A long time ago, at what I consider to be my first official drag show, I encountered the entrancing Lydia L’Scabies. After her numbers, I was left in hysterics at a tongue-in-cheek political George Bush act and covered in lotion from a Silence of the Lambs piece. I left the show with a variety of emotions, ranging from “what the fuck just happened” to “will this lotion ever come off of my shoes”, but most of all, I couldn’t stop thinking about the acts for weeks. I personally define that as when you’ve been lucky enough to come across a strong, unique performer, whom you can’t help but wonder as to what else they have to offer artistically. Fast forward a few months and what feels like dozens of shows later, we’re sat in my garden wearing matching PVC skirts (just as cute as they sound) talking blonde wigs, diseases and fake blood douching..
Emily: Hi Lydia! How did you first discover drag?
Lydia: I was always interested in it, from a distance as it were, particularly growing up in Brighton. There’s always been like a campy drag scene, and there seems to be not only a generational segregation but a creative one. A lot of people say things like “well, you’re just a drag queen, all you do is just wear horrible make up and stupid sequin dresses, insult lesbians and make bad dick jokes for a living”, but there’s so much more to it. I was interested in the notion of performer persona, particularly in cabaret artists and stand-up comedians. A lot of stand-up comedians are pretty fucking depressed, and that’s why they do so well, and they get laughed at. Well, not laughed at, with. So, then I discovered Drag Race, and it was still quite an underground thing, like only the cool kids on Tumblr knew what it was, and yeah discovering Sharon Needles, annoyingly, I was just like “what a different edge”. It doesn’t have to be this clean cut thing, even though she is polished, she doesn’t have to be sparkles and campy. It can be so many things, and with that it opened doors to other names and interests. Like the whole New York scene and the San Fran scene, yeah I love them. I had this critique, and particularly looking at Drag Race, you see a lot of these queens have some defining moment in their life, that has led them to feel crap about themselves, so they create a whole new person in which they feel better, and to me that’s primarily what drag can be seen as, a cry for help in a weird way, like “LOOK AT ME, HELP”, but at the same time you’re showing a really vulnerable side of yourself. So my tutor just sort of turned to me and went “you have all this information, why aren’t you doing anything about it”, and I was like “have you just read anything that I’ve written, like they will eat me alive”.
Emily: Where did your name come from?
Lydia: I played around with the name “Lydia” as a start off. Where drag isn’t taking the piss out of women, it’s taking the piss out of the expectations of women, that’s someone else’s quote, but I’ve used it and I love it, HA. I was like what’s going on in my generation at the moment, and you have the hipster, who are the self-entitled blogger types, who are like “yeah I work in media but I’m actually on the dole”. Then you’ve got “oh yes I’m throwing this charity event for blablabla, whatever” and I’m like oh shut up, it’s all quite contrived. Then, on the other side of the social pond as it were, you’ve got the Oceana girls, like The Only Way is Essex and all of that, I wondered why nobody had clocked that. So I wanted to make a hybrid of everything inherently wrong with teen subculture, that wasn’t being clocked, or critiqued, or commented on. I had my own troubles in my second year of University and was still building around the name Lydia, and yeah I went down a bit of a dark path, and came out the other end of it and got scabies. Ha. I got into like art mode, and there was something really interesting about this disease, the fact that it needs me in order to live, and I was like oh my god the idea that a parasite needs other people to live, technically a drag queen does as well. It needs it’s audience, it needs it’s viewers in order to survive, so I was like what if I personify a scabies mite, but then used all of these attributes and everything to make this horrible, slaggy, air head girl and that’s how it started!
Emily: What was your first ever drag performance like?
Lydia: It was at my tutor’s event called “The Happy Clap Trap”. Those were the days when I was just blonde, I had a bowler hat, a denim jacket. I had a packet of Amber Leaf hanging out of a pocket. Instead of like, “cool” chains, I had bike chains around my neck and I had a hipster tash. The act was I was holding a demonstration, to fight discrimination against musical theatre students against other artists, cause that’s something I was struggling with. Like I came from musical theatre and went into fine art, but they were like “oh you’re not an artist you’re just a robot waiting to be programmed, that’s musical theatre”, and it’s like no, how fucking dare you! So I did, and sung Broadway Baby a bit flat.
Emily: You sang live?!
Lydia: Yeah! I started out doing live stuff and then once I did more homework on the notion of lip-syncing, it represents the voiceless-ness in the gay community and that’s why drag queens use other peoples voices, because they effectively don’t have one.
Emily: So you did musical theatre before you did drag?
Lydia: I did two years at Bhasvic doing theatre studies where I learnt basic practitioning and where I got an interest in writing as well. Then I didn’t know what to do after that, so I went to Bexhill Collage where I was living at the time an did three years of performing arts, which was hard-core musical theatre training. Again, there was a lot of like free work in there as well. We did musicals, but we did a lot of writing as well. I’ve always been drawn to satire and parody and just like the darker side of comical theatre. But then the horror genre as well has always been something that’s quite prolific in the sense that horror is commenting on something that people are scared of, it’s always metaphorical and people don’t see that. It’s like when people walk out of horror movies and say “oh that was shit”, and it’s like “HAVE YOU ANY IDEA OF WHAT THEY’VE JUST SAID WITH THAT FILM”. I then went to do performance and visual art, specialising in theatre at University, which was kind of like free ropes. You could do whatever, within what you’ve learnt and you’d have to do your own homework and fine art bullshit which I appreciate, but it’s not my thing.
Emily: What have been 3 defining moments of your drag career so far?
Lydia: I have to say, the first one is when you’re plodding around with your look, messing around with it, like I was never attempting to polish one thing, I just wanted to experiment and play around. The blonde wig. It was a mixture of “by Jove, I’ve got it!” and “for fucks sake I don’t want to be blonde like the rest of them”, it’s typical but now I can’t shake it off, like it’s not because I want to be blonde, it’s because in a way I am blonde. Lydia is blonde, you can’t get rid of that. And just all the conventions with blonde culture, I wanted to defy but at the same time do it justice, in a way. Then my first Greg Bailey shoot. It was like “oh shit, that’s me”. Obviously he’s incredible, and at the same time it is me, but he was very kind to my face. Once you see that back it’s like “okay let’s do this”, it sort of helped me up my game more. Lastly, meeting Sabrina Chap who sung “Never Been a Bad Girl” which was my first signature number. It was a song that told a story that I really linked with and I wanted to use it, and I got talking to her and she helped me lots with the whole idea of falling back on creativity as a form of therapy, as opposed to drinking yourself into oblivion or whatever.
Emily: Your performances are always so different and unique from one another, they’re all really stand out. Which are your favourites to perform?
Lydia: Thank you! You Ruin Me.
Emily: OH MY GOD, I LOVE THAT ONE SO MUCH.
Lydia: Hahah, I’m yet to do that one again. It was sort of on the nail for me that I could turn something so sad, that song, and so beautiful in a way..
Emily: Describe it for the people who maybe haven’t seen it.
Lydia: So I took the song “You Ruin Me” by the Veronicas and changed the meaning of the lyrics to be an ode to a size queen. I had to watch a lot of porn, sounds clips of horrific female orgasms and screaming, wailing. I did end up on the dark side of XTube, but hey ho, I came out the other end. It was the first act where I douched with two pints of water and red food colouring and pissed it out on stage just as Pearl was about to swan on.
Emily: Do Lydia and Alex differ?
Lydia: I like to think we’re siblings in a way. I like to feel that I put a lot of myself in Lydia. A lot of separate drag characters I feel aren’t as genuine, so I think you have to put a lot of yourself into it for people to buy it. Behind Lydia’s ditsy smile, Alex is putting two fingers up. It’s like “you’ve fallen for it, you think I’m stupid”. There’s a lot of attributes that are the same, but like mannerisms, even me fiddling with my hair right now! It is weird how those things come out. I wouldn’t say we’re that different, but at the same time we’ve learnt a lot from each other. Which is weird, saying third person because I’ve only got one pair of eyes and one body.
Emily: You used to host a night called MINE. What was that?
Lydia: That was me wanting to effectively be the Jodie Harsh of Brighton. I was just like what they’ve got over there is really good thing, and I wanted to represent Brighton because a lot of people were starting to mess around with Club Kid looks and stuff like that. Particularly within my circle of friends, I’m so lucky and privileged to be surrounded by such a creative hub. I wanted to do like a hosting thing, I wanted it to have a crapness about it, particularly musically speaking, (I called it #BRATPOP) so anything from 1999, and MySpace music as well. I think there’s a correlation between MySpace and the drag alter ego. It was meant to be a comment on clubbing itself. It’s so overdone, it’s expired. Greg Bailey and I did lots of brain storming on how we wanted it to look, we wanted it to be sickly and run down and that’s where that yellow came from. We wanted it to be nicotine stained and just a bit tired, but have these slamming people who were all dressed up. It had a good run but I fell out with the venue. I think they just didn’t get it, they wanted me to put on a show.. Ha. But yeah, I want to find another venue to do it because it’s really fun and my mate Alex Spinks is a really cool DJ.
Emily: You work at a weekly night at Revenge Brighton called FOMO and now every Monday at HB in Portsmouth. What are those like?
Lydia: It is really nice that people get what I’m going character wise, so to be involved in student nights, it’s an honour. I present myself at a warning at FOMO, like “this is how low it can be”, hahah. My role within FOMO, I do the guest list which is nice because you make friends week by week, and they’ll come back and be like “hi, Lydia”! Like people can come to me and talk to me, I’m happy to do in house counselling! I’m selling shots as well, which is really nice in itself, a drag shot girl! Then just playing with that archetype of the Oceana shot girl. It is a culture! Like these girls with practically no top on, being like “hi, d’ya wanna shot”, then there’s me approaching people with all my glittery sores and rashes and people don’t really know how to deal with me if they don’t know me, they’re like “ohhh.. is that piss? You’re disgusting”. HB as well, wonderful venue. They just sniffed me out through Cherry Liquor who does their night on a Fridays, Auntie Cherry. Club hosting, although it’s not performing, is an interesting platform, and I’m enjoying doing it. It’s just really fun.
Emily: Yeah! And it reflects a lot in your performances as well.
Lydia: Yeah, I do try and take inspiration from these jobs. I done a few acts that reflect that, like the Street Urchin.
Emily: That’s my favourite!
Lydia: I also love it! And there’s the one I did at Confidential which involved my own writing.
Emily: Did you?! I didn’t know that!
Lydia: Yeah! The intro which is the bar maids speech, I wrote that. But the testimonials I picked select people from the scene and asked “what is the gay scene to you?” and I used testimonials from a guy called John Stewart who used to be a doorman and Joseph Harwood, which was great.
Emily: All your performances are heavily referenced and always seem to have a underlying message. How to do think of them?
Lydia: All that’s important to me, is that when someone walks away, whether they’ve thrown up, laughed or whatever, that there’s a puzzle piece to myself as a person and what I’m trying to do here, and if anyone clocks that, it’s great. I love using film references purely I like to think my spin on it isn’t literal, I like to turn it on its head, like my Jaws performance. Or anything stupid and basic like my selfie stick act which I did at Jujubee, where I danced around with my selfie stick and it was really dumb.
Emily: Similar to your Hermione?
Lydia: Yeah, just like my Hermione! That was my attempt at feminism in a way, like that song Fergalicious. I consider it a feminist song cause it’s like “yeah I’m hot, but you can’t touch this, don’t disrespect me because you’re a dick”.
Emily: Your Hermione wig looks like me though..
Lydia: HA, oh I love that wig. It’s so comfy. It’s literally like a hat.
Emily: You’ve recently been booked overseas at AustinFest, yay! Any plans?
Lydia: I’ve been speaking to darling Dis Charge from Bristol and Meth as well, as two UK reps who went over last year. It’s been really nice, the feedback and support from that. We’ve got a year, so me and Alfie (Ordinary) we’re both going over together and hoping to build contacts over the year and attack it balls to the walls when we get there.
Emily: What’s in Lydia’s future?
Lydia: I’m starting to write a solo show. I’m still unsure of the angle I want to go with but theatre is what I’ve grown up in and what I love, and I just want something really funny and fucked up. And kind of sad? There’s a lot of layers to Lydia that I don’t really let on. Well, I let on, but I take the piss out of it, which is fine, cause it’s what I like doing. I’d love to have a solo show and tour that. But it’s a creative process. That’s one thing. Just keep learning and getting better and having fun and making friends, and getting a new wig at some point. I’d like to have a big, fuck off, Pyrex,*explosion sound* wig. I’m starting to think of new ways to present myself, new female icons to dip into. I’m really obsessed with Nancy Sinatra at the moment. Or even like Bridget Bardot, that sort of edge which I’ve attempted to do recently, and I’m like “shit, Trixie’s taken that. Shit, Pearl’s taken that”. So yeah, expanding myself looks wise. Oh, and I’ve made shirts! With help of darling illustrator Sonny Flynn I’ve worked on some graphics for merch! I’ve always wanted to use a well known brand for my own like so many of the others from the RuPaul assembly line have, although I’d liked it to be red stripe, LYCLEAR seemed to be the better option, I’m interested to see who recognises it! Everything’s really exciting!
Keep up with Lydia on her social media accounts: