in drag. Dark, broody, luxurious.

I identify as a drag king. I call myself a drag king so I lean towards male proununs, represenation and illusion.

I discovered a video by Spikey Van Dykey on Youtube which fascinated me. Years before that I used to cosplay a lot and was usually drawn to the male characters which helped me learn makeup and styling. In ways, this could technically be considered drag (before I even knew about it).

Drag for me is a form of creative expression. I like to think of it as the way an authour writes a book and shows their work and characters to the world. I use my drag as a platform for makeup and bringing characters to life in almost a Larping kind of way. I share my favourite songs with the performances and live out a character."

"My persona is really a statement of things, I myself, find attractive or aesthetically pleasing. I wouldn't say its 100% masculine since I take inspiration from gothic subcultures where a lot of men can appear with feminine aspects, makeup, hair, even style of clothing.

As soon as I'm in drag I feel more confident, sexy and interesting. I'd say my drag allows me to let my hair down quite literally. I'd compare it almost to night and day. 

I work retail, I'm pretty socially awkward and prefer to just get on with my day so I can get home and do the bare minimum in my own space. When in drag I want all the attention, talk to anybody and have an overflowing wardrobe."

"The first time I went out in drag it was to a local club which had various other drag artists performing, so I wanted to support the best way I knew how. I can still be a little nervous in drag but how I look and the response it gets boosts my confidence pretty quickly."

I have a very simple way of dressing; a lot of black. This came into its own when I started drag, since I go for a dark style. A lot of the things I wear in drag are simply things I'd love to wear everyday but don't.

I admire so many characters and people on Instagram that dress the same way, so used it as my chance to do so. I often say Lestat from Queen of the Damned, but could also draw similarities to a few outfits from Russel Brand. Really a mix of a sleazy Rock band front man, vampire-esc."

"85% of places I go to in drag are clubs, either just to mingle and support, or after much delayed planning to saunter about on stage. Any occasion to dress up I will tend to revert to drag, maybe in a different style, but usually always a nod to my character."

I'm an entertainer. I look up to so many kings and queens that use their influence and presence for political uses, but I just see myself as someone who enjoys dressing up and miming the words to a song.

I always get nervous anytime I perform, the amount of time between each of them varies so I never really get used to it. For the first couple of minutes it feels surreal, but then I let myself fall into character and relax. 

It really helps if I'm super familiar with the song and have some sort of prop/ routine. Drag definitely gives me the chance to express the more masculine side which I usually only really show with friends or like-minded people in queer spaces."

"Even if I have a routine in mind when planning, it still slightly changes when on stage. I do try to bring fitting props that will add flare to the performance or tell a story within it. I'm definitely not a high energy performer, it's been labeled as sensual or a calculated slowness since I try do most of the acting with expressions or gestures. 

When getting ready I'll have all my makeup ready on the sink or my bed. Have the easier/comfortable bits of my outfit already on, depending on how long I think it will take to get ready, possibly already have my chest binding done. 

I love listening to music when doing makeup as well, so I have a few playlists I'll rotate and a glass of gin and tonic at the ready to have inbetween stages. I put my wig and contacts on last to complete the look and then usually go back to add or touch up."


Dylan Doe

Twiggy

Annie Mal

Divine Miss M

Anthony Scorpia

Tanja McKenzie

Amy LaQueefa 

Jack Maesham

"It was a massive plunge to actually go out with a wig, high heels, corsets and the whole shebang!!!

I ended up spending a lot of time being nervous, but the drag scene in Birmingham is so welcoming and I have made some really nice friends through doing it.

When in drag, I feel much more confident, dare I say sassy. I feel like a diva but that may just be the heels talking!

It definitely expresses something that I wouldn’t do. It allows me to be more ‘in your face’ and campy in a way.

When I am performing, all my cares simply melt away. I just start living and owning the space that I am performing on. It is such an amazing feeling and the adrenaline is just insane!

I see myself as an entertainer which is a big part of drag, but also an activist as I feel that everyone can be who they want to be and drag has definitely got a grip on this momentum."

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