The art of drag was born out of a desire to take long-held cultural norms and turn them on it’s head; to reverse expectations at all turns. Drag is subversive and challenges heteronormativity.
Drag, and drag queens in particular, have become more mainstream over the past decade, arguably with the help of reality television competition RuPaul’s Drag Race (available to stream on Netflix SA).
My introduction to Drag was watching legend ODIDIVA live on stage at various year-end functions, it was Lauren Beukes’s documentary Glitterboys on Cape Town pageants and seeing Kat Gilardi and Manila Von Teez twirl and lip sync for their lives on a tiny “stage” at Zero 21. It was amazons hosting hen parties at Beefcakes. But it wasn’t until Von Teez’s strong showing on South Africa’s Got Talent (she was runner up) and Shenay O’Brien’s stint on popular local singing competition Idols SA that I came to fully accept that local audiences had embraced the art of drag and drag culture.
That the culture seems to be appropriated by misled white girl tweenagers is a topic for another day.
Drag is all consuming and expensive, and like many queer performers across the world, these hardworking performers’ income has been affected by not being able to perform at live shows.
Enter The Gender Bender Show, a virtual drag show featuring up-and-coming and well established drag artists.
The Gender Bender Show is hosted by King St. Fox, a South African “Gender Illusionist and Drag King Extraordinaire”. This passion project was built on Fox’s belief that gender is a construct that needs to be bent and stretched. St.Fox took a quote from RuPaul, “We’re all born naked and the rest is Drag…”, and a quote from Marilyn Manson, “For me, Art is the question…“ to heart, and based the entire ethos of The Gender Bender Show around these concepts.
Gender Bender is a platform to push the envelope of society’s ideas of gender conformity, fashion and human spectacle through expressions of elaborate, glamorous and sometimes satirical performance art styles. The show, hosted over the last five years in Cape Town, has always been a safe space where performers play on topics that are often considered taboo by general social standards.
“Although Gender Bender has predominantly featured performers from the local burlesque and drag Sscene, it has always been my dream to open up the show to welcome even more Kings, Queens, Genderfuckers and GenderXplorers from all walks of life and performance styles from across the world,” says St. Fox.
The Gender Bender Show airs online via the Quicket website on Sunday 1 November at 19h00 SAST. Opening night performances includes phenomenal local talent from across South Africa, while the show is due to repeat on 29th November and 27th December with a more international cast.
1st November Show Features:
BonHo (Cape Town)
Patrick Swayme (Cape Town)
Justine De Queer (Johannesburg)
Sufyaan Moosa (Johannesburg)
Thee Muzi Zuma (Pietermaritzburg)
ZAR Kings Collective (Cape Town)
ODIDIVA (Cape Town)
Celene Coxs (Johannesburg)
The Rouge Revue presents … MizzChief (Cape Town)
29th November Show Features:
PinkieMen Brando (Mexico)
Alexa Fadayz (Hong Kong)
Hannibal Lickher (USA)
Justine De Queer (RSA)
Sufyaan Moosa (RSA)
King Perkasex (USA)
From the Rouge Revue (RSA)
– Chilli D’Vine
– Satine A Terre
27th December Show Features:
Courtney DeVorst (RSA)
Genie Wish (RSA)
DD Boobs (RSA)
The Muzi Zuma (RSA)
Casual Harry (RSA)
Fenix Moon (USA)
Koochie Koochie Koo (USA)
“For only R80 per ticket, you will be invited into a queer wonderland filled with phenomenal performers with a variety of skills”, says St.Fox.