Baga Chipz: 'Lockdown's lost me £250,000 - but I still feel lucky'

Excl: RPDR UK star on touring with Alyssa, new docu-series God Shave the Queens and why she's "more Lily Savage than RuPaul"


(Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: BBC)

“I’m rough round the edges: I’m more Lily Savage than RuPaul.”

We could not have put it better ourselves.

Baga Chipz came third on 2019’s inaugural RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, but she won the ‘brassy British charm’ category by a country mile.

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"‘You know what Bags, you’re the most famous woman in Britain'"

Baga's is a warm, unpolished humour that has Attitude guffawing during a recent catch-up – not least when she tells us about a secret TV project coming up…

“I’ve done a really massive one, which I can’t get into, that’s on for two weeks in January...” she teases. “It’s huge. The people I was working with, the other celebrities… Oh my god, I was growing up with these people. We’re talking gold medalists, pop stars, actors. I felt a bit out of a place. But then I thought, ‘You know what Bags, you’re the most famous woman in Britain. Blend in!’”

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We’re guffawing just reading it back. Meanwhile, her tell-it-like-it-is honesty has us nodding in agreement.

“I’ve met beautiful, model drag queens who look exquisite," says the star. "I say: ‘What do you actually do? You do make-up beautifully - it’s an art form. But when I see drag, I want to be entertained.’”

“British drag is totally different to American drag"

If there is one thing this 30-year-old knows, it’s how to entertain. Whether impersonating Margaret Thatcher on Snatch Game (“Belgrano Spice!”) or belting out 'New York, New York' on stage at London’s Admiral Duncan, Bags always puts on a show.

“British drag is totally different to American drag,” she opines from her Midlands home. “We have lip syncs, but it’s not my cup of tea. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect it. But when I see a show, I want comedy. Lip-syncing’s good, but you can only do 15 minutes. I’ve done three hours on stage: comedy, singing live. When you can control a microphone, you can stay on stage as long as you want.”

Her years of experience served her well on RPDR UK; she finished behind winner The Vivienne and runner-up Divina de Campo.

“I went on that show with £500,” says Bags in her distinctive Brummie drawl. “Some of the girls had £10,000 loans. I was like ‘If you’re gonna get through, it’ll be on your personality and talent rather than your make-up and gowns. That’s not me. […] And it worked. I was the first person you saw on that screen, and I was the last.”

"I was supposed to tour America, Canada, Australia, Europe…"

She's had tons on since: from Celebrity MasterChef to Celebrity Karaoke Club; from ads for Spotify and Sky to “a show with Gemma Collins in two weeks!”

But that’s only part of the story. On the effect of coronavirus on her career, Baga candidly reveals: “I feel lucky, but I’m not going to lie - I’ve lost about a quarter of a million pounds in lockdown in missed opportunities. Literally. But I’ve also made a lot of money doing other things.

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"If it wasn’t for Drag Race, I don’t know what I would’ve done. Now I’m financially secure, I’ve got a house - always working, doing adverts, TV shows.”

“I can’t moan,” she continues. “We’re all in the same boat. I am privileged, because I get to do a lot of online stuff, brand stuff. But I was supposed to tour America, Canada, Australia, Europe… It will happen, it’s just been postponed until things get back to normal.”

“It was like the Spice Girls’ bus; a tour bus Lady Gaga would use"

One project she did tick off pre-pandemic was an Alyssa Edwards-hosted UK tour with the other RPDR UK queens “a week after the final”; tour docu-series God Shave the Queen drops online this week.

“It was like the Spice Girls’ bus; a tour bus Lady Gaga would use,” says Bags of the queens’ mode of transport; like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert but “going through Manchester.”

“The highlight was just being with the other girls,” she says. “It was like a holiday. Obviously, me and The Vivienne are close. Every night we’d be in the dressing room, going for cigarettes together, for a drink after… It’s good to have success and perform, but doing it with your friends, sharing it, it’s double the pleasure."

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The memory of the tour is no doubt a comfort as the UK enters a second national lockdown. But at least we can rely on Baga for socially distanced laughs: even a casual stroll down the street - Sports Direct bag worn elegantly on the fold of her arm – is inexplicably brilliant. And oh, what we wouldn’t give to bump into her at the supermarket…

“Don’t get me wrong – I can go to the shops, but I’ll be asked for a picture,” she says of fame. “I’m walking around Morrison’s and people are shouting ‘Bloody much better!’”

God Shave The Queens is available to watch as an eight episode boxset on BBC iPlayer from 15 November.

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