Meet Paul Aleksandr, a punk rock performer with a passion for all things weird, who we first encountered during Cheltenham drag festival. Encaptured by his weird and wacky performances we were thrilled to see him form DragPunk – a drag collective from Birmingham showing how punk rock drag really can be. From supporting Adore Delano on her ‘Whatever’ tour, hosting James Majesty ‘Messy’ tour he is one busy bee! This year saw him make his debut at Dragworld for All Drag Is Valid, a collective set out to show all types of drag is valid regardless of gender/sexuality. We grabbed a chat about his experiences at the convention, drag advice and more!
DA: How has your dragworld experience been?
Paul Aleksandr: It’s been my first Dragworld. I’ve meant to come the last 2 years but this is the one I’ve come to with ALL DRAG IS VALID booth. It’s been really nice, incredibly friendly not a single problematic person, not that you expect that. It’s been so much further from that, so warm and nice. It’s been busy today and it’s been super fun.
DA: Did it live up to what you expected or what your preconceptions were?
PA: I’m not sure to be honest, I always thought it was more Drag Race heavy, which in a way it is. But there’s actually so much more you can do such as the panels and being at the booths all day you see so many drag artists and just other people going around chatting. It’s a convention in that sense. It’s not a show, it’s a convention, a bit like comic con and you can wander round. I’ve just really enjoyed that.
DA: It’s certainly been a lot more diverse than in previous years and branching out a little bit.
PA: Yeah, it’s done more. I think there’s still a lot more they could do. Especially when you look at where money goes towards drag race girls and 2 people from the UK who are paid by Drag World. It’s is very London heavy with the UK drag side but there’s a lot of change and difference which people say is better. We’ve tried to make the ALL DRAG IS VALID booth better.
DA: This has been a very popular booth and we’ve heard a lot of people talk about it so it’s good to have that.
PA: We’ve invested in the backdrop and we’ve invested in bits and pieces. We’ve tried to make it nice and welcoming and give a reason for someone to come by. We want to show drag artists a range of genders, sexualities in a range of fun looks.
DA: Whenever we’ve walked past, we’ve seen all of you chatting to people. It’s encouraging to see.
PA: I heard last year it wasn’t as strong so it’s nice to have a purpose and the purpose is raise the message.
We did a panel about it which is lovely Drag World let us do that and let us talk about all those difficult issues that Drag World as a company has to discuss and engage with. It was nice of them to let that happen. A lot of people came to watch it which was wonderful to share experiences but also to give genuine information about the subject.
DA: Of course they’ve announced UK drag race and rumours about who’s going to be there. What do you hope to see on the show?
PA: It’s the worst kept secret because UK drag is very close knit so we all know who’s in and it’s not just rumours, we know who’s in. We know who the top 3 are, the artists that are in it, I’m very happy it’s that ilk rather than going for an Instagram queen type thing because the artists in it are quite established and good. There’s so much more they have to do. UK drag has cabaret, lip sync, vaudeville. It has all of these things. It has kings, it has woman, gender fluid performers and artists. It’s not all London based 90% of the drag in the UK is not London but drag race UK is somewhat heavy and tippet towards that. It’s better than it could be but no way can they say it’s representing all drag. It’s just representing a certain type of drag.
DA: Hopefully if the series does progress to other series, maybe they will start exploring.
PA: Maybe they will. I’m always wanting to say it’s been 10 years of drag race and they’ve barely included any woman. They say as long as they’re up to a certain point in their transition, it’s awkward. I’ve been to so many shows in the UK with so many different performers, the gender underneath, you don’t know, it’s doesn’t matter and it’s made no difference.
The church of Yshee, you can win £1000 with 19 performers at the Nightingale nightclub. One of the biggest LGBTQ stages in the country. It had 19 performers of literally not just a token female. All background, all different types of people, all genders, all ethnicities. It made no difference. You had kings vs queens vs genderfluid vs dancers vs all sorts. The only thing in common was it was lip sync. Some were comedic, some very dance heavy. It made no difference because they were equally pitted and all went for it. That’s the bottom line. All backgrounds could be entertained.
DA: What advice would you give to someone starting on their own drag journey?
PA: I think just see more drag. I say to drag artists, the more you see, the more you learn about your own style. Sometimes the young drag artists say they want to perform but do you go it and network? Do you meet people? Do you get to know who’s doing what and why they’re doing that and how? Some people say ‘I’ve got this idea for a mix’ and you think ‘that’s been done to death’. See more because it opens your eyes. It’s like if you want to write a book, read more books. If you love video games, play more video games.
DA: You’re almost closing your mind off to other things by not delving into some shows
PA: Yeah, it can be hard but it’s out there and the variation is insane and you don’t have to like all drag and all shows because it’s mental to think you have to appreciate all of them. Find what you like and go after then you see things that surprise you. I just think see more, enjoy more. Go for quality over quantity in terms of what you appreciate.
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Also follow Drag-punk for their upcoming shows/events over on their Instagram:@dragpunk