Australia's Drag Kings Making Their Mark On The Scene
We've all heard of drag queens, but here are the drag kings making their mark on Melbourne's entertainment scene.
Freddie Merkin caught the "drag king bug" at 44 years old, when she performed at a show for the first time in 2017.
Dressed as legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, she was brought on stage to lip-sync 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.
"I like to take the piss out of myself. My character and look are based around Freddie Mercury, a gay, camp man with lots of hair on his body," Merkin told 10 daily.
"He loves lycra and his fashion swings into Village People, and more recently disco porn star."
Drag is an art form, and transforming into character often takes a great deal of effort for performers.
To make moustaches, some finely chop their own hair and glue it to their faces. Others buy facial hair, or paint it on.
Merkin wears a hairy, zip-up bodysuit underneath her clothing, which she bought from a drag queen in the United States.
Other drag kings tape their breasts up underneath their armpits or wear silicone breastplates to give the illusion of a masculine chest.
Like many performers, Merkin struggles with her confidence at times but said she's always encouraged by her family who are her "biggest fans".
"I have experienced a lot of self-doubt as a drag king. Am I good enough? Do I look stupid? Will people enjoy my performance? Right up to being told I’m amateur," she said.
"Everyone starts somewhere and you can't improve if you don’t keep pushing through. It just gives me more determination to get better."
Charlotte Lynch made her debut as 'Alf Alpha', with lime green hair, thick black eyebrows and a moustache painted on.
The 19-year-old queer woman started doing drag to connect with Melbourne's LGBTQ community.
"I think we're very lucky here in inner-city Melbourne. We've got such a beautiful culture," Lynch said.
"There's nothing that really surprises people anymore, which can be a bit of a double-edged sword if you're trying to wow an audience, but it also means everyone is very inclusive and loving of what you do."
Lynch doesn't drive, meaning she often takes public transport to her gigs, often while wearing full drag.
"I just don't really care if people see me in drag. So I just walk around in public in the middle of the day with a moustache on my face," Lynch told 10 daily.
"I remember going to a gig once. I was on the 86 tram and this elderly couple were giving me the evil eye and were very confused as to what was going on and I just loved it," she said.
While drag queens have started to reach the mainstream through pop culture, drag kings are still fighting to be seen.
"You have to look at the history of drag. Men would dress up in women's clothing to perform on stage because women weren't allowed, and women would dress up as men to infiltrate those spaces," Lynch said
"Men dressing up as women isn't a new concept but women dressing up as men only became a thing in the 80s and 90s."
Drag king Jordan Aldred performs as demon 'Lord Baalial' with yellow eyes, purple horns and white fangs.
Aldred used to practice jujitsu, and said they get in the same "fight headspace" to perform as Lord Baalial.
"A lot of the performances I do are a little bit uncomfortable to watch. I try to make them interesting so people want to watch, even though they're looking at it like 'oh my god, this is creepy'," Aldred said.
Aldred believes that drag shouldn't be limited to the binary of gender stereotypes.
"Drag is a wonderful way to explore your gender in a supportive and creative way," they said.
"A drag king doesn't have to perform as this hyper 'butch' or manly man, it can be a very fem style and it still makes them a man. Flamboyant men are still men. You can have elements of femininity without losing masculinity."
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