Once I was afraid, but then you came along…
The lights changed red and the opening notes to ‘Raise You Up’ are playing! What I’ve built up to for the past few months is finally happening and all I need to do is step my red, thigh high heeled boots onto the stage. It’s too late to turn back now! I’ve got to do it…..
This isn’t some bizarre dream, this is actually happening. Let’s start at the beginning. I’ve been part of an amateur dramatic group for the past 3 years. I absolutely love it and joining a group again really built up the confidence I lost over the years. The group decided to put on a show with lots of songs from musicals in it.
Now, I have been obsessed with The musical Kinky Boots since me and my friend Nyree booked some tickets to see it on the spur of the moment on a little trip to London. The songs, the story, the emotion but most importantly, the drag queens- especially Lola. Lola is a strong central character who everyone loved right from the beginning.
I was part of the creative team so I helped with ideas for songs. I really wanted us to perform ‘Raise You Up’ from the musical Kinky Boots and I was desperate to be Lola in it. The song is an upbeat number with a positive message and I had a feeling it would get the audience going, even if they may not be familiar with the song. I got my wish! It was put in the middle of act 2 and I couldn’t of been more happy.
As it was a song I was so passionate about, I taught the song to our group. We all worked hard on perfecting the song and dance routine, trying to lift it up so it would really get the crowd having as much fun as we were on stage. A lot of the cast weren’t familiar with the song but they soon fell in love with it. As Lola is a drag queen, I wanted to do it for our show too with the red kinky boots and get the other men in the song to wear the famous red boots too!
I’ve wanted to do drag for a while now and this was the perfect excuse to debut a drag look. So I studied videos of the song and hunted for red boots and a sparkly red dress. I managed to find the perfect dress on eBay and was lucky enough to win it for the bargain price of £1.70!
I even had a makeup tutorial to help me perfect drag makeup. Obviously this would need a lot of work but I was willing to do it, not just for this show but for possible future drag performances. I had no idea where to start with things like base and what products I would need. I ended up messaging Francesca.
I met Francesca at a photo shoot I did last year. She was so lovely and her makeup is incredible. We discussed us doing something drag related at the shoot and when I messaged her, she replied straight away and said she would love to help, so we arranged for me to go over to hers a few weeks later.
I took with me all the makeup I had collected over time and we went through it to see what might be useful. She showed me how to apply things and what products I would need to use. By the end of it, I had a much more feminine face shape and a bigger understanding about how to apply base makeup and contour. Also, a huge shopping list of products I needed to buy!
I tried to keep it a secret from my friends and family coming to see the show. I wanted them to be surprised by what was going to happen. It was so hard not to tell people though as I was so excited! As show week approached, my nerves became stronger. I was so worried about what people might think, would I be able to actually pull this off?
We got to the theatre and I purposely didn’t wear my outfit until dress rehearsal. It was quite a shock for a lot of people. They had no idea I was going to go for a full drag look. I had a black wig on for it but after discussing it with a few people, we decided that a red wig would be better.
Originally I wanted to wear a red wig but decided against it as I thought it might be too much red with a red dress and red boots. How wrong could I have been. The red wig I had couldn’t have looked more perfect. And Becs did an amazing job of my makeup! She’s a very talented lady!
I was getting more and more nervous about my drag debut as the week went on and the three nights of shows approached. I was so lucky to have a lot of encouragement from my friends though, especially when I heard the duh duh duh duh of Raise You Up blasting through the theatre.
I took that first step and heard gasps and cheers and looked up to see a lot of smiling faces. I’d done it and I was being received well. Phew! I tried my best to dance but the boots were so slippery inside. Damn the material and sweaty feet! I pulled it off and I was on such a high. After that point, I started enjoying myself.
The next two nights went much the same way. I had so many positive comments and the cheers from the crowd were so heartwarming. I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying that a lot of the audience had probably never seen a drag queen before. My town isn’t overly progressive. By the last night, I’d finally got my boots to stop being so slippery inside. Better late than never I guess.
It was a shame I had to wash it all away after the song. I would have loved to stay in it for the finale but I had to perform ‘as long as you’re mine’ from wicked a few songs later. It probably wouldn’t have looked right singing a love duet to a girl whilst wearing a full face of makeup and wig!
I actually felt sad packing Lola away into my suitcase. It had been so much fun performing as her. I think I could have pushed it even more if I’d had more time. By Saturday night, I was certainly dancing more and being more daring than I had on the Thursday. It certainly whet my appetite for doing this again in the future.
Written by Contributor Nathan Warren