#Drag interviews the fabulous Michael Allan and talks Valentines, diamonds and Carmen Carrera.
It’s four more days until the weekend (boo). But to warm you all up on this cold and dreary Monday we’d like to share with you an interview we did with the super talented Michael Allan – a M A C professional, as well as make-up and costume designer for the drag scene. Needless to say, we felt very lucky to be given such a large amount of his time.
Hi Michael! Let’s start at the very beginning. How did you get into drag?
I suppose I first got into it by accident. It first started while I was working at a bar in Leeds. It was pretty quirky and we all experimented with clothes and makeup. One night I ended up watching an episode of RuPaul’s drag race and thought, why not? I gave it a go and obviously looked a mess on my first attempt, but gradually I got better. I’ve been designing now for three years.
We’re curious, did you experiment with different looks?
Definitely, I learned as I went along. My make up improved week by week and became more daring with my costumes, facial and over-all look. I never wore the same thing twice and always wanted to create something memorable. I would set myself little themes and create a look from that.
Dressing up as a female impersonator definitely wasn’t the thing which attracted me to drag. It was the creativity. Creating different looks each day was what I loved doing. I loved the versatility of drag: how I could totally control how the image and persona was perceived by people. I enjoyed the creative side of it but I’m glad I stopped when I did. I don’t regret doing it, because it got me my job with M.A.C cosmetics.
Let’s talk about costumes. Where do you get your ideas and materials?
In the past I’ve had a £10 budget and managed to make something out of a sofa throw – you can get inspiration and material from anywhere! I think you need to have bags of creativity and I love customising bits and pieces. I’ve got items from a DIY store before, but it just depends on what you want to do and the look you want to achieve. I can work with half a metre of sequins, gems or crystals, and they can come from haberdasheries and material stores.
Find your style and go with it. You can always recycle an outfit to save money.
Do you have a favourite costume?
There was one I made that was very, VERY daring. It was for a themed night – ‘Diamonds are Forever’. I stuck fake diamonds in all the essential places and wore a big fur coat on top. I was duck taped to the nines but it was so worth it for the reaction. I’m always looking to push the boundaries. I have the final say over what happens, and I only for myself so there’s no one to disappoint.
That must have been amazing!
Funniest part was I was working the door for four hours before it all started, and I’d started sticking the diamonds on at 3pm that afternoon and I didn’t start work until 11.30pm. It took me so long to get them where they needed to be!
Any other stories?
At a night called Speedqueen, which is pretty alternative, I decided to set myself a new challenge to really make a statement. The first thing that came to my mind was pirate treasure so I stuck loads of gold coins on to myself, put a treasure chest on my head and lined it with all sorts of bits that would shine and glitter in the light. I also wore loads of old watches. That was a really good night.
Valentines is almost upon us. Have you ever been inspired by the day?
I once wore a full feather wedding dress for an anti-Valentine’s day ball. I went as a jilted bride. I had a bouquet of dead flowers and painted on slit wrists. It looked pretty gory but made an impression! The thing is, these are costumes and masks. It isn’t the real me and they give me confidence. I suppose I’m hiding behind somebody else, and I can disassemble it all when I’m done. Performing and creating looks has given me the confidence to do freelance work.
There must be a lot of skill involved when it comes to professional makeup?
It’s a lot harder than people think. It’s not just about the eye makeup or the lip makeup, a good structure has good foundation. If you create a contour that is flawless the face can really be shaped and it doesn’t really matter how the eyes turn out because you’ve got the really feminine soft face. It’s all about creating an allusion.
Everyone’s face is, of course, different, but it’s a challenge and it’s exciting not entirely knowing how it’s all going to turn out. With the right strokes and knowledge you can create fantastic cheekbones, and if everyone knew how to use makeup properly there wouldn’t be all the causalities you see on a night out!
The only way you’ll learn is if you take a risk. There are so many tricks you can do!
We’re dying to know: do you think that the Drag community has a strong enough presence online?
Not at all. There almost needs to be an official face of the UK Drag scene. I think it’s great that #Drag has come along and is trying to help people who want to get into the industry in whatever way they can. There are a lot people out there who are really creative and original but they’re not really well known. They don’t have the contacts to push them to their full potential – it can get pretty competitive.
Do you have any advice for people who want to get into the drag scene?
Focus on your strengths. Some people are born performers, others have the perfect personality to be on microphone, and some people just look good. You can really go far if you practice, practice, practice, whatever it is you want to do.
Finally, do you have any idols?
Carmen Carrera was definitely an inspiration for contouring. She was so cool.
Michael let us in on a little secret. He’s going to be decorating Mission in Leeds at the end of March for a really big, different night. He wouldn’t tell us the theme, and we can’t wait to find out!
Take a look at his INCREDIBLE creations in our gallery! Also head over to his Instagram for more dragtastic images.