Photographers: Anne Märcher og Christine Staugaard Nielsen
By Mie Hald
I’m staring at the email. My stomach aches. My throat is dry. Okay. This is okay, I can do this – it’s about expression, freedom, that’s not dangerous! But I have never been an out-and-loud kind of person. Amongst people I know, sure! On a stage? Dressed to impress? Not exactly…
It’s May 4th. Candles in the window, early summer-sun setting later than it did a few weeks ago, and I’ve just answered an email from Faux Moe (he/him), who has agreed to let me drag along (pun very much intended) and show me his world of kings and queens, Drag and drama.
Well… hopefully not too much drama!
My name is Mie Hald. I’ve been writing for HeartCore for over a year now, and I’ve decided to throw myself into the part of the queer community I understand the least: Drag.
My relationship with Drag
To me, Drag is a mystery. I’ve never performed in my life; I’m a fiction writer, and when I talk or “perform” in front of a crowd, it’s concerning something I know to a T! Now, my deadline is less than three weeks away. Three weeks to learn how to do Drag. Three weeks to stab my prejudice to death. Three weeks to gather the nerves to get on stage.
Piece of cake!
The queer community is a wonderful thing to be a part of, and my life changed for the better when I found where I belong. My queerness used to strangle me in my darkest moments, but now it has become my ultimate key to freedom.
I’m asexual, which is also where a lot of my worry takes root. I’ve always loved dressing up and acting, so you’d think Drag was right up my ally! And perhaps it is… But like many others, I’ve also grown up with a relatively narrow perspective on the queer community, especially the parts that didn’t fall into the societal norms.
When I was a teenager, which wasn’t that long ago, Drag was foreign to me. I didn’t know much about it, and what I did know painted a very clear picture: loud, obnoxious, and somewhat sexual.
I’m still a “young queer”, and I have a lot to learn. That may be why my stomach doesn’t seem to have a bottom and my heart’s found its way up to my throat. Trying something new is scary, and so is facing your prejudice.
Faux Moe and the Nerves
You’ll recognize the Drag king Faux Moe from the previous issue of HeartCore, where he graced the front cover alongside my article about queer Viking history. I didn’t want to throw myself into this project completely blind, essentially shooting my anxiety into the stratosphere, and although I’ve only met my Drag dad once before, it felt more comforting.
Behind the Drag-persona, Faux Moe is Emilie (she/her), who usually works as a social media manager for a small business in Skejby. From the very first e-mail I sent her about the project, Emilie was both kind and enthusiastic. So kind that I quickly committed myself to performing at Kærlighedsfestivalen (the Love Festival) at Maltfabrikken Ebeltoft on the 21st of March 2022.
In a week from me writing this.
Two weeks after this was set into motion.
Uh… okay… that – that went better than expected. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t expected to be able to perform in front of a larger crowd – hello nerves!
A week has gone by with deep breaths and exercises to calm myself down, building something that looks like a Drag persona, and figuring out the stage performance. But that’s not quite how my brain works; to me, that feels like reversed order.
Because it isn’t until the evening of March 16th that I actually speak with Emilie – face to face (well, through video) instead of emails or brief messages
The screen lights up, and a face appears. “Finally!” I laugh.
It’s finally time for me to have a proper talk with my Drag dad. Other than the questions I have about Drag as a whole, I’m also relieved to get a chance to calm my worries.
“My great passion outside of work is Drag!” she tells me while we chat. Faux Moe has been Emilie’s alter-ego for a bit over a year now, and when in doubt, they/them pronouns are always good. “I debuted at the opening of Kromosom after the first Corona reopening. They’re a diversity café and wanted to have some Drag performances, with Judii Trench, amongst others.”
Though Faux Moe is rather young, Emilie’s love for performing isn’t. “I’ve always loved theater and art in multiple ways, such as sewing and stage performance,” she tells me when I ask her how she got into Drag. “Drag is a form of expression where I can explore a lot of these diverse artistic urges, while I’m free to play around with gender in a way I might not do in my everyday life. Drag is a place free to explore – and it’s a great way to give the audience an awesome experience they’ll feel inspired by!”
I tell her what little I know about Drag, or rather, what I imagine; about these kings and queens who just got it, and I also express concerns about the few impressions I’ve gotten of the backstage world of Drag (mainly from the few episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race I managed to watch a few years ago). Do people really speak so harshly to each other? Because my neurodivergent head doesn’t always pick up on sarcasm…
“It’s a lot about people helping each other zipping up backstage,” Emilie tells me. “It’s a community most of the way.” She chuckles and shrugs. “Though there’s always going to be someone who’s catty.”
She advises new Drag performers to never compare themselves to Drag Race: “Drag doesn’t happen in closeups. There’s space for all sorts of Drag. It takes time to figure out what works for you and who you are in Drag, so don’t think you have to know all the answers by your first performance.”
She goes on: “Enjoy it, really, because the mood spreads. If you think you’re the shit, the audience will feel it!”
Introducing Rocky Billy
The only vague thing I knew about Drag before dragging along was that Drag isn’t just Drag; it’s a character. I’m a writer, I do this all the time! That part shouldn’t be that hard, right?
Well… I had ideas, but nothing I liked.
Until I landed on a song.
I wanted a song that wouldn’t require a big production. It shouldn’t be too long, because, uh, nerves, and I wanted to let out my theatrical side – I am dramatic by nature, after all…
So, I looked up various songs, with You’ll Be Back from Hamilton and Preminger’s How Can I Refuse? from Barbie: Princess and the Pauper amongst the favorites.
The winner hit me at the gym. Topper Ta’r På Tur from the Danish movie Askepop – a song I know by heart and have loved since I was 10!
On the 17th, with my nerves calmed a bit, I picked up a leather jacket I bought second-hand on Facebook Marketplace. A white tank-top from my closet, a pair of black slacks, and an old pair of shoes put it together, and thus, Rocky Billy was born. The new boy in class. A player, confident, smug – in many ways my opposite.
I’m ready to drag along!
The big event!
Music blares from Emilie’s phone as she plays her number in the trusty ol’ Fiat500 I borrowed from my mom. I’m nervous – partially because we’re on the freeway and I’m not the most confident driver – but also because it’s happening.
In less than 9 hours, I’ll be on stage. In Drag. In front of people. To perform.
We arrive at Maltfabrikken and get shown backstage – a cozy area below the ceiling where we can get away from the noise and people. There’s no need to wait; it’s a little past 13:10, we have time, but my makeup skills are non-existing, so might as well jump into it!
A group of anthropology students from Aarhus University are tagging along to do a piece for an exhibit at the Moesgaard Museum, which will run from June 21st until the end of September. The main theme of their project is “The Body”, and the group’s chosen perspective is how Drag performers use their bodies to express themselves. While we get started on makeup, they record, film, and ask us questions.
Before today, we started a symbiotic relationship of sorts – I get some of their pictures for my article, and they get a magazine and some answers for their piece. Faux Moe is their main course, so to speak, and I’m the deliciously hand-crafted breadbasket they hadn’t expected, but I hope they are delighted to get!
My eyebrows disappear beneath layers upon layers of glue. In front of me, Emilie gets washed out by makeup, and we sit and laugh when we’re in the awkward, egg-like stage before a new face gets painted on.
Throughout the next two and a half hours, Emilie and Mie disappear completely. Where they stood, Faux Moe and Rocky Billy take over. “I don’t recognize him before the beard is painted on,” Emilie says more than once and laughs.
I don’t immediately get it, but then I look in the mirror. Yeah, I think. He needs a beard! Turns out that although I suck at everyday makeup, I’m quite good at Drag makeup! Who’d have thought?
Rocky Billy and Faux Moe are joined by Mizz Cassey If You’re Nasty, a Drag queen and friend of Faux Moe’s. With her, we venture out into the crowd to get some buzzing going.
Lights, camera, drag-tion!
It’s awkward at first – none of us has tried a walk around before, and the instructions aren’t quite clear. Also, I have a sock in my pants… That’s new.
But as time goes on, it gets easier.
It blows me away how open people are, especially the kids. They ask questions, teach us dance moves, they admire us. At the same time, it’s the weirdest and most wonderful experience!
Time flies by with music and laughter. The other performers arrive, beautiful burlesque dancers who get ready backstage and join us for another walk-around, and before I know it, it’s showtime.
I watch my Drag dad strut around in a hilarious, stalker-y performance, the stunning Bordelia and Alexa the Tease do each their sexy and beautiful act, and then it’s me.
“You’ll do great!” Faux Moe whispers encouragingly. I get hugs. I get hyped up. I can do it! I’m ready! I –
“In his debut, his first ever performance – give a hand to Rocky Billy!”
I shut down in the best way possible. Run onto the stage while guitar and saxophone play me in. And I lip-sync to a song I adored as a kid. I’m cool. I’m sexy, flirty, and a bit silly – and I love it!
If actions could fuel you, I’d never need to eat again. If an audience could sustain you, I’d live forever. I’m having more fun than I’ve had in ages, and when I run off stage as if chased by angry old angels, I feel full.
I’m a bit shaky as I’m praised and hear two kids from earlier yell my Drag name in approval. I did that. I did that!
Did I survive dragging along?
To manage my schedule (and anxiety), I’ve been writing various points of this article out of order. Very unlike me. I don’t know what happened either.
I’m writing these words on the 16th of March, just about half an hour before talking to Emilie. So, this is for future me – hi! Did you survive the big event on the 21st?
… This is Mie on the 23rd. I can, without a doubt, say that this weekend has been one of the best of my entire life!
For the past two weeks or so, the reactions I’ve received from friends and family when I’ve told them “I’m going to participate in a Drag show” has varied. There’s been nice ones, a gentle excitement for me, good lucks and congratulations. But there’s also been teasing and confusion. An uneasiness and slight discomfort, to borderline uncomfortable excitement, as if I was talking about a foreign curiosity – something other.
No harm has been intended in any of the comments I’ve received. Despite that, I have learned that a lot of people know even less about Drag than I did. There’s a widespread idea that Drag is a man dressed as a woman, and that’s it – it’s a circus-like performance, over the top, extreme!
All the negativity, nervousness, and fears washed away during the 21st. I don’t recall when I last had so much fun, or when I was last surrounded by so many kind and wonderful people!
Going on stage was nerve-wracking, but suddenly, it felt right.
I’ve always wanted to go on stage, to be loud, to act, and to have people in on it, to dress up and perform and just have fun with it while undeniably expressing my queerness. I got that chance on the 21st. And though Rocky Billy might change his name or image at some point, he’s just taking a nap; Rocky Billy will rise again.
Doing Drag felt warm and welcoming, and I suddenly saw the appeal as clear as day. I understand the freedom it comes with.
A thank you from the bottom of my heart to Faux Moe, my wonderful Drag dad, who let me drag along. A thank you to the wonderful people at Maltfabrikken, who allowed a no-name, inexperienced writer to join the way more experienced performers they’d hired. Thank you to the students who recorded my performance, so I get a chance to see it myself, and thank you to the audience of all ages who took pictures, complimented my makeup, and made me feel right.
If you’ve ever considered just trying it out, I highly recommend getting a hold of a local Drag performer and asking them if they’re willing to let you drag along.
The other performers at Maltfabrikken:
Faux Moe (@Faux.moe)
Mizz Cassy (@Mizz_cassy_if_youre_nasty)
Alexa the Tease (@Alexathetease__)
Kimmi Chi (@_kimmi_chi)
Thank you to @Anna.chairdance
You can see the exhibition at Moesgaard museum until the end of September 2022.