Killer Queens


For my ongoing series 'Killer Queens', I have photographed around 40 artists from Birmingham's (UK) LGBTQ+ drag community. 

The images explore the idea of parodying of gender as a performance art and a way of self-expression. The individuals I have worked with do not see this 'playing with gender' as a caricature to insult the opposite sex. Their intentions are to entertain and educate. Drag offers them a platform for diversity, a chance to be themselves and discover who they are. 

This is exactly what attracted me to drag and where the interest to document the scene came from. 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. 

Through the medium of photography I feed my curiosity in my subject, in an attempt to get to know both the person behind the stage name and the character/persona that goes hand in hand with the performance attire they decide to wear.

With these photographs I aim to spread the idea that everyone is made in a specific shape and form, but that we can play with our bodies by changing our appearance and attitude. We are never fully formed.

At first glance, the studio portraits look quite glamorous, but if you look closely you start to notice more details; the fake hairline of their wigs and the texture in their skin that is coming through the surface of many layers of makeup. I think it is important to value raw beauty and articulate this throughout my work. Essentially I play with the same idea as my subjects; the disconnection between desire and reality - the person they want to be that day, in that moment, and the person they are behind that mask. I study and observe this balance and its limits.

The studio portraits 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.

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

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 presentas 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."

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."

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, I 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!"

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."

Cosmic Crum

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

Eva Lution

Paul Aleksandr

Dahliah Rivers

Misty Fye

Jay Andre

Cycki Brokat

Effy Raine

Twiggy

Annie Mal

Tanja McKenzie

Anna Nass

Peaches Monroe

Amy LaQueefa 

Jay Andre

Damaris

Divine Miss M

Ambriel Addams

Dylan Doe

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