Laura Chen

Killer Queens

Motivated to entertain and educate, the talented artists I have worked with embrace and advocate their multi-layered identity, offering a podium for inclusion and diversity. Utilising drag as a tool to creatively question the construction and ascription of identity, they ‘play with gender’ and magnified stereotypes. If the work focusses on the drag community, ultimately, it addresses societal issues at large. Gender performativity is choreographed and acted out by everyone in our every day lives.

At first glance, the images may look like glamorous perfection, but on closer inspection details and imperfections draw attention to their constructed nature; the fake hairline of their wigs and the texture in their skin, coming through the surface of many layers of glossy makeup. 

Just like the artists I capture, I am constantly drawing attention to the artificiality and playfulness with forward-thinking aesthetics. I am jarring, not trying to disguise reality, but instead, uncovering their 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 the mask.

Unlike a traditional reportage, I use simple backgrounds in various colours to isolate my subjects from their context. I try to give a twist to the theatrical environment and setting they are accustomed to, seeing the studio as a stage without an audience or decor. 

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. The colours furthermore represent the rainbow flag that is associated with the LGBTQ community.

The working title of my project references Queen’s song ‘Killer Queen’. There are different theories behind the meaning of this song, however I likened it to the idea of drag queens, in that they have the guts to be and show who they truly are, or paradoxically, who they pretend to be. They are killer fierce and unapologetically real and surreal at the same time. To some people this can be quite daunting or intimidating.

Just like how the protagonist in the song is described as and compared to different people, things and personalities, drag queens play with their multi-layered identity, taking on different characters. The project title is also 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. All you need is a bit of glitz and glam. That being said, it takes a lot of hard work, time and creativity to achieve real artistry. That is where drag comes in.

Many thanks to the drag artists involved 

Amber Cadavarous

Ambriel Addams

Amy LaQueefa

Anna Nass

Annie Mal

Anthony Scorpia

Ashley Marc

Cristal Queer

Cycki Brokat

Dahliah Rivers

Damaris

Divine Miss M

Dixie Pop

Dominus Von Vexo

Dylan / Dee Sasstrus Doe

Effy Raine

Elliott Barnicle

Eva Lution

Ezra Skag

Fred McFannybatter

Ginny Lemon

Jay Andre

Jelly Cube

Jenna Davinci

Jupiter & Minerva

Lilith

Lucius Blac

Mama Mamba

Misty Fye

Paul Aleksandr

Paulette Mii Cherry

Peaches Monroe

Pork Pie

RiiRii LePour

Sasha Forrest

Seana Momsen

Tanja McKenzie

Teal Sparkes

Twiggy

Using Format