Haus: What is the definition of a drag queen to you?
Misty: In Manchester, we tend to get called "trannies". My dressing room here is called "The Tranny Room", which just means it's the changing room for the entertainers. So for me, drag is about entertainment. And it's how I make a living. It's performance for born entertainers who, perhaps their voice isn't that strong, but has that "X Factor". When I was younger I trained to dance, but I think I wanted to do everything; act, sing, dance and then drag. Back then, when I was a sixteen year old lad, I wanted to be like Cher, which wasn't really an option... Until I started doing drag and I made it an option and for three minutes, as part of my show, I am Cher, the entertainer. And it's that entertainment that drag is all about. However, I think drag should always be funny. It's a man on stage in a dress at the end of the day and unless they want an operation, that should be funny.
Misty: Well drag has been explored every which way but loose, with people twisting and challenging stereotypes, but drag is not to impersonate a woman exactly, but to exaggerate a woman.
Haus: A woman specifically?
Misty: Well, having said that, there are male characters in my show because if something's funny, it's funny. But I don't want anyone to look at me and think "is it or isn't it?" I want them to look at me and know that I'm an entertainer, a drag queen and quite possibly a clown, over being a female impersonator.
Haus: So when you have the more "convincing" drag queens, whose aim it is to impersonate rather than exaggerate a woman, what do you call them?
Misty: Well you have to look at the motives behind it. When you have someone trying to look as convincing as possible, the automatic thought is that they would like to be a woman, maybe have a sex change, have the three-piece-suite removed and a put-you-up added. However I know a lot of people who dress that way simply because they can. They look really good as women.
Haus: And would you call them drag queens?
Misty: No. A transsexual is someone who wants to be a woman or is trapped in the wrong body and would like to change physically as well as just their looks. A guy who likes to dress as a woman or wants to wear women's clothes for the enjoyment, whether that's for a kink, a fetish or just for kicks, that would be a transvestite. People from all over get those distinctions mixed up and I'm sure they've all been called one or the other or all of the above.
Haus: Or get the label "tranny".
Misty: Which is why I think the label is used.
Misty: I really do appreciate the idea that if it works this way for guys wanting to dress as girls, why can't it work the other way round? I've seen some great drag kings in my time, but if I'm out or I come across one, it's not the first thing that I want to watch.
Misty: I'm a gay man. Gay men tend to be drawn to strong female characters, but although you have got a strong female character on the stage, they're all covered up, with a beard on, looking like a guy and singing men's songs. So if I had a choice, which I invariably do, I'd rather be watching someone perform Britney or Whitney or Rihanna or Cher. I wouldn't pay to go and see Meatloaf or Bryan Adams - that's not my kind of thing. I've worked with a lot of them at Pride events though and they go to as much effort as we do, with the filings stuck on their face to look like stubble, and they pad out their undies to give them a package. Anyone who goes to that much effort in their attention to detail deserves a lot of credit.
Haus: And what about female drag queens, or "faux" queens?
Misty: Well my dresser doesn't like them at all. She says that you almost feel cheated if you're a fan of drag and want to watch a drag queen and end up watching a woman with extra eyeliner.
Haus: But this isn't how these girls would dress day to day. It's a fully realised exaggeration of a character that has been taken to vast extremes.
Misty: Well what are the motives for doing it? Are they an entertainment act or just on a night out? You see a lot of girls on nights out around The Village who are luminous orange with their eyebrows painted halfway up their forehead and you think "you've got more makeup on than me". In fact their dresses are often tackier than mine.
Haus: And you're allowed to be tacky.
Misty: I'm doing it to take the mickey, because they think they look good. I dress like that because I'm going to be on stage, but why are they doing it? Attention? Maybe just for fun? But if they're pretending to drag queens, they are already what I'm pretending to be, so why are they doing it?
Haus: Female drag queens are, I guess, impersonating drag queens. So they're a female impersonating a female impersonator, to become a drag version of a drag queen.
Misty: Well I suppose nobody should be excluded from having the mickey taken out of them, including drag queens. But it's about the illusion too. Sometimes you look at a drag queen's cleavage and think "good job girl" or "have you had those done?" That's the illusion. But if you're a woman anyway, there isn't that same illusion.
Haus: But then sometimes you look at a faux queen and think "Are you? Aren't you?" I think that's the illusion; that these queens have gone to such extremes and exaggerated everything so much that you think "actually, maybe that's not a girl."
Misty: For entertainers, I can see the appeal of that. On a night out though, I don't think you'd be able to attract a man a girl dressed as a man dressed as a girl.
Misty: I have. And I thought it was absolutely wonderful. It's so full of creativity that it makes you wonder where everyone comes up with all their weird ideas. And it makes you wonder why there's been such a great surge of it at the moment.
Haus: Why do you think that's happened now?
Misty: Well we just have so much more freedom now. Back when drag started, it was an underground thing. They were locked in little dark basement rooms... a bit like Cha Cha Boudoir now really, so it's almost come full circle. But nowadays it's not just allowed, it's embraced. It's 2014 and every court battle gives us more and more freedom.
Haus: So what do you think to the new generation of drag queens?
Misty: Well it's a double-edged sword. It's more like the Village used to be, with more spectacle. Back in the day there were processions coming down the street, people banging drums and with Chrissy Darling at the front. It was a party street with a carnival atmosphere and people would come from outside the Village to gawp at us, which brought in money to the bars. Nowadays it's coming back and adding the spectacle again, but there are hundreds of them, mostly without much experience or training. These are anybody who want to put on some makeup and hit a stage and without the stage presence, experience or "X Factor", that's not necessarily a good thing.
Haus: But not everyone is trying their hand at doing it professionally, are they?
Misty: We're no longer busy seven days a week in the Village and bars need to keep their costs down, but they still need to compete with each other. So if they can get these newbies in on a smaller budget and give them a couple of free drinks to perform, which can undercut the established acts... well, you get what you pay for. I do what I can for the new acts though. And I get so many emails from new queens wanting advice, or to be "tried out", or to spend an hour with me at work, or asking if I've got any old stuff they can have. I have to say though, I am responsible for some of these new queens with the Drag Idol competition I ran once. And for a lot of the alternative alternative queens, they don't have the huge expensive feathers and sequined dresses and huge wigs; they can have a skinhead and a face-full of makeup and Primark tights and do it that way.
Haus: Your Drag Idol and Cha Cha Boudoir have both given a stage to new performers, which I think is pretty admirable. But with all these new queens, there is now talk of a bit of divide between "Canal Street Drag" and "Alternate Drag". Do you think this schism exists?
Misty: Well we have one of the biggest Gay Communities in the country and in such a large community there are always going to be differences. With drag taking off in such a big way recently, groups were bound to emerge eventually. It's the same as everything else; as much as we say that we should embrace diversity and all mix together, in reality we all want to stick with our own kind. You don't see a flock of birds with a dozen different species. And so you get the alternate queens, the younger queens in G-A-Y and older queens in The Rembrandt.
Misty: Traditional. Very old-fashioned.
Haus: You've said before that who you are as a performer has a lot to do with your drag mother. Do you think that you're going to be someone's drag mother eventually?
Misty: There are two or three that I can see already are going to grow to be real Entertainers, but they need to find their own way of doing things, so I don't want to guide them too much. Plus I don't have time to be a full-time carer!
Haus: Well you have many years to be a drag mother.
Misty: My mentor has been retired about fifteen years now.
Haus: Why does a drag queen retire?
Misty: In drag you never think that you're too old, too wrinkly or two fat, you just incorporate that into your act. It's just how it fits into your life. When he moved up north he became more of an agent than a performer himself.
Haus: It's like any job I suppose - you start by actually doing the job and the longer you do it, the more you start mentoring or managing other people doing it instead.
Misty: That's what he always did, but luckily we both had exactly the same sense of humour, so when I came back from working abroad we came up with an act. He gave me clothes, we sat together beading costumes and we wrote the show together.
Haus: Do you think there's always going to be a place on the scene for more traditional Cabaret-style acts?
Misty: Oh God yes. The old queens are coming out of retirement to perform again now the demand is there. Places like The Eagle and The Rembrandt have these more traditional drag shows on and they want boobs up to your chin, legs up to your navel and sequins. It's tacky, it's camp, but you can't keep your eyes off them.
Misty Chance can be found at Tribeca on Mondays for their themed quiz, the New Union on a Wednesday night where she hosts the karaoke and Baa Bar on Sunday's where she DJs. She will also be on The Sackville Stage at Pride, as well as performing in Uppity for the Greater Manchester Fringe show at Taurus on 29th July with Terry Gold and Billie Jean.