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Sunday, June 16, 2024

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TOPHER TALKS: Topher Taylor chats with “The Art of Drag” author Jake Hall

This month, Blonde bombshell Topher Taylor sits down to talk sex, queer culture and crossdressing with The Art of Drag author Jake Hall. 

First of all, introduce yourself to GLL readers.

I write primarily about sex and queer culture. I’m a major bookworm too – I just started a separate book-based Instagram account (@justqueerbooks) and it’s made social media so much more enjoyable!

 

I adore your book and its artwork. Do you remember your first encounter with drag?

I was a huge fashion fan as a teenager, so I was aware of New York club kids and the likes of Leigh Bowery pretty early on. But I’d say my first personal experience with drag was at Doncaster Pride when I was about 16 years old. Two guys were fighting so we snuck past the bouncer into the pub afterparty. I remember there being drag queens just wandering around, chatting to people and cracking jokes. I was really struck by their confidence, especially because I wasn’t really ‘out’ at the time, so seeing how easily they could chat shit and make people laugh was a real revelation for me. I was definitely struck by their beauty too, but it was more the charisma they exuded that drew me in!

 

How would you explain your book to a new reader?

I’d describe The Art of Drag as an illustrated, trans-inclusive history which tries to think creatively about the roots of drag. Societies didn’t really have the language to describe queer culture for a long, long time, so I knew when it came to writing this that we could dig deep and think unconventionally about drag –– so there are stories in there of ancient mimes, kabuki dancers and more. The aim was to create a resource that would grab people’s attention, and make them curious to do their own research to fall down some gloriously queer wormholes of their own.

 

When researching for the book, I’d love to know two things: What’s the most shocking thing you’ve learned about drag and the banalest? 

Perhaps that anti-cross-dressing laws have been so widespread throughout history, and they’ve been so grossly abused by police to justify criminalisation. It’s so wild that people often undermine the political roots of drag when it’s a practice that’s literally been illegal for such huge swathes of history, especially in countries with repressive governments.

The banalest thing is that drag artists can be just as shitty as the rest of us, really! Drag is a queer and political art form, but that doesn’t exempt any of us –– drag artists, queer people more generally –– from being homophobic, racist, transphobic etc. It’s a banal statement, but one I reckon is worth reiterating.

 

Do you have a favourite drag performance?

I think my favourite was Victoria Sin lipsyncing Marcia Baila at The Glory –– it’s so gloriously camp! I was lucky enough to work at The Glory and see acts like these when I was in my early 20s, which was hugely formative in terms of my taste in drag now. Victoria represents everything I adore about drag, and the song is a classic.

 

I learned a lot of queer history from simply seeing your Instagram stories. What’s your favourite moment of ‘drag history’?

I think it’s probably the first Wigstock festival in 1984 –– it’s one of those historic moments I’d have absolutely loved to be there for! It was a huge deal at the time to have an entire event dedicated to drag, and it sounds like there was so much chaotic energy and the kind of messy, political drag that I absolutely live for.

 

Where can readers grab a copy?

Gay’s The Word is always my top recommendation, but it’s available online at the likes of Waterstones, Foyles and Blackwells too!

 

And finally… and I’m sorry for asking this but I have to. If you did drag, what would be your drag name? 

Yorkshire Pudding –– hearty, delicious and true to my Northern roots!

Keep up to date with Topher on Instagram @tophertaylor

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