The Sydney-based drag artist talks protest and pronouns in Mardi Gras.
Etcetera Etcetera’s 2022 Australian Tour is on sale now. The As Seen on TV tour will combine the visual creativity of artists Art Simone and Etcetera Etcetera across Australia from May 27th, following the tail end of celebrations for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 2022.
What is the Sydney drag scene like?
The Sydney drag scene is excellent! Having been around Australia and the US, I know we produce and host so many different styles of drag here – which makes it exciting to watch a drag show in Sydney. We have traditional showgirls, Priscilla camp, arty drag, high fashion, performance art – so many facets of what drag means.
Where did the name Etcetera Etcetera come from?
It comes from the musical The King and I. Yul Brynner says “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera” throughout the film. I also go on and on and on.
Where do you recommend to see a great drag show during Mardi Gras season?
Always the Imperial Hotel in Erskineville. The home of Priscilla in Sydney, the Imperial has been a drag haven for the past 35 years – with an alumni of Australian drag legends. There’s always something on, and this Mardi Gras is no exception. We have a Broken Heel Festival takeover and events in the weeks leading up. Also Universal on Oxford Street is always good for a game of pool and a drag show on a Wednesday or Thursday.
Why are drag queens essential to Mardi Gras?
Drag artists have such an important role in the queer community as activists and public figures – but all of that stems from the work done by the trans people, sex workers and people of colour who have always been the first to push our community forward and stand up for civil rights. Drag culture comes from the history embedded in this struggle for acceptance and we exist as the vessels to bring these stories into the present.
Can drag be used as a political tool? How?
Drag should only be used politically. Expressing the intricacies of gender in performance is such a powerful tool and captures audiences. Understanding the history and relevance of drag is so important if you choose this as a career. Being visibly at the forefront of a community is a huge responsibility – and also an honour. I think it’s a drag artist’s obligation to lift up the weakest person in their community before they try to make the strong stronger. My glitter, heels and wigs can look fun – but they can also act as a shield to protect others. I know when I’ve defended people in drag I always come out on top. It’s scary to fight a drag queen! Don’t mess with us.
How do you balance fun with activism?
Great question! I wake up every morning and go “What’s my goal for today?” You have to portion it, a bit like taking a slice out of a big pie, and say “I’ll focus on this today.” The world is full of battles and you have to pick yours. You can’t please everyone at once and I believe it’s better to have a million people imperfectly fighting for a difference than one person perfectly doing so. Be kind to other people! Remember we all live in a small community. I hear everything people say about me and my friends, and sometimes you wonder why people get so nasty – we should all be fighting towards equality together. That’s a lot more fun!
The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2022 theme is UNITED WE SHINE.
United we shine signifies the strong bond between the LGBTQI+ community. As stated on the official page, “by standing up against hate and inequality as a collective, the message of love and inclusion is heard louder.” Although Party, the annual after party event that has seen the likes of Cher and Kylie Minogue sing is cancelled, many other annual Mardi Gras events such as Fair Day, Parade and Laugh Out Proud are still going ahead for the 2022 year at this stage.
What are a few ways that we can better include trans, non-binary and other diverse groups in the queer community?
Pronouns are important! You won’t always get them right – but please respect and put effort into using them. I think of pronouns like someone’s name: you might not remember someone’s name the first few times you meet them, but after that, you’d be rude not to! Trans and Non-Binary drag performers are amazing! The people who created most drag scenes across the world were trans women of colour, and a lot of people don’t fully realise the impact of trans women (like Carlotta) in Australian drag history. Appreciate performers and make sure we get paid! Also, buy us a drink now and then.
What matters to you?
Family. By birth or by choice – family and sisterhood is the energy that keeps me going. Everything else could disappear and I would be happy if I still had that.
In 2021, the Mardi Gras theme was SHINE. And 2020’s Mardi Gras theme was about activism. What does activism mean to you?
Activism is existence as an LGBT+ person! I walk down the street every day and face aggression – everything from a dirty look to someone shouting death threats. Mardi Gras can be seen as a visual spectacular and a feast for the eyes, but it started as a protest and it should continue to be first and foremost a vehicle to express the LGBT+ community’s voice. With religious freedom a hot topic at the moment, it makes me very anxious as to where this country is going. Drag is my religion! I refuse no one my kindness and my love, so how hypocritical to see the opposite done by conservative figures hiding behind words written thousands of years ago. Shame on them!
From Sydney Mardi Gras 2022 to Albany
“This is the reason why, in addition to the well-loved drag bingo and Mardi Gras party, we have sports events, a yoga/meditation class, a self-defence class, as well as fine dining or stand up comedy, which is less typically associated with a pride festival.”No matter where you live across Australia, there’s most likely a celebration of the LGBTQI+ community happening near you, so be sure to look around for what’s on for the Mardi Gras 2022 season! Rex airlines fly to Albany from Perth. Be sure to check out what else you can do there when you visit.