As you all know the #DRAG team love us a bit of Ru Paul’s drag race. Unsurprisingly we’re also partial to an excuse for strong liquor on a school night. In an ingenious move, our favourite ‘Tranny with a Fanny’, Holestar has been combining the two each week and last night we popped down to the screening at the Dalston Superstore.
Sipping too quickly on my gin and tonic I teeter down the stairs of super-trendy Dalston Superstore. The hipster-drag mash up is a visual feast. Part-shaven, ponytailed bright young things rub shoulders with corseted, artificial hour glass frames. Holestar, the host for the evening, is behind the decks pumping out Madonna, sporting some impressive lashes and a tunic that glistens under the lights.
Now I know there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ drag crowd, but the look here was certainly different. One look at the floor it’s clear that Doc Martins, not size 10 stilettos, are the ubiquitous choice of footwear for tonight. Just as I decide that drag is definitely different in Dalston, a short man swans past me, his leather jacket and full-length Moroccan robe combo topped off with a fez. No really.
I peer past through the crowd to gawp at the outfits and a cloud of green hair obscures my eye line. It belongs to a gangly young character, with full stubble, and white face paint. One foot is squeezed into a patent stiletto and the other is safely ensconced in a red converse trainer. It’s certainly an original look.
The door opens. One flowing platinum blonde mane and a two-foot wide caramel afro enter. They belong to Candy and Coco, respectively. We chink glasses, discuss industrial strength undergarments and the room’s diverse mix of drag artists. Coco pauses and then pointedly distinguishes herself as a “polished” queen. “It sounds bitchy, but I’m just a perfectionist,” she says.
Before I can quiz her more on this unchartered chapter of the drag scene, Holestar takes to the stage, belting out a sneak preview of her debut full-length drag show ‘Sorry I’m A Lady’ (showing at Vogue fabrics in Dalston from the 14th to the 18th May). “Life is a penis buffet!” she sings, “You are knee deep in cock!”. Note to self: see this show.
Next it’s time for the pre-show drag-off. Candy Vanity Heels depoits her glass of fizz and sashays through the crowd when her name is called. She opens with Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’ which soon morphs into an intense Marilyn Manson screamer. The blonde wig goes flying, and as Candy head bangs, her straggly black strands are a perfect tribute. She descends the steps to deafening cheers.
Next up it’s the turn of the green-tinged, cloud-haired, wonky-heeled queen. She mimes along to a sped up version of ‘Jingle Bells’. It’s certainly compelling. I look round and both Candy and Coco are smiling politely. Oozing Gloop, as I later learn she is called, finishes up to an enthusiastic crowd. Holestar calls on us to scream the loudest for our favourite act. I feel like I’m in 8 Mile. If Eminem’s rap-battle venue ‘The Shelter’ was peaceful, racially homogenous, and gay friendly.
It’s like a cheer for each interpretation of drag. Alright, Candy was head banging to goth-rock so maybe she’s not exactly the most conventional act, but next to Oozing Gloop’s green afro, mis-matched footwear and spring-time Christmas carols, Marilyn Manson seemed relatively tame. It’s pretty close. I am about to call it for Candy when Holestar hollers that both acts will be going through to the final, in two weeks time. A definite date for the diary: Tuesday 7 May, 9pm Dalston Superstore.
Each week, Coco fills me in, two drag artists, some “polished”, others just, well…downright Dalston, have battled it out to make it through. I learn she’s performing a Poison Ivy themed medley in a fortnight, after wowing the audience with an Alice in Wonderland-inspired mini-show a few weeks back. Just as we’re mid-way through a preview video of Coco doing her thang as an X-rated, hot-panted version of the Lewis Carroll ingenue, Holestar announces that, due to technical difficulties, the screening is off.
I realise I had totally forgotten I was there to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. From the moment I’d stepped in to the Kingsland Road watering hole I’d been treated to quite a show. After another G&T and a goss with Coco in the loo’s I turn down the tempting offer of a night at Trannyshack and decide it’s my bedtime.
Trotting for the last Overground in the warm, April drizzle I realise the Dalston/drag convergence makes perfect sense. Both scenes share eccentricity, flamboyance, and an unashamed love of attention. And when they meet, the combination makes for an unpredictable, but brilliant night out.
#DRAG ❤ East End Girls.