This week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK sees a halt to proceedings, as all the queens are sent home for a seven month hiatus from filming the show.
The competition reality show was filming around March last year, when the very first lockdown was announced.
This may seem like a distant memory now, but for drag queens on and off our screens, their careers were changed (potentially forever) by the pandemic.
Lady Rampant, who works in queer spaces across the Central Belt, admits the news was hard to come to terms with: “Initially the pandemic definitely had a detrimental effect on my drag career.
“I was really gutted because I had some really exciting gigs lined up in 2020 across the UK and internationally, like the European Youth Event at the European Parliament and Milkshake Festival in Amsterdam.
“When lockdown happened, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to travel for some time… It’s hard because it felt like somebody telling me that I couldn’t go out and do what I love.”
Jordy Deelight is an Edinburgh queen who felt additional pressure under the pandemic, knowing she wouldn’t return to stages until fully vaccinated.
Jordy suffers from cystic fibrosis, and being in the high risk category brought more complications: “So if I was to be 101 per cent honest, the drag community in Edinburgh (as well as general Scotland, UK, worldwide), was screwed. Many of us solely relied on self-employed work, and when that was removed we didn’t have any means of income.
“Thankfully self-employed grants, creative Scotland’s hardship fund and universal income has helped, but our whole lives have been transformed and changed. It was really tough for me, cause I have cystic fibrosis and am in the high risk category…It took me two months to get my head around the pandemic before I started turning out online content and applying for digital jobs.”
Performers were, and continue to be, some of the worst affected by restrictions brought on by the pandemic. With many entertainers self-employed, or relying on gigs in public spaces, a lot of queens used this as a time to get creative.
Ms Rampant said: “Speaking a little bit in hindsight, the pandemic has definitely benefited my drag career in ways I didn’t expect. For example, I’ve learned so many new skills and built on ones I already had like photo and video editing, hair styling, sewing skills and just stuff like talking to the camera in front of a green screen… in my bedroom!
“It’s also been good for me to grow my brand online, do things I normally wouldn’t do (like my Instagram look series ‘A Lifetime in Quarantine’) and ensure that my content is accessible to everyone, regardless of how able they are to physically attend a show. So aye, all in all, I’m definitely a much more versatile queen than I was in March 2020.”
Jordy Deelight used digital platforms to branch out, and even bring together a sense of community: “I did my first digital performance for HIV Scotland and realised I could with time and patience make it work. So I completed my MA and did a full length movie that is on YouTube, called the Covid Diaries.
“I also used this time to polish my make-up and post singing covers on YouTube, which is now my drag aesthetic. Kind of the UKs adore Delano in a way.
“I have a podcast called Afternoon Deelight, a talk show where I interview local artists and drag artists, and that has given me a sense of community speaking to other drag artists about how the pandemic affected them and how they’ve coped. That’s given a sense of coming together and helping each other, kind of a red table for queens and kings!”
Lady, similarly, has also had success with her podcast; ‘The Rampant Rundown’: “ My activism podcast which I started during lockdown called ‘The Rampant Rundown’ (with tech by Tom McFerran) discusses socio-political issues in Scotland.
“My aim was to highlight facts, amplify voices of others and signpost other charities and third-sector organisations doing amazing work right now in Scotland for the LGTBQ+ community.
“By working with those organisations like The Greenwood Café and QuTo (sober queer spaces in Edinburgh and Glasgow), LGBT Youth Scotland and HIV Scotland, I definitely felt that sense of community I was missing. It was so nice to connect and work with other like-minded queer people during lockdown.”
Something all the entertainers we spoke to agree on, is that drag is expected to come to Edinburgh in a big way. Not only has the popularity of BBCs British version of Drag Race reached new levels of popularity; raising interest in drag, but the general public will most likely come out of the pandemic looking to shake things up with real life entertainment, and a welcome change from a night of streaming.
While the return of drag in our bars will be long anticipated, Ms Deelight feels a big push will be needed to make it happen: “When I along with other local queens decided to bring shows regularly in 2015, we had to start on small budgets and try a lot of stuff out.
“I think it’s going to be the same. People are going to be excited to return and have entertainment every night, but it will take time. Most venues won’t be able to start immediately paying drag artists in the first week, as they need to slowly open things depending on rules with the pandemic.
“I’m lucky I’ve also been a DJ since 2013, so I’ll be quicker than most to DJ, but even then it will take time. I feel like the customers and drag fans are going to have show their support now more than ever, which I’m sure they will. They’ve been loving drag race so much, I really hope they will continue to support their local queens.”
Lady Rampant is confident that this support will shine through, with a bright future for Scottish drag: “The Scottish drag scene will bounce back bigger and better than ever before after this.
“As much as we have been at home for months, so have our audiences and I think people are champing at the bit to get back to seeing their weekly shows. I know I am! Also remember, everyone’s skill set will have improved at least somewhat during lockdown so we are going to be bringing Scotland some really GOOD drag when we can.”
If there’s one thing that’s key to Edinburgh drag future, it’s the support of local people. When they can get back on those stages, these queens want one thing to be known: Pay. Your. Queens.
Lady Rampant: “One thing I will say though is that during the pandemic a lot of us have, unfortunately, had to work for free at times or just for PayPal tips.
“When venues open back up and event managers start booking drag artists again, I hope that they bear this in mind and pay us what we’re worth because we deserve so much more than this.
“And I’m not just talking about booking cisgender men who do drag, but booking all drag performers whether they are trans, non-binary, femme, a drag king or a drag thing, we’re all ready to get back on stage just as soon as it’s safe for us to do so.”
Let these queens entertain you from home! Details on where to find all of the fabulousness:
Jordy Deelight: Instagram (jordydeelightofficial), Twitter (jordy_deelight)
Lady Rampant: Instagram & Twitter (ladyrampant)
-- to www.edinburghlive.co.uk