My name is Nathan and I’m 34 years old. Some of you may know me for my writing for Dragaventures or you might be a friend of mine or whatever. What you may not know is that I’ve been on a drag journey for many, many years. I decided to write this article as a coming out, if you will, and this has been a very tough and personal article to write. There are a lot of things in here that I’ve never spoke of to anyone but sometimes you’ve just got to bite the bullet and let it all out. So here it is…
I guess it all started, as most of these stories do when I was a young boy trying on my mums heels around the house. Any chance I got, I would dig out some of her heeled sandals and wear them. I used to wear long t-shirts that I could make into a dress or fashion bits of fabric and towels into outfits and wear jumpers on my head to make long hair.
I loved it at first school when we did a school show about Jonah and the Whale and my mum made a purple robe outfit for me. It looked like a dress and so I kept wearing it around the house for a long time after the show. Without naming it, this was me expressing my drag. It was never a secret and I used to always walk around dressed up. I was lucky that my parents accepted it or at least turned a blind eye. My mum did ask me once if I wanted to be a girl so then it became a bit more of a secret.
As I got older, I used to buy fabric and safety pin them together imaging I was a female pop star with dozens of costume changes, playing and dancing to a playlist of my favourite songs. This was all in the privacy of my bedroom with the curtains closed. I couldn’t wait to dress up any opportunity I could.
Something I forgot about until recently was my first time performing in a form of drag. Me and my friend Nyree decided to book a late deal holiday and we found a bargain to go to Turkey. One of the excursions offered to us was a cabaret show so we jumped at it. The drag queens were amazing. This was my first proper exposure to drag. As one of the youngest guys in the audience, I got picked on to dress up for one of the numbers. I remember being put in a leopard print dress and frizzy brown wig (think Mel B from Bo Selecta). We had to dance along to ‘Hey Big Spender’. It was so much fun.
In my 20’s, I really started to experiment with my look. I would probably describe myself as alternative and used to always wear eye makeup on nights out. Sometimes it would be a bit of eyeliner, other times I would add red or black eye-shadow. I used to wear fishnet gloves too. How I never got abuse from people, I’ll never know. A big turning point for me was watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I can’t actually remember the age I was introduced to the Rocky Horror Picture Show but I remember it was my dad that gave me the video one day and told me to watch it as he thought I might like it. He couldn’t have been more right. I ended up watching it and being a little confused so I watched it again and that was it, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough of the soundtrack and started collecting all the memorabilia and just harvesting the obsession.
I went to see the live show in Birmingham but had no idea about people dressing up when they go to see it so I was in awe at all these people dressed as different characters from the show. I decided then that if I got the chance, I would dress up next time.
A few years later, a sing a long Rocky Horror event appeared at my local theatre and it was around my birthday so what better way to celebrate I thought. I got myself a costume and shoes and got my friends to come along with me. I always remember with a smile what my mum said to me when I asked her to tighten up my corset. ‘I never thought my son would ask me that question’ and we both laughed.
When 19th June 2010 arrived, they helped me with the makeup so I was Frank ready! I was so grateful for their help and we had so much fun posing for photos together before we set off. Considering the town I’m from, it was quite a busy night and almost everyone was dressed up.
We had the parade of costumes and I won best dressed which was amazing. It was so much fun singing along to the film and just feeling comfortable and like I belonged. Egged on by my friends, I ended up getting up during ‘Sweet Transvestite’ and danced in front of the screen. It was such a rush. For me, this felt right. I wasn’t Nathan at that evening. I was Frank and Frank had the confidence that Nathan didn’t. I’d been bitten by the bug and it was so lovely to have people ask for photos after and say nice things about what I was wearing etc.
I’ve been to quite a few Rocky Horror events over the years and seen the show, dressed up, numerous times. I’ve even been lucky enough to meet a couple of the films cast- Patricia Quinn (Magenta) and Little Nell (Columbia). I’ve also won most of the fancy dress competitions I’ve entered, even being chosen by Patricia Quinn at one of them. That truly was a dream come true and the cherry on top- dancing the time warp with her.
My costumes and makeup have evolved over time and I’ve tried new techniques but I like to think my look is pretty spot on. I love dressing as Frank but I have done floor show Rocky too. I’ve got walking in heels down. For me, I love the escapism of dressing up and it’s always really sweet when people ask to have photos with me. To think that people have a photo of me that I’ll never see is weird but also really sweet. At one point in Malvern, me and my friend had a queue of people waiting for a photo. It’s just so bizarre.
I even got adopted by a group of lovely older ladies when I went to Malvern dressed up on my own. They were so respectful and asked questions, genuinely listening to the answers. There are open minded people out there and usually when and where you least expect it.
If we’re going for full drag in public, my first time was 3rd December 2010 for a Lady Gaga night at my local nightclub. They were having a Lady Gaga tribute (the insanely talented Donna Marie) and they advertised a fancy dress competition. Me and my friends are so competitive with things like this so we went all out.
I went for a Just Dance look which I mostly made/put together myself. I used tin foil and card to alter bits I already had and wore a blonde wig and sunglasses and even some small heels. My hometown isn’t the most progressive on these things so I was very nervous about going out like this but luckily, I was fine. No one batted an eyelid when I walked into the boys toilet dressed like this. We were a bit gutted that it was all for nothing as me and my friends were the only ones dressed up so the competition disappeared. We still got a lot of admiration from Lady Gaga (Donna Marie) and we had a lot of fun making our costumes and dressing up.
Cut to 15th June 2012. A friend approached me about helping her out with a project. She was doing a makeup course at uni and they were putting on a catwalk show for their end of year assessment to showcase all of their hard work.
She was aware of my love of Rocky Horror so asked if I would like to be a part of the catwalk show doing drag. I had to supply my own outfit but she would be doing the makeup. Of course I said yes. I always like to try new things.
I managed to find an outfit out of some of my rocky horror bits. I went with a black corset and a black tutu. I didn’t have any wigs though, apart from my Frank wig. I was so excited and obviously a bit nervous.
She picked me up and we made our way to her uni which wasn’t too far away and I sat there while she made me into a beautiful woman. I then got dressed into my outfit while they managed to find me a wig. I met some of the other guys who were roped into helping, mostly straight lads.
We rehearsed what we were doing for the show then later on, performed in front of a lot of people. We also had some photos taken which were a lot of fun to shoot. It really was a fun experience and felt incredible being someone else on stage for a bit. A little flicker lit up inside me as I discovered a love for proper drag.
I can’t remember when I discovered RuPauls Drag Race or even how I discovered it but I know that I got hooked on it very quickly. Going to drag shows, I usually go for dark eye makeup and play around with my image. I’ve yet to go in drag but it could well be an option in the future.
So that’s brought us up to date then. Stepping foot on the stage as Lola is the semi colon of my drag journey. Feel free, if you haven’t already done so, to read my article about my first drag performance on this very website! I’m still not sure what my next step will be but I know that I’m feeling full of ideas, I just need to get myself organised and put them into operation. And pin down what my drag name will actually be.
Obviously, I’m still very new to drag but it’s something I want to experiment with in the future. I just need to build my confidence up and practise. We all have the capability to be who or what we want to be so why not give it a go. And let’s celebrate it rather than passing judgement on people. Be the most amazing shining star you can possibly be!
Written by Contributor Nathan Warren