How can you be a drag queen if you’ve got a beard? Why don’t you just shave it off? Those are two things I’ve heard often in the past few years since starting my adventure as one of many bearded drag queens. In London I was Sandra From Zone 5 (that means “from the suburbs”). In Berlin I’m GhonnoRhianna.
For me, it’s simple: I like having a beard when I’m a guy, and as I look like a guy most of the time, I keep it. Does it get in the way? Kinda, sometimes, but that’s generally because I’m quite hairy and rubbish at makeup.
Oh, there she is. GonnoRhianna contemplating life, love and probably thinking about vodka and crisps. Thanks Dan Govan, you're wonderful. ? @queernift #drag #dragqueen #dragqueens #queer #lgbtq #lgbt #gayman #gaymadrid #queermadrid #instagay #madrid #photography #gaylondon #beards #redhair #beardporn #snowwhite #spanishdrag
The days of “being a drag queen = you’re a female impersonator” are long gone. Of course that’s still awesome, but the spectrum has widened up to include the entire LGBTQ+ rainbow. And being a drag queen in the 21st century is the ultimate celebration of queer expression.
Having a beard is the hairy cherry on the top.
Hornet decided to speak with 10 bearded drag queens of Europe, gathering performers from London, Berlin, Madrid and beyond, to discuss their drag and their beards.
Here are 10 bearded drag queens of Europe, in no particular order and in their own words:
1. Geiza Poke (Berlin, Glasgow)
Gieza Poke is Berlin’s premier power-top-butch-lesbian Scottish ex-daytime TV fitness instructor. She’s inspired by the many strong women and characters I met growing up in Scotland, and I want to bring that energy and strength into the often hyper-masculine gay scene in Berlin.
My beard is not really central to the character — rather it’s a case of “Why the fuck not?” So this woman has a beard — who cares? At the end of the day it’s down to individual choice what anyone, male or female, decides to do with their body hair, and Gieza may be bearded or unbearded at any point.
For the majority of my drag career I have been bearded and only started wearing one full-time four months ago. It has limited some of the looks I used previously, as there is simply less smooth surface area to play with, but I think that’s more a limitation on my behalf rather than bearded drag, per se.
Certainly with other “traditional” queens they can be prejudiced, tell you you’re ‘being lazy’ or ‘not doing real drag,’ but that’s bullshit.
There is so much to drag beyond female impersonation, and who is even to say what a woman is “supposed” to look like anyway? It’s extremely limited thinking, conforming to toxic gender norms and completely missing the possibilities and power of drag.
Geiza Poke’s makeup tip: Use a nice high cheek contour so it doesn’t get lost in the beard. Throw on some colour and some glitter and make it look intentional rather than you just couldn’t be arsed to shave it off.
2. Venedita (Madrid, Barcelona, Zurich)
My drag is a mix of glamour and extreme femininity, mixed with the detail of a little beard, which plays with masculine and feminine. My main inspiration is Dita Von Teese. The beard to my character is almost everything. Without it, i wouldn’t be Venedita. I started with my beard when I was younger, before doing drag. I saw Alex Mercurio, or La Pequeña, wearing a moustache, then i thought: They are so amazing! Why can’t I wear a beard and look so good in my style?
A beard doesn’t make me less feminine. Maybe because it’s a small beard, or perhaps it’s the way I act. The only thing some people ask me about my beard is if it’s a real beard.
Venedita’s makeup tip: When you finish your makeup, put some shadow of your beard colour — in my case, black — to make it look stunning and not stained with coverage.
3. Baby Lame (London)
Baby Lame is a punk-horror-drag monster who combines frantic balls-out performance with dark comedy and the bad-taste midnight movie sensibility of John Waters. My biggest inspirations are queer icons Peaches Christ, Divine and early Joan Rivers.
Drag has so many subcategories now, which is brilliant. I enjoy fucking around with gender, and bearded queens have existed for decades. But to be honest the only reason I have one is because I feel more attractive out of drag with a beard. Simple as that!
Sometimes I think it would be interesting to have more space on my face to play around with makeup. It can be restricting, but I don’t think it gets in the way at all. I don’t think my beard changes the way people treat me in drag, but it’s part of a bigger package. (ahem!)
If you see Baby Lame walk into a space for the first time, you’ll probably be terrified … and that’s what I want. I still enjoy the way it throws ‘straight’ people off who think drag is limited to a cis man dressing up as a stereotypical woman — whatever that is supposed to be!
I find it totally hilarious that people try to put rules on drag. Isn’t the basis of drag about breaking rules? My drag is my creation and is no one else’s to critique. I literally couldn’t give a shit if people don’t understand it.
4. Dogma (Berlin, Liverpool, London)
My drag and development of my drag came from an exploration of my own gender and sexuality. Dogma is a way for me to mentally check and perform my queerness, and if that means I’ve kept my beard, then that’s that. Also, I think I look hot with a beard. In and out of drag, and Dogma thinks so too.
Drag for me personally was never about female illusion. Drag came from the Panto scene, from Divine, from all of the drag history that shaped my queer youth. Anyone who tells me that drag queens are about looking ‘fish’ just gets an eyeroll, and if I’m drunk enough a queer history lecture and a fuck you. The Berlin scene is much more mine and Dogma’s style, and its what drew me here in the first place.
Dogma’s makeup tip: I use crap masking tape to make sure my contour cuts just above my natural stubble line and to make sure I don’t get too much makeup in the beard.
5. The Nightbus (London, Berlin)
The Nightbus is a bearded Muslim drag queen, crossing visuals with political and social affairs regarding the consistent and overlooked persecution of oppressed people globally. Having a beard for me is deeply embedded in identity, nodding to its significance as a cultural coming-of-age symbol, as well as subverting its role in unnerving society because of deep-seated fears of brown men.
Drag is, importantly, for everyone. Not all people with beards are men, and not all men with beards will blow you up. Just as not all drag queens are white or atheist or high camp all of the time.
6. Jaxie (Copenhagen)
My drag is visually very art-driven, and by art I mean everything I find interesting and beautiful about video games, nature and horror. I also use my sense of humour to colour my drag persona. I am a very zany and filthy person.
My drag philosophy is to DESTROY ALL THE BOXES THAT SOCIETY HAS CREATED.
My beard is a ‘fuck you’ to the stereotypical definition of drag.
Sometimes people say, “We love what you do, but it isn’t drag, right?” and I tell them, “Yes it is, this is exactly what drag is about.” Some are scared, especially the heterosexual scene. Could I get more bookings if I shaved? Maybe! But doesn’t it defeat the purpose of why we do drag?
Category is: NEON AND NUCLEAR!! Season 10? Season when! This is my promo look for @cutthroatdrag – remember to follow and support #TeamJaxie!!! Premiering 1st of May on YouTube: @jakeyoncetv #cutthroat #jakeyoncetv #dragqueen #dragqueens #dragshow #fierce #fashion #glamour #glam #mug #finalfantasy #rpg #cosplay #cosplayer #beards #alien #werk
Some people have told me it’s messy and lazy. I tell them they have poor taste, and I encourage them to look up my work.
The beard is your friend. Use it as contour. Use it to show your pride. Use a glue stick if you wanna add glitter. Wash it out when you want to get laid.
7. Gingzilla (London, Edinburgh, Amsterdam)
I am a GLAMONSTER. I simultaneously embody male and female energy in the same space, combining the stereotypical extremities of macho-bravado and whorish-femininity to play with gender norms.
My style is “Colossal Cocktail” and my inspirations are I love Lucy and Jessica Rabbit’s and Chuck Norris’s love child.
Drag is a joyful exploration of creativity, gender, sensuality and the freedom that comes from it. There wouldn’t be GINGZILLA without a big bountiful ginger beard.
My beard has never hindered me. If anything if makes people more intrigued or disturbed. I love seeing people’s faces when I turn around. The most common thing I ever hear is “What the fuck?” in various tones of shock, surprise and commonly … disgust.
Gingzilla’s makeup tip: Define your beard! Use your beard shade of contour to fill in any gaps or to create a structured shape. Then use a lighter colour to outline the beard. It makes it POP.
8. Tyra May Sue (London, Berlin, Italy)
Tyra is clearly about looks. NOT! The whole raison d’être is comedy and politics! For me, drag is such a powerful statement, and therefore you have to make use of it. What’s better than drag to teach the kids how important are all those words coming out of a politician’s mouth?
Tyra’s aim is to mock our society’s rulers, provide an A-B-C of how important it is to know what’s going on, but most importantly to make people laugh.
The beard for me is a controversial element that breaks the scheme of “heteronormativity” of drag that is being portrayed by on TV. Nothing against that — they are amazing and totally valid — but I feel they’re trying to please the not-so-ready crowd. I beg to differ.
Brexit face! Yesterday was a blast. Thanks everyone for coming up and share an amazing night at @her_upstairs ??? will miss all of this. #tyramaysue . . . . . #drag #queen #mua #makeup #dragmakeup #london #londondrag #lgbt #dragqueen #dragrace #dragcon #rupaulsdragrace #rupaul #rupaulsdragcon #beardedqueen #beard #beardeddrag #masc4mascara #dragperfection #mug #worldofwonder #werrrk
I want you to love (or hate) my eye makeup and wigs and costume, and then BAM! I’m a man. Yes darling, I am. We can meet later in the alley.
Tyra May Sue’s makeup tip: Brush it. And also make it part of your look. Throw some colour on it. It’s really easy, use the Coloured Kryolan Paint sticks and rub them over, then take a powder eyeshadow with a brush (that you’re going to dedicate to it going forward) and set the paint stick with the shadow. If you’re a sweaty bitch like me, use some hairspray to fix it.
9. Cybil War (London)
I describe Cybil as being a “Heavy Metal Fitness Slut.” Being the size I am it’s hard to easily find clothes that fit me, so i’ve taken to wearing as little as possible.
I’m never going to look like a woman. That’s a simple fact. I’m a 6’5″, broad-backed, well-built, hairy cisgender man.
My drag philosophy is all-around blurring the lines between what is considered to be masculine and feminine, and the facial hair adds to that. Sometimes I’ll have a full beard, other times a moustache, and sometimes i’ll be totally clean shaven. It all helps give me a greater range to play with on the gender stereotype spectrum.
People who say drag queens with facial hair are lazy have clearly never thought about how much effort it takes to cohesively blend a beard into an overall drag look. A beard alters the shape of your face just as much as any contour, and if you’re not careful it can completely ruin an overall drag look.
I say go and tell Harnaam Kaur she’s not a stunningly beautify woman with a beard and then come and tell me drag queens can’t have beards. Go and watch The Cockettes. Go and look at the work done by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, or Conchita Wurst.
Cybil War’s makeup tip: Don’t think that because you have a beard you don’t have to do anything with the bottom half of your face. Your beard should be an extension and cohesive part of the rest of your makeup, so don’t leave it as an afterthought; plan it in and have fun with it.
10. Grace Shush (London)
Grace Shush is the “hyper-feminisation” of myself. Grace has the mouth of a sailor but the style and substance of a ’50s starlet. I feel fortunate to have created Grace. She’s been with me for almost five years and has graciously stopped me from going insane through mental health and body dysmorphia. As someone once said, “they’re beauty and they’re grace … but also they’re a hyper-sexualised bearded Adele.”
My beard means so much to me, to the point where I turned down a big opportunity because they asked me to shave it off. Also, people say they forget I have it because I paint quite feminine. My beard is a ‘fuck you’ to gender constructs. I honestly forget it’s there.
Being on holiday I have had chance to catch up on things and I edited these images be @hotdog_studios. Let’s call them “The inauguration of Miss @sinkthepinkldn 2018” Big thanks to @that_sandy For assisting? . . . . . . #drag #dragqueen #londondrag #queen #nonbinary #misssinkthepink2018 #stp #queer #vintage #fashion #gay #rpdr #ukdrag
Grace Shush’s makeup tip: Always cut the thin line between your contour and beard; it makes the world of difference. And never be apologetic for who you want to be.