Drag Life shares the experience of three different Perth drag performers, each unique, individually and artistically, in hope to inspire and educate readers on the world of drag as an art form and important aspect of LGBTQIA+ culture.Sassie Cassie, a local Perth drag performer, explores the ups and downs of drag. Originally being scared of drag queens, she came to find the art of drag fulfilled a creative bug for performing and brought out her fierce qualities.
Listen to the audio, or read an edited version of Sassie Cassie’s story below.Hello, Sassie
I am Sassie Cassie, I’m a Perth drag queen. I have multiple nicknames that have been given to me throughout my three-year tenure as a drag queen. One of them is Sasserole Casserole, Cassandra Cassandra, Suzuki Casuki—I could go on. It’s a lot. I’m coming up to my third year in drag. I started on 22 November 2016 and I haven’t stopped.
My first experience with drag queens, because I was initially afraid of them at first—which I think a lot of people, especially drag queens—and I think a lot of drag queens can say that they were afraid of drag queens before they started doing drag. My fear was legitimate though because I got thrown off stage. I remember I was at The Court Hotel and I was with my two friends Remond and Coco. We were watching Veronica on stage and she was doing a twerking competition for tickets to this event thing. Veronica pointed at my friends Remond and Coco—I thought she also pointed at me—so, I put my foot up on stage and she turned around and she went, ‘Not you!’ And threw me off stage, like I was airborne for a couple of seconds. I went up to my friends and I was like [sobbing]. So, I went on hiatus from the gay scene for like two years. I then came back when my friend was like, ‘Oh, you should—you should do drag.’ Because I wasn’t getting any work, I was depressed, I wasn’t performing at all. Yeah, I think the only performance I was doing was dance classes. And that was it.
Then Serenity, funnily enough was like, ‘You should do drag factory at The Court Hotel.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll give it a go.’ Got slathered up, put on a Julia Gillard wig, did sissy that walk and then got a message from Femme saying, ‘Come over, I’m gonna slap you up in drag and you’re gonna be girly. You could perform but you looked like shit.’ I was like ‘Okay cool.’ So, I went over, reluctantly and she put some make-up on me, put a wig on. I think I was wearing a black leotard with tails and I went out and I did ‘How You Burlesque’ by Christina Aguilera. I just haven’t stopped.
The Joys of Drag
I think one of the things I enjoy the most about it [being a queen] is the sense of, almost, invincibility when you’re in drag. It’s literally almost like armour which I’ve heard a lot of drag queens say before—their drag is their armour. And it’s very true. It’s, you go out and people—the most interesting thing I find is seeing people’s reactions to you in and out of drag. I recently went to a party and I wasn’t in drag, but a lot of the people there knew me as Sassie or have only ever seen me as Sassie. And some of them, it was like a very lukewarm kind of response, some of them didn’t even recognise me at all. And some of them treated me very badly, but y’know.
But I think one of the greatest things about being in drag is just feeling like this other worldly thing—this creature that can get away with anything. You can get away with so much in drag.
You get away with ludicrous amounts of things. But I do drag because I have this creative bug and I need to constantly get it out and I found that drag is a creative, like, the best vehicle—for me—for that. Being able to put it into fashion and looks and creating shows and creating performances and all that kind of stuff. Having all that come together into what you do with your style and all that stuff. I think a lot of drag queens can say that.
The Perth Drag Community
I think we have a really good community here in Perth ‘cos it’s small. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows the drag queens, especially the kind of, the working girls. Everyone knows who they are.
But I think the scene could go one of two ways. I’ve seen the scene really kind of like uplift people and help people come into their own, but I’ve also seen the scene tear people apart. But in saying that, that has a lot to do with the person themselves and who they are and how they carry themselves and how they talk to people. Because the thing is—with a small scene—is that everyone talks. And I mean, you’re stupid if you think no one talks about you, especially if you’re a drag queen. And I think that’s one of the biggest things that has helped me come to terms with—or get peace with the fact that y’know, people talk about you. It’s like, well I talk about people, I talk about almost everyone so it’s y’know, why wouldn’t they talk about me, whether that be good or bad, that’s their problem, that’s their issue. If it’s anything serious they’ll come to me about it.
But in terms of starting out in the scene, I think we’ve got a very, I think we’ve got a very nurturing scene in Perth. I think a lot of the queens, if the queens can see that you’re someone that’s gonna take it seriously, that’s gonna represent well, that you care about what you do and you don’t make a fool of yourself and don’t be an asshole, I think pretty much every drag queen in Perth is more than willing to help you. Y’know, if you need advice on how to do make-up or how to do wigs or how to put an outfit together or how to track, there are so many queens that if you message them and go, ‘Oh, I need this track cut for this thing, can you help me?’ At the drop of a hat they’ll say yes.
I think we’ve got a very nurturing scene but an also take-no-bullshit scene as well.
I think a lot of the queens don’t take any bullshit, which I think is, especially with working queens, I think that’s a common trait amongst a lot of drag queens. It’s that if you’re a drag queen 9 times out of 10 you’ve put up with some bullshit in your life. So, once you’re in the drag it’s absolutely no bullshit. Especially when little queens want to come and read you, yeah, the claws come out. But it’s good.
The Art of Drag
Lip-syncing is a strange art form because it’s almost inherently a gay art form. You see, the scandal with people like Britney Spears who lip-sync onstage and—quite honestly, she lip-syncs rather wel—I mean, sure, she’s lip-syncing her own song but she gets absolutely wreck-the-house-down for lip-syncing onstage. I can understand if a bitch has pipes, then, people have paid big money to see you in Vegas, why are you lip-syncing?
But I think in terms of a drag queens, I think lip-syncing is inherently a gay art form. Because y’know, if a queen doesn’t have a tight lip-sync then everything else kind of—for the audience or for the queen watching, anyone watching—goes out the window because it’s like ‘Okay well, I don’t believe you.’ The lip sync is the thing that makes—it’s supposed to look like you’re singing the song that is being played even though it’s not the case.
I think the biggest thing that people don’t think about when they see a drag queen, especially people who aren’t in the scene all the time, is how long it takes to get into drag. ‘Cos an average face for me, I can put a face on in an hour, a good face in three hours. What we call a ‘Proud Awards face’, which is the awards event that happens every November, a Proud Awards face takes me five hours. So, it kind of varies. And I think that’s something a lot of people don’t really understand if you haven’t ever watched a drag queen or you’ve never done drag. The make-up itself can take a while, let alone hair and outfits and shoes and getting the entire ensemble together takes a while.
Dating and Drag
I find that dating is very hard with drag because a lot of people don’t—I don’t even know what the stigma is. I think it’s got its got its roots in transphobia. I honestly do think that it’s got its roots in transphobia because there was a time, y’know, back in the 70s and 80s where if people found out someone was a trans woman, a trans man, immediately—almost immediately—it would turn people off because they saw drag queens, trans people as, especially around the AIDS crisis, people kind of had that stigma that gay people, drag queens, trans people were dirty. That they were diseased and that you shouldn’t touch them, let alone date them. I think these days, people, especially gay people, I think it is kind of like destigmatising which is great but I do still think there is that stigma where it’s like, ‘Ooo, don’t date the drag queen.’ And I find that especially the only times people will look at you in drag and be like Ooo, ok, as if they are into that kind of thing or if you’ve been on TV. So, it’s like a bit of that.
For me, myself, I’m not…like that’s not something I’m interested in right now. I’m not looking to date…I need to look after myself first before I start to try and look after someone else. But I hope that stigma is starting to lift because I think it’s stupid. I think y’know, especially when it comes down to…I’m not trying to speak on behalf of the trans community because I myself am not trans, but I think it’s very important to realise that in terms of drag versus being trans, drag is what we do, trans is who we are. I think that’s a very important separation that a lot of people need to start making. And I think it’s also very important that people shouldn’t look at drag queens and immediately think: ‘Oh, they want to be a woman or they want to be a man. Oh, that’s who…they want to be that.’ ‘Cos that’s, I think that’s extremely personal and it’s also none of your business and it’s also just false.
I’ve had a lot of people like, especially regional gigs, where people have just blatantly come up to me and gone, ‘So when did you decide you wanted to be a woman?’
And I was like, ‘Well, I never decided I wanted to be a woman, I’m just presenting as a woman right now because I’m in costume.’ It’s a costume for me. It’s performance for me. It’s not who I am…it is who I am but it’s not who I am.
Lashes suck too. I hate lashes. Lashes can get really annoying especially, I mean, once the inner corner lifts, game over. If you haven’t got lash glue, game over, you might as well go home. If one of them comes off—Mercedes Benz—yeah, go home. Or find someone with lash glue.
The Influence of Drag Race
I think Drag Race has, I mean with any huge movement and huge phenomenon, a cultural phenomenon that happens, I think there’s always going to be the positive and the negative that surrounds that. I think, positively, Ru Paul’s Drag Race has helped a lot of people, especially in the larger performance industry in terms of actors and singers and all that kind of stuff. I think Drag Race has definitely helped a lot of people see that it’s possible to take a drag queen seriously, and properly-seriously. I think Drag Race has opened a lot of people’s eyes up to the fact that these people that dress up in drag are actually people, that they’ve gone through shit, they have their own experiences.
I think something that shocks a lot of people, especially when I go out on gigs, is when they find out I’m fully trained, a fully trained performer—fully qualified—that I’m not just this dude dressing up in women’s clothing and prancing around lip-syncing to someone else’s music for four minutes. I think it’s shown how much work goes in behind the drag. Y’know, a drag queen has to be a make-up artist, a hairstylist, has to know their fashion, has to know how to put an outfit together. They have to be confident, they have to do all these things, be all these things to be able to do what they do.
Coming Out and Doing Drag
I think that for people who—especially young people who are wanting to do drag—I think it’s so weird being a drag queen because you almost have to come out twice. You come out as a gay person and that’s all fine and I remember that when I first came out my dad was like, ‘Oh y’know son I don’t mind that you’re gay, just don’t start wearing women’s clothing, alright.’ And I was like, ‘Oh Dad, that’s never gonna happen, I’ll never do that.’ Two years later, here I am.
But I think, the biggest thing—I’ve come across so many queens that have struggled and are still struggling with having their parents validate what they do or take what they do seriously—I think one of the biggest steps in being able to kind of educate older people in what drag is, that it’s legitimate and that it’s valid, is understanding where they come from.
It took me a while to realise, taking into account when my parents grew up and what drag was when they were growing up. They grew up around Prescilla Queen of the Desert. But they also grew up, because my parents are in their late sixties, they also grew up before the Pride movement, before that was a thing. When they were kids Pride wasn’t a thing. So, I think once I realised that they’ve probably still got a very dated view of what a drag queen is. To them, probably when I was like ‘Oh Mum, I think I’m gonna start doing drag,’ in her mind it was, ‘Oh my son’s going to go out and she’s gonna look awful and he’s gonna start doing drugs, drinking and he’s gonna start having sex all the time. He’s gonna be dirty and all that.’ I mean, it’s true, but I think the point when my parents started to realise, ‘Oh actually, this is something that he’s actually putting time, effort, money into.’ When I started to look good in it, when I had my hair sorted out, when my make-up starting to look good and my outfits looked good and I was doing shows—that kind of stuff—that’s when they kind of were like, ‘Actually no, this is actually something.’ Even though my parents don’t watch Drag Race or anything like that, they—through me doing my drag and then being able to see how dedicated I am to it—they were able to kind of see the validation in it.
And I think what helped me get there was understanding where they were coming from and what experiences they had with it and everything. And also they grew up around the time with the AIDS crisis as well, they were growing up around that time. So, for them there’s just a lot of fear around the gay community, around drag queens because back then people were dying. And I think a lot of people think they have to force a change of point of view with their parents. You can lead them through. If they don’t want to go, they don’t want to go, that’s their issue. They’re missing out.
Drag is for Everyone
I think everyone can do drag. I think the biggest stigma around drag is that it’s only for men. I get that a lot. We’ve had some incredible bio-queens. We’ve had people like Luna Sea who in my opinion, was and still is probably one of the best-looking queens in Perth. Her looks when she was doing drag full time was incredible. We’ve got Flo Reel, who works at Connections, who can do stilts, who works with silicone who does these silicone cup things that she puts over her boobs and it looks like that its dripping and all that kind of stuff.
All incredible artists that unfortunately get looked over purely for the fact that they were born female, even though both Luna and Flo are trans men. They identify as men and they do female drag. You’ve got people like Cherry Poppins who’s a trans man but does female drag. I think that’s one of the biggest things that I try to kind of [advocate]. Drag is for anyone and everyone can do drag, doesn’t matter what gender you are, what age you are. We’ve got people messaging me on Facebook who are 60 years old who are like, ‘I want to start doing drag.’ Well fucking do it, it’s never too late. It’s never too early, never too late to start drag. I think everyone should try it at least once. Get your drag queen friend to do you up in drag one night. You’ll be amazed at how much you transform.Copyright © 2019 Sassie Cassie
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