FEATURE: Princess C*nty

Holly Smith – a biologically female drag queen, by Rebecca House.

A few months ago I’d never heard of the term ‘bio-queen’. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with someone from the drag industry, that I became aware of the expression and its definition. This then led me to do some research around the area. Bio-queens, which can also be referred to as ‘faux-queens’, ‘lady queens’ and ‘hyper-queens’, are biological women who perform as drag queens.

As it’s common for drag queens to consist of predominately biological men, I thought it would be interesting to interview a woman who performs as a drag queen to discover and understand her opinions and experiences within drag.

Holly Smith, a performing arts student, could be viewed as a bio-queen but does not self-identify with this term. She first became interested in drag as a teenager and has been performing in drag since August 2016. She regularly attends drag open mic nights and you can now see her on stage as Princess C*nty every Sunday evening at Priscilla’s in Brighton. 

Holly who comes from a musical theatre background, said: “I’ve always loved performing and musical theatre, as well as other art forms. So for me it [drag] is a way of dressing up in sparkly things or whatever you want to wear and transforming into another character. I like it when other people enjoy what I do. I try to push boundaries and I like being outrageous as well as exploring different areas of the art of drag.” 

On the topic of drag kings, Holly mentions: “At the time [before starting drag] I was thinking about performing as a drag king as that’s all I thought I could do, whereas I’ve now come to realise it’s silly to put those restrictions on yourself. No matter what you do you should do what you want to do because that’s what you want to do. As much as I love the art form [drag kings], it just wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

Later, whilst discussing drag in terms of gender roles, Holly says: “Drag does stretch gender roles as I see it as people just being people, doing what they want to do and wearing what they want to wear, regardless of gender and sexuality.” 

The subject of the bio-queen label arises and Holly suggests: “Technically I’m a bio-queen because I’m a biological woman, but I don’t identify as that. I think of myself as a drag queen but it doesn’t really matter what you call it in my opinion. It’s the same with sexuality. People ask are you gay? Straight? Or bisexual? I don’t feel like I fit into any of those categories. I just like people and it’s the same with drag, ‘I am what I am’.”

Holly further proposes women performing as drag queens are not currently as common as men: “It is becoming more common because the world is ever-changing and there was a time where it wasn’t accepted for men to dress up as women in the way that they do today.”

This led us to Holly’s experiences as a drag queen and how the drag community as a whole are very supportive: “The only time I’ve ever really experienced negative reactions is where people just haven’t really understood. The Brighton scene is incredibly supportive.”

“Quite often someone will say ‘oh, I think I’ve met you before as a guy’… personally, I find it really amusing.”

Holly finishes saying: “I’d like to thank everyone on the scene who’s been so incredibly supportive and not just to me but to all the other drag queens starting out. I just hope Brighton continues to be what it is, to have that real sense of community, and to keep supporting each other.” 

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