Haus of Phag met with Violet and Liquorice in a coffee shop on a Wednesday afternoon, with both queens out of drag, looking vastly different from their larger-than-life personas. They have both asked that I do not reveal who the boys are behind the makeup, who will be referred to as 'x' and 'y'.
HoP: Who would you say Violet and Liquorice actually are?
VB: Violet Blonde is fun drag. She's versatile and all about communication, creating a dialogue... She's all about creativity and I wouldn't want to put a box around her.
LB: Liquorice is quite simple really; she's a drag character based around black and white. She's monochrome, cabaret and isn't gender specific. I have occasionally used colour with her, but that's been pretty rare. She started as a 'club kid' and then became more 'drag', but really she's more of a hybrid of the two styles.
HoP: So you wouldn't say Liquorice is a female character per se?
LB: No. We all refer to each other as a "she", but I would never say that Liquorice is actually a "her".
VB: Violet is a woman. She's sometimes slightly inter-species, but still a woman.
LB: Over various projects though, we've joined together to make ourselves a double act.
VB: There's a nice juxtaposition between us, I think. I'm very colourful, whereas she's not very colourful. I'm very small, whereas she's very tall. It's a nice contrast; I'm loud, she's more quiet; I'm accessible and she's more glam and stand-offish.
LB: Yeah. We've known each other three or four years now.
VB: We were on the same foundation course at university. Then I took Liquorice to her first Bollox and introduced her to the Scene. Back then, before I was Violet Blonde, I went more 'club kid' style too, but then I started doing drag in the May. I went travelling for a year and whilst I was away, Liquorice was born.
LB: I've just had my first Birthday.
HoP: How do you celebrate the Birthday of a drag queen?
VB: Well she's not drinking at the moment, so she didn't do anything!
LB: It was a very quiet one. I spent it working, but in drag, so at least I was Liquorice that day to celebrate. It's odd to think about though; a character having its own Birthday. It's starting to feel a bit schizophrenic at times - some people only know Liquorice and haven't a clue of my real name.
HoP: For the people who do you know you as both, do they see any difference in the personalities of Violet and x and Liquorice and y?
VB: Violet is very much just an exaggerated version of x. I hope that I present some form of intelligence at least, as most drag queens who do a similar style of drag to me can appear quite ditzy. There is a concept behind Violet, so I hope people get that. But I guess it's just an exaggerated me - when you look big and attention-seeking, you become big and attention-seeking.
LB: The look tends to match your personality. You're representing the inside on the outside.
HoP: Whenever I've seen Liquorice out and about, she's always seemed to have a glamorous melancholy about her.
VB: Which sounds about right.
LB: I want Liquorice to feel quite timeless and classic.
HoP: The black and white feel is pretty innately timeless.
LB: Despite the persona, people still feel that they can talk to me about random things they couldn't talk about otherwise.
VB: We can be really silly a lot of the time. People don't really mind what we say.
VB: I went to a club and saw Paddy Baston. He was dressed amazingly and his girlfriend Issy introduced me to drag and I'd see Grace Oni Smith, Paddy and Sheela Blige on nights out and think they looked fantastic. One night, I plucked up the courage to approach Paddy and said "Hey, I want to dress like you!" and the next day, he took me to his work (which is a makeup counter) and he painted me like a drag queen and I thought "Right, that's it! I'm doing it!" It took a while before Violet was born, but I used to be called Miss x.
LB: You used to just wear wigs and be a bit more like a "little boy in drag" to begin with.
VB: The first time I did drag, I just wore a scarf that I'd cut a hole in, then a wedding dress and from there it's been all sorts of funny things; like beards and weird peculiarities.
HoP: I particularly remember your Planet X number, when half your face seemed to be peeling off.
VB: I was trying to go for the antithesis of what I thought everyone else was going to wear. You think of "space" and you think black, metal and sharp edges, so I thought maybe MY planet doesn't have metal, nor is it all about black and maybe my planet is from a former age and maybe I should wear natural fibres and maybe it's really hot, so my skin's blistered.
LB: We both went quite Star Wars. I was a bit like Darth Vader and you were more like...
HoP: So what about Liquorice? How was Liquorice born?
LB: It was just an evolution really. It started with eyeliner, then soon it was with lipstick and a veil, then one night I added tights, then heels... The official point was when Cha Cha Boudoir started and I thought I'd create some more avant-garde and extreme looks, which is when the white face arrived. Initially I did a masculine look, but added the white face when I went to Drunk At Vogue, and from there I've embraced the idea of a "drag clown". The white face was certainly influenced by Anna Phylactic, who's also known for doing the white face, and because I know her and Cheddar, who I feel mentored us a little bit, we were very influenced by them and their style. But we do also do our research behind the drag as well - there are influences beyond other queens we know and pop culture.
VB: I got into drag through Paddy and Grace, so my focus is usually the makeup side of drag. For Liquorice, because she was mentored more by Anna and Cheddar, I think her focus is more costume-based. There's a lot of thought put into what she's wearing, over necessarily the amount of emphasis I put on the makeup on my face. We've both come at drag from different angles and met somewhere in the middle.
VB: When I was a young gayboy, I used to look at drag queens and think "Oh, that's a bit peculiar", but then I didn't really appreciate the art of it and the versatility of all the facets within drag.
HoP: When did that change?
VB: When I started going to alternative clubs. There I saw a different style of drag, that you don't really see in the village. Village drag, though credible, is very different from alternative drag.
LB: When I was younger, I saw Dame Edna and Lily Savage and I think times have changed a bit since then. We were used to that kind of drag and it became quite cheesy and uncool and seemed to be more older men in big wigs, being baulchy and loud. Back in the 80s there was Leigh Bowery, Amanda Lepore and Boy George and popular culture was changing and I think that's happening again now, in part thanks to RuPaul. And androgyny has become fashionable now too.
VB: It fades in and out of fashion and drag is definitely at the peak of that right now. Back in 2011 there were only about five drag queens going out on the alternative scene in Manchester and now you can't even count them. There's new ones turning up every week. It's wonderful though - some of the people we've got to know are fantastic and passionate drag queens.
HoP: Cha Cha Boudoir has certainly been encouraging it too. I know somebody who a year ago wouldn't even have thought of doing drag but thanks to Cha Cha will now be making their drag debut this month. But of course, seeing it so visibly in the media is definitely influencing people want to take part. In this regard then, who would you say are your personal icons toward drag?
LB: I think I'm probably Violet's... But for me it's definitely Leigh Bowery. His is drag is on the extreme side, but it's one of the most creative I've seen and he drew completely outside the lines, showing that you could completely change your body if you wanted to. Say you wanted a pregnancy bump, for example, or two heads, it's possible!
VB: I agree with Leigh Bowery, but when I started drag I wanted to have a concept for it. I took the idea of the blonde bimbo, like Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Lolo Ferrari, Jocelyn Wildenstein and all these caricatures of blonde women. I loved the ludicrous rumours about them; that Paris is actually quite smart and when she's not camera speaks with a different voice. That was the inspiration for my drag itself, but obviously I've been influenced by other drag performers, such as Nina Arsenault, who is a transgendered woman who has transformed her body massively and I find that fascinating - the way women dictate and change the way they look. I just love women in general though!
HoP: We all love women.
VB: "WOMEN" are my biggest inspiration.