I caught up with RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Cheryl Hole about her new World of Wonder podcast ‘Girl Group Gossip’, as well digital drag and upcoming performances. Each week on ‘Girl Group Gossip’, Cheryl and a special guest will discuss iconic Girl Groups in depth. The first episode is out now on all major podcast platforms, featuring Blu Hydrangea. You can subscribe and listen to the podcast here.
Hi Cheryl! I’m very excited to speak to you today! To be honest, hearing any new human voice is a huge treat at the moment… how have you been keeping busy over these last few months?
Do you know what? I was thinking that lockdown was going to be one of those quiet times where you can just learn to crochet and do fun stuff like that. But the age of digital drag has really taken off, so I’ve been twirling in my living room for the kids every single night basically.
I was going to say I noticed you had been busy with digital drag! You have a Chromatica themed show coming up for Digital Pride next week. How has it been adapting drag to a digital setting?
I do indeed! It’s one of those things that I’ve always wanted to explore with my drag. I see so many creative artists like Juno Birch etc. that have such a strong online presence, they do such strong editing with their videos and I would love to have done that. But when you’re on the road, you don’t really have the time because you’re going from city to city and then you’re turning up and doing the gig, so I’ve really used this time to hone my skills and learn new skills, like editing. It’s been quite strange performing to a little green dot on your MacBook!
Sounds like you’re making the most of your time! We’re really here to talk about your new podcast ‘Girl Group Gossip’. Was this born out of lockdown or something that’s been in the works for a while?
I love podcasts- I normally stick them on when I’m doing a long drive or I’m in the bath, just because it’s that comfort of a voice, of a conversation, even if you’ve got nobody around you. I’m a talker and I love to talk, and I’ve always wanted to do a podcast. It wasn’t until I was in lockdown and I started thinking ‘well maybe I could start a podcast during this time’. Everybody knows me for my passion for girl groups, so it was only inevitable that I was going to put that skill to use and perhaps educate and revive some love for some girl groups across the UK and the world.
In the podcast trailer you say you’ll talk about girl groups including everything from girl bands, such as The Saturdays, to Desperate Housewives…can you tease anything more about what we can expect?
So the podcast is called ‘Girl Group Gossip.’ Now to the naked eye that just seems like we’re going to talk about girl groups, girl bands. But if we go any deeper, we’re a group of girls gossiping, we are talking about a group of girls- that could be a group of girls on a TV show, a group of girls on Loose Women for example, so the topics are endless! Whilst we’re focusing mainly on girl bands, I’m definitely open to doing many an episode. I’ve just binge watched Desperate Housewives, so I have fallen back in love with Wisteria Lane and all the girls on the lane!
The first episode features your Drag Race UK co-star Blu Hydrangea, how was it working with one of your Drag Race co-stars in this new way?
Each episode I have a different co-host that is either a fan of the group of girls, they’re either wanting to be educated or they’re just one of my good sisters and we just wanna have a good chit chat. I thought who better to kick off this podcast with than the shady queen herself Blu Hydrangea, and she was like ‘Count me in for every episode I possibly can!’ We can just talk for hours on end and it just turns into this hysterical conversation and we just go off on different tangents, but we always come back to what we need to.
Do you have a dream guest that you would like for a future episode?
I would love to chit-chat with the real Cheryl yet again! Just because we’ve had such a good rapport every time we’ve seen each other. She is one of the reasons that I am doing drag these days and I would love to know her insight into what her time in Girls Aloud and post-Girls Aloud has been like. It’s not often that you can have a chit-chat with somebody in the music industry, in the film industry or the TV industry. Our podcast is very candid- we’re not doing a formal interview, we’re just girls having a gossip, joking about funny times, laughing about the memes, the memories and just catching up on all the things that we love!
Well that leads perfectly onto my next question… your love for Cheryl was very clear in Drag Race UK when you had the opportunity to meet her. What is it about Cheryl in particular that you admire?
She is just one of those people that is such a powerhouse. She can command a stage, she can command a room and you just fall in love with the charm that she has. She’s so warm and likeable and it’s something I see a lot in myself. She’s just one of the girls, there’s no pretences, it’s just ‘I’m here doing what I love, I have the passion for it and I want to share it with the world.’
Going back to the beginning, how did your love of girl groups start?
I think I’ve got to blame my parents for constantly having the music video channels on when I was younger. I remember seeing the Spice Girls ‘Wannabe’ music video and at that time I must have been three. I’ve got a very vivid memory from my childhood- I remember seeing it and my uncle was over, and we were actually at dinner a while back and he went ‘I knew you would get into the industry and do something like this because you said “I want to be a Spice Girl one day”’ *laughs* and lo and behold, I’m performing Spice Girls, I’m performing girl groups. These girls have just inspired me throughout my entire life because there’s something that resonates with me about a strong female presence, that in a world full of masculinity and the oppression that women have in certain industries, that they can stand there and go ‘we’re here, we’re making music, we’re using our voice and our platform- girl power!’
You perform as part of a girl group yourself ‘Gals Aloud’. How did ‘Gals Aloud’ form?
We used to be residents at a bar in Camden called Her Upstairs, which is no longer open unfortunately. One night I went to the bar owners and I was like ‘can we just do a fun drag show night where we do Girls Aloud numbers, we do group numbers, we all do a take on their solo career’. The night was so popular and we were so shocked at how many people turned out. I think for our generation Girls Aloud were such pioneers in the music industry. I mean, you look at the timeline of girl groups: you had the Spice Girls, then Girls Aloud stepped in and then The Saturdays stepped in and then Little Mix. So each era of my life has had a very poignant girl group being a voice. For a lot of my youth and growing up, Girls Aloud were such an influence. We just wanted to have fun with it and yes, I took it very seriously with the group numbers because I was like THIS IS THE CHOREO, THIS IS THE NUMBER, THIS IS THE OUTFIT. But it just sort of took off and people really latched onto it, because it’s very tongue in cheek, we laugh about the memories, we laugh about Nadine losing her passport, we laugh about Kimberly doing Cravendale adverts. It’s tongue in cheek, it’s fun and its drag!
I had the joy of watching Gals Aloud at Birmingham Pride last year and you all completely lit up the tent.
Oh my god you were there! It was such a great show.
I’ve seen that Gals Aloud are back on tour, performing at a drive-in in London in August. Can you tell me anymore about that?
It’s been almost a year since we did our last show, we did a good old tour and we finished at the Underbelly Festival last year. That’s when Drag Race really started for myself, so we all decided, a bit like Girls Aloud, that we’re focusing on our solo projects. I was like ‘girls we have to reunite, I can’t not do this show with you guys’. It came as an opportunity and obviously Miss Corona means that we can’t be up in the clubs, we can’t be performing in theatres, so people are finding new ways to put on shows and there’s this drive-in show where you can put on live shows and you just drive up in your car and you stick on the radio and out comes the music! I think it’s great and I’m so excited. What we’ve done with the show is we freshened it up, we’ve added new numbers, we’ve kept some of the classics but it’s just going to be a fresh new take on Gals Aloud in 2020.
Are you having to adapt the show much to this new kind of stage?
Well, we’re obviously going to keep the guidelines in place, so we’ve all got to be one metre apart and all that. We have to adapt a show to each different venue, because stage-size, venue size etc. So each show is very different, very unique. I mean we had a catwalk that we had to use in some of the Underbelly shows and I was like here I am, I feel like I’m on Vogue’s runway! *laughs*
Finally, to move onto a different type of girl group, it’s been speculated for a while but you’ve recently confirmed that you are a UK representative of the Haus of Edwards. How did that come about?
So me and Alyssa have had a very good rapport for quite some time. I used to host a lot of club events in the UK, so whenever Alyssa would come over, she’d be like *in Alyssa’s accent* “Miss Cheryl, it’s so lovely to see you again.” Then there was one night that she was working in Cambridge with me and it was the first night we ever worked together. One of her tracks wasn’t working, so she turned to me and said “Miss Cheryl, will you be my Tatiana and do ‘Shut Up and Drive’ with me?” So I was like, yeah of course, and then it became a thing that we did it every time we worked together, because I think she just saw something in me. She said in an interview earlier last year when Drag Race got announced, “I see a lot of myself in Cheryl, because she’s a younger version of me, she’s got the determination, the fight, the fire and the presence.” I’ve always resonated with the dancing divas because… I am a dancing diva myself, well…not anymore after the Corona diet *laughs*. But Alyssa was like “Baby, you are gunna represent us in the UK and be the Haus of Edwards representative”, so lo and behold, here I am repping for Haus in the UK!
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me! I’m looking forward to more Cheryl Hole appearances now that things are starting to relax, even if all viewed from the car. I don’t drive but I’m currently working on persuading my dad to drive me to Gals Aloud as a birthday present…
It’s my absolute pleasure. I hope your dad can drive you down to North London and we can have a boogie to The Promise! *laughs* Look after yourself darling.