Already a much sought after performer in the UK drag scene, many fans were stunned to see Cheddar Gorgeous join the cast of Drag Race UK Season 4. The Manchester powerhouse quickly let her cast-mates and fans alike know that she was thrilled to be a part of the cast, and quickly proved herself in challenges and brought it for each and every runway. I sat down with Cheddar for an introspective chat about pivotal moments in her own career, that now-legendary runway look, and her evolution as a performer and as a person.
Michael Cook: We’ve reached the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 4. How does it feel?
Cheddar Gorgeous. I am very grateful and very proud to be amongst such an amazing cohort wonderful siblings. I really feel quite overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement.
MC: When did you know that drag was going to be a true career and more than simply a hobby, but a passion?
CG: There are two moments, one is in a toilet, where a lot of profound things happen in life. I was in kind of quite messy drag and I had this button down dress. This guy came in and he undid the buttons on my dress. I would often use exercise as a form of self harm at that point in my life, and I think that’s something a lot of gay men can relate to, issues we have with body image and stuff like that. He said to me “you don’t have to do this” and he was talking about the idea that I didn’t have to use drag to get attention. He was trying to give me a compliment, but there was something in it that made me really angry.
I think because I had been a child that was a little bit overweight and I had struggled a lot with the way that I looked. Then there was this peculiar moment that it was like if you can fit into that model, you don’t need to seek attention in any other way. At the time, I didn’t realize the significance of it, but it really filled me with annoyance. I was angry, cause I was angry for that child. I was angry for that kid who never got thought of as handsome or pretty and always struggled with dating.
The other thing is the city of San Francisco. I visited in 2012 as part of my studies and spent time with an artist, an illustrator there called Barron Storey and became immersed in the punky drag scene. Lots of different kinds of drag performers, lots of what Americans might call “faux” queen, but what I just call drag queens. Lots of women doing drag, a lot of strange and more non-binary representations of drag. It just showed me that there was a bigger, longer, and more interesting and exciting journey to be had. Both for me as a a spectator, my gender, but also for drag as an art.
MC: Your pink runway was one of the most exquisitely done and vitally important runways that viewers have seen in quite some time. What made it so crucial to you to have the pink triangle and what it means represented and showcased on the runway?
CG: I think it is interesting that that runway is always singled out, and in many ways its because the story is ham fisted, the symbol is right there in your face. When I think a lot of drag isn’t given the credit that it does that all the time, we’re always doing something disruptive. When you give it to a queer audience, maybe when you don’t appreciate how potentially disruptive that is to the world. I think Black Peppa going out and doing her fierce looks and exploring her heritage through her drag, drag is always telling a story.
I think that is really what makes it special. I think drag can utterly be a Trojan horse. In the fact that it can be visual, it can be entertaining, it can be fun, it can be funny, but at the same time, off of it hangs these weighty experiences, stories, symbols, concepts and that is what makes drag so exciting.
Not only are those things told in the same way that a painting might be, but it’s given a person-like quality. In doing so, you can’t help but relate to it, even if that relation is adversarial, which sometimes it absolutely can be. It still serves the purpose of making clear that all of these things that have a life and ideas and need to have a life and we need to think of that in that way.
MC: What do you think your rose and thorn is of your Drag Race experience?
CG: High points, being part of a group. I come alive when I am with other people. I find meaning in my life in my relationships with other people. I’ve got a great drag family, I’m really lucky. Like Peppa, I have my own queer family here in Manchester. But to have an extension to that, to build those relationships…drag is all about building relationships. Whether it’s about building relationships with strangers, performers or audience members, our nuts and bolts of what we do, it’s a relational art and I stand by that. I think having that opportunity was a really special thing.
I also think that showcasing that drag can be fun, funny, and entertaining and still pack the punches, I think drag often is not given the credit it should be that it can be light, fun and entertaining, but a profound experience at the same time. In terms of low points, all change is uncomfortable. I think it’s definitely a transformative process in many different ways; the transformations that you see on the show and the transformations that we as human beings are going through involved in it.
Actually there were tons of experiences throughout the show; I found it difficult to sleep a lot of the time, I found it difficult to really engage and be present sometimes, because I just do sometimes I find that hard. Particularly when there is tension and a lot of emotion going on, I’ll just blank out. Watching back the show is a huge confrontation in the best and worst way. You have to become incredibly comfortable with seeing how other people see you and how other people will tell your story. That means dealing with the bits of yourself that maybe you and other people may not like, but it also means having to deal with the fact that there are bits about you that people do like and they do want to celebrate, and both of those things are scary. It was an intense experience.
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