I’m glad RuPaul’s Drag Race UK finally noticed cis queens like me have existed for years

It’s about time for the under-represented to have a chance in the spotlight (Picture: Tigz Rice)

The third series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK airs tonight and for the first time in the history of the franchise, a Drag Queen is competing who is also a cisgender woman – someone who identifies as the sex they were assigned at birth. 

Trans women and non-binary people have competed on the show before, but Victoria Scone’s presence is a significant first for a show that has often been criticised for its narrow definition of drag.

However, it is important to me to emphasise that Victoria Scone is not just a ‘cis woman drag queen’, she’s a Drag Queen – and an excellent one at that. She’s an ambassador for an ‘old-school’, British style of drag performance: camp looks, great stage presence, witty banter, and amazing live vocals.

I have no doubt she will excel on the show amongst a fantastic lineup of Queens, and will do incredible things with the platform it gives her.

To see someone like Victoria Scone appearing on the show means a lot to me as I am also a cis woman and a professional Drag Queen. My stage name is Lilly SnatchDragon and I’ve been performing for more than a decade across the UK and internationally. 

The first time I did drag, I wore my sister’s traditional Lao wedding outfit, which had been given a drag make over. I wanted to explore stereotypes of Southeast Asian women, something that had negatively affected me my whole life. I felt glamorous, and both strange and empowered to be wearing a traditional garment in such a non traditional way.

I was just supposed to sell raffle tickets for a drag show but my drag mum, Miss Cairo, was gogo dancing and invited me to join her on stage. After one song, she whispered, ‘I’ll be right back, don’t f**k it up’. With an audience staring at me expectantly, I had to perform – I had no choice. I went for it, and the crowd started cheering. I felt completely liberated and instantly fell in love with the artform.

Drag was a whole new world to me, and I didn’t think someone like me was allowed to take part. But I quickly learned that there are no limitations on what form it can take. 

I had trained at theatre school but after graduating, I found it extremely difficult to find my place in the acting world as a queer, curvy, Asian woman. Finding drag and burlesque stopped me from giving up on my dreams of being a performer and once I started, I never looked back.

Victoria’s presence is a definite step-forward for Drag Race but the franchise is still several steps behind when it comes to representing the true range of drag (Picture: Lilly SnatchDragon)

That said, as much as I love drag and I’m proud of the things I have achieved, I have always struggled to gain the same level of recognition and respect as my cis male and amab (assigned male at birth) peers – so I am happy to see afab (assigned female at birth) queens being represented on drag’s largest platform.

When I first started to become involved in drag, it was with the legendary Family Fierce in London. I moved into a house share with two performers in the family before I really knew what drag was. They took me under their wing, introduced me to drag shows, taught me how to do makeup and eventually I began to perform with them. We were very well known within the drag scene and were the subject of a documentary called Drag Queens of London.

At that time, there were two other female drag queens (Lolo Brow and Scarlett O’Hora) among nine performers in the family, and we all performed together on an equal basis. It didn’t occur to me that this was unusual and, although I would occasionally be told I wasn’t a ‘real Drag Queen’ by gay men in the audience. Once, I was even booed off stage. It made me question myself, and sometimes compounded the exclusion I already felt as an Asian woman in queer spaces, but I always had the support of the family and the majority of audiences.

Incidents like these rarely happen to me now, partly because I have proven myself within the drag scene, but also because attitudes have improved towards ‘alternative’ kinds of drag.

Yes, most Drag Queens were and still are male – but so are CEOs, and in much the same way this statistic is most often a reflection of opportunity and not necessarily talent.

In the early days of Drag Race in the US, I performed with Ru-queens on a regular basis at a show called the Meth Lab in London, run by Me, the Drag Queen. Nobody freaked out or demanded refunds because there were cis women drag queens in the show. 

Drag Race and diverse forms of drag have never been incompatible, the show has just never chosen to showcase this until now.

While Victoria’s presence is a definite step-forward for Drag Race, the franchise is still several steps behind when it comes to representing the true range of drag that exists.

Drag Race and diverse forms of drag have never been incompatible, the show has just never chosen to showcase this until now (Picture: Veronika Marx)

Drag Kings, for example, are a huge and important part of the drag community but have had no representation on the show. The casting for this season has also been heavily criticised as being extremely lacking in racial diversity, with just three queens of colour competing (River Medway, Vanity Milan and Anubis).

While Drag Race has had a significant impact on the popularity (and commercial value) of certain kinds of drag, it is by no means a true reflection of the dynamic, diverse and radical community that I am proud to be part of.

For the kinds of Kings, Queens and in-betweens who do not find themselves represented on the show, there is a real fear that its rise to the mainstream will have a negative and restrictive impact on their opportunities.

Many have had to fight hard to be included and already I have witnessed a regression as a result of the show, with venues wanting to feed public appetite for ‘Ru-girls’ and as a result, only booking those who look and perform in similar styles.

Drag is fundamentally a live artform and, in my opinion, best appreciated by being at a show and experiencing the community and atmosphere that go hand in hand with the glitz and glamour on-stage.

Although live shows are sometimes not accessible to all, I always urge fans of Drag Race to take their enthusiasm to the shows and performers in their local area if they can.

More: TV

It’s about time for the under-represented to have a chance in the spotlight: Kings, afab Queens, non-binary and trans performers, performers of colour and disabled performers of all ages – drag celebrates all identities. 

As a queer Asian woman, drag gave me community, self-love and a voice, and I want others to experience that same joy.

Female and afab drag has always been there, and now we’re finally getting a seat at the table, you’d better watch out, because we’re ready to show you how it’s done.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing James.Besanvalle@metro.co.uk

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