This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but doing a photoshoot with five drag queens is one rollicking, raucous ride. The camera clicks to the backdrop of cries like “I feel like Caitlyn Jenner!” and “tops off, dicks out!” and there are all kinds of misdemeanours along the way. Pebbles get caught in heels; fake eyelashes flutter frantically in the back of my non-air conditioned car because the windows are down, and the term ‘sexsational’ is bandied around with glee. These girls are no shrinking violets, and the afternoon is all the better for it.
So this is Sink The Pink, one of three groups of drag queens (alongside Hot Heels and Nutbags) who have been capturing and wowing the crowd at Glitterbox at Space every Friday night. Over the course of summer a different set of girls will be bringing the fun every two weeks to Space, but this particular troupe is made up of Alexis de Luxe, Diana Might, Jon Benet Blonde, Rodent DCay and Dinah Lux, an uber-glamorous five-some that are giving a masterclass in how to vogue to perfection. With performance being their forte, today they’re in their element, but these are all skills that have been honed at London’s Savage, a night they describe as a “dirty disco party in a gentleman’s metropolis strip club.” We took them out for a day at Salinas to get the lowdown on throwing shade, duct tape and Cambridge degrees.
How would you describe what the Sink The Pink girls do?
Jon Benet: Eloquently, I would say we are sexy transvestite cockroach dancers.
Alexis de Luxe: We bring the fun basically, we provide the party. If there’s anywhere shit, we can make it amazing!
JB: We have two really fun routines, which are pre-planned.
Rodent DCay: Posing, model walking, disco vogue!
JB: It was Jono who heads up Hot Heels who choreographed everything. She whipped us into shape and got us to learn the moves, and now we’re ready to take them to the floor!
So did you all meet through Savage?
JB: We all met through Sink The Pink, yeah. It’s a very large family that continues to grow through our various endeavours, Savage being one of those.
Diana Might: I think for most us, discovering it was like finding a creative outlet. Everything that you love suddenly comes together. It gives you a reason to keep pushing things forward.
JB: It’s a very tight knit family as well. And when we say family, we really mean family. We don’t just spend time at clubs; we spend time outside of them together. We actually are friends outside of this.
Is there any bitchiness between you all like that you see on Ru Paul’s Drag Race?
RD: God no! That’s all beauty queens and pageantry.
DM: We still can throw shade but it’s like your sister throwing shade. There’s no malice, just a lot of love.
AL: As a family we are so diverse. There’s like every different kind of version of person you’d want in a family. Whereas Ru Paul’s drag race is very one-dimensional.
DM: Actually the guy who designed all our outfits, Jay Barry Matthews, comes from Australia and he says the scene is the same there – very bitchy.
Why do you think that is?
DM: I think there’s a lot of insecurity, so you feel like should be shady.
JB: I think for a long time drag was seen as taboo, and now it’s sort of like we’re seen at the top of the hierarchy of the gay scene, because of things like Ru Paul’s Drag Race. So I think people get carried away with themselves when actually they’re no better than anybody else.
AL: But doing drag is so empowering. All my friends that don’t do drag, as soon as you put a boy in a pair of heels it transforms them and I think that feeling can lead you to look down on people.
JB: With Savage and Sink The Pink, the amount of people that have come to our nights and started doing drag just because they look at us and think, oh my god, you guys look like you’re having so much fun! And that’s because we genuinely are.
DM: They feel the love and they want to give it back.
RD: That’s how I got into it actually, I used to go regularly and then I entered the Sink The Pink contest and ended up winning it! We’ve actually got two Miss Sink The Pinks here! But I’ll be losing my crown this Saturday.
Do you feel like perceptions of drag have changed quite rapidly over the past few years?
Dinah Lux: When I first started, one of my friends didn’t want to go out with me in drag because for him it was really weird. And that was only three years ago. It’s not that he was being rude or anything before, it’s just something that was less accepted. But now it’s on trend and he does drag himself!
JB: It’s very on trend! I’ve been doing drag for 10 years now. I started doing it in Belfast and then I moved to London and I stopped doing it for almost a year. But then I started going to Sink The Pink and I thought, oh my god, I need to start doing it again! Just because when you stop doing something you love, you feel sort of repressed. And it made realise it was what I wanted to do – it’s such a massive part of your life.
So how did you all get into it?
JB: I was a little gay boy that got kicked out of their parents’ house and I needed money! So there was a drag competition to win £500, which is quite a lot in Belfast in terms of rent. And I won it and then went on from there. My experiences in Belfast and London have been so different – London being a much better and inviting environment.
So doing drag was a total act of rebellion for you?
JB: Oh yeah, totally! And it’s only now that my parents see that I’m doing well and doing great things – like coming here to Ibiza – that they’re like, oh right, you’re not just dressing up as a woman for no reason, there is a point to it.
So how about everyone else, how did your drag stories start?
DM: Originally I started helping out with the set build at Bestival, but I’ve always been doing drag ever since I was young. And my family always come along, and my brother and sister are so happy that I’ve found this because it’s so natural for me.
AL: I started doing it as part of my university degree in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. Part of one of my last projects was the misuse of the word gay – how it’s perceived and people’s opinions in general. And one part of it was transgender-related and I thought, I can’t just write about this, I need to actually start doing it. So I started dressing in drag to experience the real feeling of how people perceive me in it. And then my friend Lottie was part of Sink The Pink already and she said I should come along. And I love doing it – putting on a bit of make up and high heel shoes – it went from there!
RD: So I was a real little emo, misfit kid back in Birmingham where I grew up, and I was always into acting and performing, which ended up in me moving to London to do a drama degree. And then from coming to Sink The Pink and finding this outlet, I fell so in love with it that I wormed my way in! So there’s been a really lovely symbiotic relationship between Sink The Pink and my degree. I’ve just graduated and it’s been a really lovely experience for me – a real blend of my own personal passion and then this family that I get to be a part of.
DL: I’ve dressed up all my life but then when I was about 18 I seriously considered being trans for a while, and in the daytime I’d be a lot more gender fluid. But eventually I realised I wasn’t trans and that drag was a much more healthy outlet for me to do it. And so then I did drag endlessly. I remember I met Glyn [Savage founder] outside an art gallery and I was in full drag when everyone else was in suits. And Glyn was like ‘Who are you!’ And then I entered Miss Sink The Pink. And did not win – it was snatched from me! But then Sink The Pink was the most amazingly welcoming family. I went to Cambridge and I actually did my dissertation on how Sink The Pink invites everyone in to a safe space – there’s no judgement when you walk through the door. And now I’m going to Oxford to do my masters in music.
JB: Smart and beautiful!
So when you dress up is it like becoming a different element of yourself or do you have alter egos?
JB: I think it heightens your sense of self. I don’t think any of us actually changes our character.
RD: In the same way that Dinah was talking about being gender fluid, I think that’s a really big part of it – not being confined to presenting myself as a man. It’s a nice not be in a rigid box.
JB: When I was young I was obsessed with popstars like Britney, and I used to just endlessly watch their performances and want to do the same thing. But you know; I was some country bumpkin who was never going to get to wrap a snake around me. But guess what, I’ve done it! We do these things called summer and winter balls, which are massive versions of Sink The Pink and at my first ever one I did a recreation of Britney’s performance at the VMA with a real-life python. It was amazing! A tick on my bucketlist. It’s on YouTube, look it up!
RD: For me, seeing that was completely inspiring. I was like that’s it, no messing around now, I’m going for it.
DM: It’s actually like it’s gone full circle, because your last performance at this summer ball you were a snake and you were AMAZING!
What kind of reaction do you get from people?
JB: It’s actually 90% positive. I personally have never experienced any trans-phobia.
RD: I get more shit as a weird gender-fuck boy during the daytime then I do in drag. Definitely.
DL: That’s because it’s harder to categorise. People can understand what’s easily definable, and then if you’re somewhere in the middle it’s confusing for them. I’ve never had an issue on a night out when I’m in drag, but I do a lot of fashion stuff where I’m in drag all the time, and then when I’m in the street during the day it can be horrendous. I was in Paris on the Champs Elsyées, and I turned round and someone kicked me straight in the chest. Luckily I was with loads of friends, but someone else got punched. And I’ve been thrown out of a moving car. It’s intense – there’s some crazy stuff.
AL: On the other side, I went to LA and did drag just to go out of a night and they look after you so well because they really appreciate what you’re doing – so you get free drinks, you’re given a table, and it’s the same here too. They love what we do and they’re so appreciative. I guess because at the very least we’re visual entertainment. And we’re fun people anyway, we make the party! We get minor shit but people want it, that’s why the Pinks and Savage are so successful. Sometimes it’s really strange because we’ll be dancing on a podium or whatever, just having fun, and people just stand there and watch you!
DM: This is what I’ve noticed – you get girls right at the front and they just love watching you. I think it’s kind of like a role reversal, they’re in the place of the man looking at the woman and it’s empowering.
JB: As a drag it’s your duty to put on a show and obviously there are many variations of drag, but we just want to be the best we can be. If you’re doing it you’re doing it for a reason – you’re obviously an attention seeker and we’re there to pop those balls!
How do you decide what your look’s going to be?
DL: I think my whole drag bag could fit into a small lady’s clutch. I wear like a piece of lingerie and a corset.
AL: You basically brought a weekend bag for 10 days.
DL: My suitcase was 14kg because all my clothes are tiny. But I think we all have quite distinct styles. Diana Might always pulls off the most concept looks I think.
DM: I like a theme! And I have so many ideas. We did a sci-fi theme once so it just made sense to put bagels on my head.
JB: I work in fashion as well, so I’ve always grown up being inspired by fashion designers and I’ve always wanted to look like that. My look is kind of a mix of Paris Hilton and a model. I love that heroin chic look where you’ve just rolled out of bed. But the next day I can look a bubblegum pop princess; do you know what I mean? I love both looks!
DM: I think there’s something about the strong female that I love. Women have so many qualities that are put down by men, but women need to take over! Sigourney Weaver is the first female heroine in cinema, back when she was in Alien in 1979. She doesn’t take any shit!
How long does it take you to get ready?
JB: It depends how long we’ve been given! If we’ve got a couple of hours we’re going to use it.
DL: I think if I didn’t have to do things because I’m a man, like pluck my eyebrows or spend ages covering my beard, or shave my chest, or tuck my testicles up using duct tape, it could literally take an hour.
Do you have any amazing make-up tips?
DM: Hairspray! And if you think there’s enough, add some more.
AD: More is more!
RD: Layer it up, step by step.
JB: Overdraw your lips by about 10cm. And use a very matte lipstick that you can overdraw with, and a good sharp pencil to really get into the corners. And then just fill it in.
RD: And be patient, don’t rush it! And one of the things I’ve found is that if you go in planning exactly what you want it to look like, it’ll never turn out like that. Just experiment as you go along, you always look a thousand times better.
DM: We all taught ourselves using YouTube but it’s hard because they’re all so bloody annoying!
AL: I just take different bits from different videos, so lips from one person, eyes from another. I don’t actually layer that much, I just slap foundation everywhere and then do my face.
JB: And there’s your make-up tutorial right there!
And lastly, we know you’re all party animals so you must have some crazy stories. Tell us some of the best.
JB: I don’t know if I can divulge that! I’ve definitely fallen down stairs lots of times. And I’ve definitely woken up in a bin before.
RD: I’m the clumsiest human being ever and at Savage once I jumped up onto the podium, not having seen that someone had spilt beer all over the floor, stood up in seven-inch platforms, slipped and then went straight down. The next morning I took myself to A&E because I sprained the ligament in my knee. Then last year at Bestival I tore the ligament in the other one.
AL: I ran through a club screaming because Prince Harry entered. Climbed on top of a grand piano and then thrust my pelvis in his face.
JB: I was there too and I ended up in OK! Magazine in America.
DL: I don’t think I have any! I’m not that bad. Although I did end up naked in Shoreditch House pool once.
DM: Hang on, when we were at the Royal Academy and we both stripped down for a life drawing and were just wearing wigs and shoes.
AL: These two always get naked!
DL: I love the clash of penis and face!
DM: And I like that when you’re in a club you pop it out, and then pop it back in. And there’s always someone on the other side of the room that’s seen it!