We've covered Beijing's nascent drag scene before
, but in the past year much has changed – not least the prominence of some prodigious talent supporting worthwhile local causes. Drag Bingo
, Disco Extravaganza
and a new pop-up drag cabaret
at Sanlitun’s Red Dog
, a queer favourite, are just three examples of how polish and powder are taking local queens to the next level.
Krystal de Canteur.
Our three cover queens have each played a unique role in the development of the capital’s Western drag culture, which very much stands apart from its local equivalent. Elizabeth Stride was one of the capital’s first drag performers, singing live with her comedy vocal trio The Fascinators; Krystal de Canteur exploded onto the scene in the past two years as one of the founding queens of Disco Extravaganza, and her extraordinary talents have made her drag mother to a growing stable of young queens; TigerLily is a restaurateur turned community figure, and has entertained everyone from drunken Sanlitun revellers to Tibetan monks with her ballsy, outrageous looks and attitude.
For our photoshoot, a potent combination of trial runs, talent and Taobao came together to realise two different looks for each of our cover queens. Work started at 8am, as each queen had multiple layers of makeup painstakingly applied over several hours. Contouring – now a staple of the Kardashian-era beauty regimen but previously the preserve of the drag world – accentuates cheekbones and shaves down jawlines and noses to produce a more feminine profile. Waists are cinched and then corseted, hips padded with foam, and sometimes a breastplate adds extra lift to a flat chest. Wigs are teased into shape and then glued to the scalp to create an invisible hairline. Then, those final all-important touches of false nails and lashes complete the look.
Transforming men-about-town into drag dilettantes takes time and money, yet appearance fees for drag queens rarely even cover their costs. A word to anyone seeking to book one of these delightful divas for your next event – be willing to pay, and you’ll get the show of the century.
By Jack Smith