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Danny Beard on Winning ‘Drag Race UK’, Sisterhood, & The Legacy of Leigh Bowery

Danny Beard came into RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 already as a force to be reckoned with, quickly becoming both a fan and judge’s favorite. From eye popping runway looks to numerous challenge wins, Beard went on to grab the crown of Season 4, along with the adoration of millions of brand new fans. I sat down with Danny post-crowning to chat about his Drag Race win, the inspiration he garners from the legend that is Leigh Bowery, and what is was like revealing the most intimate parts of his own story on television.

Michael Cook: How does it feel to have snagged the crown on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 4?

Danny Beard: It’s so many emotions all rolled into one. I’ve done what I do best, which is throw myself into work. I’ve gone straight into the UK Tour and I’ve gone straight from the crowning that Thursday to a gig. I’ve just worked non-stop and the nice part of that is that I have gone straight into meeting people who are fans of the show. The gigs are busier than ever, and it is very lovely. I feel very loved right now, which is a great feeling to have. I feel very lucky and grateful to have that.

MC: You appearing on Season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK was surreal, as many knew you as a performer prior to the show. Now as the first bearded queen to be perform in front of RuPaul and now to be crowned the winner, you must certainly feel a certain amount of responsibility, like you mentioned when you were crowned. Is that fair to say?

DB: Yeah, and a part of me gets a bit of guilt. I have done drag my own way and always thought that I was not the best representative for bearded queens. Some of these bearded queens are amazing, the beard is the be all, end all of their drag, no shade to my bearded sisters. For along time that is how I did it, but as time has gone on, my look and aesthetic has changed because I felt like the performances were the main part of my drag rather than the aesthetic of the beard.

At the same time though, I am still a bearded queen and I just hope it is opening doors for other bearded queens and maybe validating other bearded queens. A lot of the time in clubs and gigs in smaller scenes the bearded queens are looked down upon, “oh they’re just lazy”. I put the same amount of effort in as anyone else, it’s never a lazy thing; I think its a lazy thing to assume it’s lazy. Everyone is valid and no one should be policing anyone else’s drag. Obviously, we are putting ourselves in a reality show format completion for our drag to be judged, but it’s for us to be judged next to each other on the show, it’s not for other people to bring us down.

MC: When did you know drag would be come more than a hobby and would be the passion you would follow for your life?

DB: You know, when I first started it was only meant to be for a little bit when I was in uni, then I was maybe going to go into teaching or something else, I had never gone to drama school. I had gotten offered foundation degrees which are thousands and thousands of pounds without any guarantee of getting into the course and I couldn’t afford that. I had come to the conclusion that maybe I would teach or go onto something else, but when the time came, I was making more money from the drag so I said I would give it a few more years.

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Danny Beard on Winning 'Drag Race UK', Sisterhood, & The Legacy of Leigh Bowery 7

In those few years it grew and grew. I’ve never really taken the foot off the pedal with drag, I’ve just threw myself into it. I love the lifestyle it brings and I love the job. I always wanted to be on stage and was told “no” by so many people. Drag was my way of taking that into my own hands and saying “no I am going to be on stage”

MC: You are a fan of the legendary drag performer and innovator Leigh Bowery, who has laid the groundwork for much of the drag that we see today. What is it about Leigh Bowery that gives you that passion for what he did?

DB: With Leigh, he was the first performer that I saw that was pushed into the drag bracket that was totally doing it his own way. It was just this “oh that’s drag as well, that’s interesting to me”. People called him a legend, an icon, and all these words that we as queer people throw about and they really aren’t an icon; well he was. It was the way that he inspired other people; I was like “Boy George was a fan and wanted to be like Leigh Bowery”? He was one of the first people that really got my juices flowing with the looks.

That is why I wanted to pay homage (to him) in Episode 1 with the the blobby look runway, he was one of the first ones for me and my looks developed from there. When I was a little baby queen going out on the scene, I used to judge do Leigh Bowery all the time, I wanted to be Leigh Bowery before I knew who Danny Beard was. That is why he is a tattoo and he is a part of me; I feel like without me seeing him, I probably wouldn’t be here now.

MC: It is probably also safe to say that Leigh Bowery brought the facekini to the masses. That is why Drag Race is so important; it brings the culture and history of drag to the masses of today.

DB: One hundred percent. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else do that before. We forget nowadays. it is easy to just see things around us and think that is the creator or the original; but nothing is original. It’s always inspired by something else. I love that Drag Race gives the youth a bit of queer history.

MC: What do you think is the one thing that you are looking forward to doing the most in your post Drag Race career?

DB: I really want to present television I’ve always wanted to do that, that was my dream as a kid. I want to be on stage in musicals again. All of these doors that I thought were closed to me as a kid before drag was my own way of getting my own way of putting me on stage. It almost feels like a full circle moment that the drag has me back to doing the things that I want to be doing. Not just the reality tv opportunities, like being a contestant on stuff, but actually being the talent. That’s why Drag Race is so amazing, it actually shows the talent. That is why it has been a dream making machine. I’ll forever be so grateful to RuPaul, Michelle (Visage), Alan (Carr), and Graham (Norton) and all of the judges and all of the teams.

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Danny Beard on Winning 'Drag Race UK', Sisterhood, & The Legacy of Leigh Bowery 7

MC: You mentioned being bullied when you were younger and you were brave in your retelling of a very powerful story. Was that a story that you had any apprehension at all with sharing?

DB: It just felt like the right time. it was the Tic Tac Lunch with Ru, it was the ultimate moment of chatting with Ru about your past and who you are. It had never come up in the workroom, it never felt right to share then, there were lots of amazing conversations going on there. It is a massive part of who I was and it has shaped a massive part of me for so long. I knew getting to this point, no matter what happened on the show, that there are kids out there who have been watching me for ten weeks that might be going through the exact same thing that I was feeling. I dont want anyone watching that to think that what is happening in their life now is going to be their life forever.

I remember honestly thinking, hating life, thinking that bullies are going to get me, having to move from one city to another, they had so badly cut me up my mom and dad didn’t think that I was safe. I never used to leave the house,when I was a kid, and my parents gave me that fresh start. I want the kids to know it gets better even if it is one person at home who says “oh my god that is happening to me and I’ve got noting in my future” look at me now, I’m achieving my dreams. Drag doesn’t have to be your dream, being on Drag Race doesn’t have to be your dream, but that’s my dream and I’m achieving it, after everything that I’ve been through

MC: Watching you do your final lip sync you could see the three former winners absolutely reveling in the performances. The UK scene truly seems to be a sisterhood with so many of you having deep personal relationships. Is that fair to say?

DB: I just think it’s engrained. I think its important to everyone and its not important to everyone, if that makes sense. Its the way we are, like I call everyone “sis”. The Vivienne has been a sister of mine for a long time and I remember beaming with pride and thinking “she’s doing it”! Then I remember seeing her on the All Winners All Stars season, and I have always supported her, I would text her and tell her she “smashed it this week” and she’d thank me and she would do the same for me, texting me every wek. It is part of who we are, we want to cheer each other on. If you are confident at what you do and you’re good at what you do, then you don’t need to start feeling the pressure of bringing other people down. There is room for all of us if were good at what we do.

MC: What does the immediate future hold for you?

DBL I’m on a UK Tour right now, which will take me through the Christmas period, then I have some time off in the New Year. I’m filming some cool shows in the New Year and I just dropped a really cool cover of a Crystal Waters track, ‘Gypsy Woman’. It’s a cover, I’m not a massive fan of when girls release original music that’s not great, not naming any names, let me not be shady (laughs). Unless you’re gonna nail it and its gonna smash out, that wasn’t the vibe. For this track, I’ve worked with some really cool producers from the 90’s and just brought it up to date. There has been a bit of interest from some big DJ’s in the UK that want to remix it, so that’s fab, that’s out on Spotify for people to stream.

I host my podcast it’s called The Gossip Gays, I’ve hosted that for a little over a year with my best friend. Thanks to Drag Race and the drag fans, it has really taken off and we have just signed with a production company and now we record where the BBC is and people listen to it all over the place. We do a section where we help people with their problems where I just tell people to get a grip (laughs).We’ve had gifts from some of our American friends and the podcast goes from strength to strength and we are sprinkling in a bit of television when we have time; it really has been non-stop.

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Danny Beard on Winning 'Drag Race UK', Sisterhood, & The Legacy of Leigh Bowery 7

The one thing I didn’t think about going into Drag Race is that it is Drag Race UK but people watch it and live it in America. All of these places all over the world, and I am so grateful for it. To have people who are fans that reach out, wherever they are, it blows my mind that people know who I am

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