Vivian: With cabaret you have the opportunity to self-generate material instead of having identities thrust upon you as you do for film at theatre work. For queers and other marginalized people it's a wonderful way to be seen for who and what you are in an honest and personally creative way. Also, historically, it's given queers a space in which to reflect, satirise and critique mainstream culture. It's one area where being outside observers gives us the upper hand.
Haus: At what point did you realise that you were performer?
Vivian: As soon as I realized by taking a breath I could make a noise when I breathed it out.
Haus: What kind of performer did you set out to be?
Vivian: Initially I wanted to be an actor because I was dissatisfied with the role in which I found myself cast as a child. Only when I studied theatre did I realise I wasn't interested in other people casting me in various roles. I just wanted the freedom to be myself.
Haus: Drag has suddenly become a hugely popular (though still niche) artform - what do you think to the new generation of drag artists who have been found/created by reality TV?
Vivian: I have always liked drag and many of my sisters are drag queens but I've never considered myself to be a drag queen because, unless I've created a role for myself to play as I did with Kiki when I was half of the cabaret duo Kiki and Herb, I'm just being myself. If everything is drag, then nothing is drag.
Vivian: It has to be. I'm terrible at it so I know it requires a tremendous amount of skill, emotional depth and talent to do it well. The best lip-sync artists I've ever seen are the legendary New York Drag Queens Sweetie and Lypsinka. They have entirely different styles and the effect they have on their audiences is completely different. When Sweetie lip-syncs I often find myself in tears.
Haus: Your character Kiki was once described as "an icon to rival Hedwig" - do you think this is why John Cameron Mitchell wanted you to appear in Shortbus?
Vivian: No. I've never felt competitive with John. We're friends and we both have a huge amount of respect for each other. We were both coming to prominence around the same time with politically charged, anarchic characters that were created in response to the terrifying world in which we were living (AIDS in the early to mid-nineties). We've always been compatriots because we're both Tauruses and were born within two weeks of each other. (Obviously he's the older one.)
Haus: If you had to describe David Hoyle in one sentence, what would you say?
Vivian: David Hoyle is one of the greatest living performers living or dead (you decide) on the face of the earth!
Haus: If the objective of Gay Rights is assimilation and normalisation, is that at odds with Queer Performance and its celebration of difference?
Vivian: Oh my Goddess, don't ever talk to me about assimilation and normalisation. Those are two luxuries I can't afford because my soul and my spirit are not for sale.