Words: Brian Leonard; Images: Supplied
After searching high and low, Virgin Atlantic and the San Francisco Travel Association have found their next drag star - and she goes by the name of Glitzy Von Jagger.
Yorkshire-born, London-based Glitzy - aka Darren James - may have only decided to pursue a career in drag during lockdown two years ago, but she'll now be jetting direct to San Francisco Pride this weekend aboard a Virgin Atlantic aircraft (Upper Class, naturally) to perform at San Fran's legendary drag and cabaret bar, Oasis.
The UK's new drag star will be joined by Drag Race UK season three stars Kitty Scott Claus and Vanity Milan, who'll be standing firmly (and fiercely) by Glitzy's side every step of the way.
Virgin Atlantic and the San Francisco Travel Association first announced their search for the next UK drag star last month, with up-and-coming drag queens, kings performers asked to audition by recording themselves delivering a fabulously camp drag take on Virgin Atlantic's onbard safety message.
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As well as experience a royal welcome and three-night stay at Hilton Union Square in San Francisco, Glitzy will be treated to the wonders of San Francisco during an anniversary weekend that marks 50 years of Pride.
With Glitzy - aka Darren James - set to depart with Virgin Atlantic on Thursday to slay it Stateside, we caught up with the former "queer camp kid" and Lily Savage-lover as she prepares for the biggest performance of her career to date.
Stay tuned to find out how she gets on, because Attitude will be covering the trip live on our social media channels throughout the weekend...
Hi Glitzy! Where did you grow up? Was drag something you dreamt of doing when you were younger?
I grew up in a mining town outside of Shakey Wakey [Wakefield] called Normanton. I’m a Yorkshire lass. I’ve felt a calling to drag ever since I laid my eyes on Lily Savage at a young age. I got a scholarship at 17 to drama school and Billy Elliot-ed my way down to London. But back then I was told to dance like a boy: one teacher even said I’d become camper since coming to stage school, in what should of been a safe space for expression. I remember one acting teacher saying what do you want to be when you grow up, I answered 'a Spice Girl!' The gay scene was also pretty judgemental around expressing femininity back then too, so everything combined I repressed my true full creative self. I was a chorus boy through my twenties, singing and dancing, but was always trying the girls' costumes on backstage and I was always so jealous of the lead girl!
When did you first start doing drag – and what inspired you to start your drag journey?
I used to mince around East London parties in various iterations of gender-f**kery and I did Baby Spice at 18 years old for a mate's birthday party, but it took lockdown for me to sit with my intuition about what I wanted to do moving forward. I’ve been acting, singing, dancing and doing that whole performer hustle for years. I’ve been lucky enough to always work and be busy but I needed something that used every skill I had and that allowed me to use my brain and creativity more. Drag is a perfect vehicle for that. During lockdown I did comedy courses, makeup, writing. Lockdown allowed me time to really sit with the big dream and I thought 'f**k it, I’m gonna go for it full lashes swinging!' Glitzy was a second coming out for me, I’ve not had this much of a fire in my bussy since I was a teenager and again had time to manifest my dreams listening to my higher self.
How would you describe Glitzy as a performer/her style of drag?
She's silly, sassy, salacious, campy, irreverent, and very naughty! Glitzy's released the fear shackles from my art and expression. I feel I can do anything when I’m zhuzh'ed up! Jill of all trades, mistress of none, but who said our Glitzy wasn’t having more fun!
Who are your drag idols?
RuPaul, Lily Savage, Alaska, Alyssa, Trixie, Shea, Bob, Trinity, Willam and Lady f**king GaGa!
Were you expecting to win Virgin Atlantic’s competition to find the UK’s newest drag star? What was your reaction when you found out you’d won?
I mean, I don’t know how Hilary Clinton does it! It was a good little competition Ella [Veryde], the other finalist, was fabulous. I was on the mic all night during my cabaret show: I had my mates [and] family on the case and the two showbars I perform at, The Act Notting Hill and Archer Street Soho plugging [away]. I realised I’d won whilst in [London's] Clissold Park. I really had to hold back tears as I knew what a fabulous opportunity it was and I also had two gigs that day afterwards so couldn’t ruin my makeup! I was over the moon and it was so special that it became a team win for my community, thanks everyone for voting!
Are you excited about performing in San Francisco during Pride’s 50th anniversary celebrations? What’s on your bucket list while you are there?
Well speaking of bucket lists, this is right up there I’ve always wanted to be in Attitude. You really was a lifeline to me as a young very queer camp kid in an area where it was tough to be those things. I’m so excited to perform in San Francisco with is rich queer history - it’s Glitzy's international introduction to the world! Can I be on the cover next please, Attitude?
Drag Race UK’s Kitty Scott Claus and Vanity Milan will be chaperoning you on the trip! Are you a fan of theirs, and what advice and tips do you hope to pick up from them?
Of course I’m a fan, they are just wonderful. I’ll be chewing their earrings off for advice: makeup tips, how to travel with ten wigs and store them. There’s so many moving parts to drag and it’s an art form in which you never stop learning and evolving. I loved them both on Drag Race UK and can’t wait to be mentored by them. I am obsessed with Drag Race: I’ve watched since the beginning and all of the international franchises so I’m thrilled to hang with them.
What’s your message or advice to someone thinking of starting out in drag but perhaps doesn’t have the confidence yet to do so?
Have fun with it! Be fearless as the scary bit in life is where you grow - and it really is as fun as it looks! Get stuck in, write your own material, don’t take it or yourself too seriously. It is graft though - the get in, the get out - so be prepared for that. But all drag and all creative expression is valid. Do you and shine!