How to… perform in drag
1. Decide what kind of drag you’re doing
It’s important to acknowledge what kind of drag artist the character is. I’m currently rehearsing the title role in Miss Meena and the Masala Queens, so the director and I had a few conversations to flesh her out. Miss Meena is a feminine female impersonator, who’s inspired by an old Bollywood star, Meena Kumari. There are many forms of drag – your choice will affect the portrayal and aesthetic of the character, so it’s important to nail this right from the start.
2. Working on the look
The character’s aesthetic will be led by the designer, so active conversations and collaborations will take place. Make-up is a big part – sometimes you might need external help with it. If you don’t have someone to help you, the internet will provide a plethora of looks. One thing to note when doing your eyebrows is that they should be sisters and not twins: slightly different and not identical. Applying a full face of drag make-up can take time and practice, so make sure you allow enough time before the show. Eyes, brows, over-painting lips, contouring and blending can take time.
3. Sissy that walk
This is a direct reference to the TV programme RuPaul’s Drag Race, which is a fabulous source of reference and highly entertaining. For a drag queen, the shoes are crucial. If you’re wearing heels in a show, it’s best to try a few pairs on before deciding on the right ones to wear. If they’re too high, you may not be able to walk (and dance) in them. If they’re too low, they could be wrong for the look and feel of the character. Once you’ve got the shoes, they’ll inform your walk. Is it a wiggle, a sashay or a stomp? One thing’s for certain, when playing a drag queen, in the words of RuPaul: “You better werk!”
Raj Ghatak was talking to John Byrne. Miss Meena and the Masala Queens opens at Watford Palace Theatre on May 9 before going on tour