We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, Alex Casey and Jihee Junn give their thoughts on Dragfest 2019.
With the growing mainstream success of RuPaul’s Drag Race has also come a deluge of drag superstars visiting New Zealand to perform in front of glittered-up and sold out crowds. Last night, Alex Casey and Jihee Junn attended Dragfest 2019, an elegant smorgasbord, pick n’ mix and Valentine’s buffet of some of the biggest drag queens in the world right now. With each performer delivering snackable sets at two songs a piece, it only seemed right that we give them bite-sized reviews in return.
Nothing but respect for MY meme president, who officially opened the show with a banger of a Beyonce number before launching into one of the most iconic performances of the night: walking in from the side of the stage in a sequin ruffle coat to Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’, then proceeding to take us all to the Church of Jasmine Masters with a techno ditty of “and I OOP” (The Remix). Then the bitch decided to fling her shoes off and walk around the whole damn place in bare feet. Why? “Because I’m Jasmine Masters and I’m tired as hell.” Fair enough! / Jihee Junn
She was robbed on All Stars 4, so Manila was totally within her rights to nick a million bits of corny Kiwi iconography for her set. First of all, she was serving Captain Cook World of Wearable Arts realness. Second of all, she said she spent the night “in a hobbit hole”. Thirdly, she said she loves kiwifruit, because “they look like my favourite thing in the world.”
“TESTICLES” a woman shrieked from behind us.
Also by GOD, Manila makes catchy music. Leaping around the stage in platform sneakers and strategically-placed ruffles to ‘Gay Man’, my ears were absolutely inundated with worms. Of course, this morning in the shower I found myself belting “yaaaas, I’m a gay man”. Not strictly accurate but it is a sign of an absolute T to the U to the N to the E. Robbed. / Alex Casey
Manila’s performance of ‘Gay Man’ was truly the gayest shit I’ve ever seen. She looked like a cross between an aerobics instructor, a flamenco dancer, a Power Ranger, and Louis XV. I was confused, I was bemused, and I loved every second of it. / JJ
There are very few drag queens out there that can bring the same level of emotional gravitas Latrice Royale brings to her lip syncs. Her season four rendition of Aretha Franklin’s ‘You Make Me Feel’ has gone down as one of the best in Drag Race herstory, and last night, she showed us exactly why with the most captivating lip sync to ‘He Loves Me’ by Jill Scott. It started slow and then crescendoed to a peak so epic, so dramatic that she ended up losing a motherfucking earring in the crowd.
“I just got my right to vote back in Florida,” Latrice noted afterwards. “So remember: never minimise your voice, you have so much power. Whatever you want your life to be you have to fight for it.” It was the inspirational pep talk I never knew I needed. / JJ
I truly relate to Adore on a spiritual level. She’s lazy, loud, kind of a mess, and still thinks grunge is #cool in 2019. But unlike me, Adore is a genuinely incredible singer, and her rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’ in a tattered up Marilyn Manson shirt was utterly mesmerising, made better only by the fact that she decided to walk out with a bottle of Corona in hand (cos’ she’s a Libra, you know?) / JJ
The only thing that let Adore down was the fact that the lighting crew couldn’t keep up with her as she stomped through the crowd and over chairs, beer in hand. It didn’t really matter though, everyone still screamed bloody murder for her and the Where’s Wally element really added to the drama of it. Breaking all the rules and never sitting still long enough to stay in the spotlight? Classic Adore. / AC
Monet X Change
Monet’s charisma hits you square in the face – just ask the poor guy that she literally straddled because his girlfriend had recently left her seat to take a better photo. “Are you from New Zealand?” she cooed in his ear. “Hell yeah,” he replied. “Do you like big black men that look like Fantasia?” the whole place erupted into laughter, and we were in the palm of her spongy hands from then on. A legend. / AC
If you’re a straight man, Monet X Change will 100% hunt you down and make you uncomfortable. And if you’re on your phone while she’s talking, she’ll most definitely call you out (“Get off your phone. Get off your motherfucking phone!” *dabs forehead with sponge*). / JJ
Trinity the Tuck
Full respect to Trinity for opening with Jessica Simpson’s ‘I Wanna Love You Forever’, a song that haven’t thought about since I was eight years old and staring at a 5ive poster. Happier days. After she scuttled off stage I was a little bit worried that she might be a bit tuckered out – ha, ha – on the last day of the tour, but she squashed all my concerns and taped them where the sun don’t shine for her closing number of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.
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Reader, there were three reveals. Four if you count the final reveal that was me, crawling out of my own skin and dying on the carpeted Logan Campbell floor at the drama of it all. Wheeling out her iconic china teacup dress that won her half the All Stars 4 crown, she shed layer after layer until she was down to just a diamante knickers and a teacup bra. All I’m saying is, the tuck hype is real and we did a lot of googling of “inguinal canal” in the car afterwards. / AC
… was not there due to a last minute scheduling conflict. Many a tongue pop and death drop were missed. / JJ
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