Kelly Mild is a glistening jewel in the crown of Halfway to Heaven who, along with her divine drag partner Crystal D’Canter, is the face of one of the UK’s longest-running cabaret residencies, CK Sunday.
With drag legend Bette Rinse out of action for the time being due to ill health, Kelly is currently steeling herself to host Bette’s popular It’s A Knockout competition which takes place throughout September. I’d just like to take this opportunity to say: Bette I love you, get well soon my dear, deranged drag wife.
I caught up with Kelly for a pre-competition natter…
How are you feeling about hosting Bette’s It’s A Knockout?
It’s an absolute honour to step into Bette Rinse’s shoes while she gets herself better. I’ve been working on It’s A Knockout behind the scenes for the last six years, so I know it inside out. We had a few tears of joy from Bette and tears of panic from me thinking I was going to have to sing Sweet Caroline every week. It’s daunting. But the competition’s fantastic and Bette’s taught me so much. I’m confident that we’re going to be able to continue its success and carry on taking it to the next level — with Bette’s guidance.
Tell us about the competition.
The prize package for the winner includes full bookings at cabaret venues across the country and a lump sum of cash courtesy of Portobello Brewing. Everyone who enters the competition tends to do well afterwards — it’s a great springboard to the cabaret scene. Entry is free. Start time is 8pm. Get there early because it gets busy; staff and managers from other LGBTQ+ venues also tend to come down for a nose.
It’s four weeks that are absolutely bonkers. It’s hard work, but it helps people learn at a really fast pace. There’s such a family feel at Halfway anyway so when the new contestants bring their friends down and everyone meets and encourages each other the atmosphere is fantastic. That’s what makes the competition so wholesome — all these people competing together who become mates.
We can’t have a catch-up without acknowledging your now legendary Sunday residency at Halfway to Heaven. You must be very proud of CK Sunday’s sustained success; what do you put that down to?
CK Sunday is where it all started. Crystal D’Canter and I have been at Halfway to Heaven on Sundays for 16 years. I’m smiling now when I’m talking to you about it. We have such a fantastic time. As you know it’s a marathon of a show. It’s not 45 minutes and off, it’s 45 minutes times by three.
As I said before, Halfway is a family and that has grown over the years. Some people we see once a week, some once a month, some come back after six years. It’s because of the people who come and see us that we can carry on.
I must mention my gorgeous sister, Crystal D’Canter, who has held my hand through many a CK Sunday when things have been not so good in my life. We’ve always been there for each other and always will be.
To be 16 years on and still having a fantastic time with great audiences is just amazing. We are so lucky to have had that residency for so long.
Message for Bette right now?
Bette, we love you, and we miss you, get well soon. Come back soon, and please learn the words to Don’t Tell Mama. And from all of us at Halfway: Bette Rinse you look fucking gorgeous tonight.
It’s A Knockout is every Tuesday from 12th September at Halfway To Heaven, 7 Duncannon Street, WC2N 4JF. The show is sponsored by Polari (Portobello Brewing), with 10p from every Rainbow Pilsner bought going to Stonewall Housing
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