The kingdom of a Drag Queen: Interview with Chantelle Perez

Drag queens are a strong and fabulous presence of the LGBTQ scene. And this goes way beyond their fantastic production, it involves a complete performance that cheers up and inspires so many people every night, and which they dedicate to do it with perfection. For the last few years, drag queens are breaking tabus and causing a stir, not only at the LGBTQ movement, but all over the place. The increasing presence of drag queens in the music , in artistic movements and all over the media is impressive, for example, the great american TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race and artists as Conchita Wrust, Pabllo Vittar and Lia Clark.

And when talking about drag queens in Dublin, Chantelle Perez is a well-known name. She is part of the beautiful team of drag queens that performs weekly at the most famous and traditional Irish LGBTQ pub, The George.

With an incredible story, Chantelle conquered and established herself as a remarkable drag queen and I had a really nice chat with this amazing artist. We talked about her career as drag queens, her views about Dublin’s LGBTQ scene and about the drag queen scene in general.

V.E. : Firstly, can you tell me more about you and your story? When did you discover yourself as a drag queen and how was your first performance?C.P. : I came to Dublin on January, 2014. I performed a few times in Brazil, for fun, but not professionally as I do today. I had this really crazy curly wig in my house in Brazil and I remember that while I was packing to come here, something came to my mind and said: BRING THAT WIG. I don’t know exactly what it was but I just followed by intuition and put my wig in the bag. After a few months in Dublin a friend of mine was watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and he told me that he wanted my help to dress up and perform; and I remembered about that wig and I said that the wig and make up was on me. And so it goes! I helped him and it was lots of fun. A while after, he wanted to dress up again for the LGBTQ parade but this time he not only wanted my help to dress him up but he wanted me to dress up and perform with him. At first, I said no because I hadn’t perform in a long time, but I dressed up anyway.

When I was ready to go I realised I didn’t had a name. Back then my friend was working as au-pair in Wicklow and she used to take care of a 8-year-old girl who had Down syndrome and the girl’s name was Chantelle. I thought it would be a good tribute for that little happy girl so I decided to named me Chantelle. The surname Pérez is Spanish due to my Spanish citizenship.

When all of that happened, I was working at a school here in Dublin in Marketing. However, due to some changes in immigration laws it was really difficult to sell any courses and get a good wage. That’s when I saw a post at The George’s Facebook page about a 5-week drag queen competition and I registered and I thought: I’m gonna wear everything I have (1 wig, 1 high heel, 1 skirt and 1 top) and I’m gonna win. In my head, I thought that the competition was for amateur drag queens, like me, but I was wrong. I remember as if it were yesterday, I saw all the 13 competitors and I said to myself: OH MY GOD, this is actually is a serious competition. Everyone was so beautifully dressed up and I was so simple and basic, literally, a boy with wig and lipstick. I was really nervous because it would be my first show, but I was confident as I knew the choreography and music by heart.

Anyway, I impressed everyone on the first week because I was going something completely new for the drag queen scene in Ireland: the hair-whipping. Yes, they applauded me and screamed when I finished the performance and I passed to the second week as the best drag queen. And so it continued, week by week and, at the same time, listening from so many people that I wasn’t going to win as I was so basic and only had 1 show (which was not a lie, by the way). But beyond looks and make-up, I had TALENT. And talent or you have or you don’t have, but I do.

By the end of the competition, I needed to do something big because it was my chance to win. I decided to create an outfit and I searched for textiles, jewel craft, everything. I don’t know how to sew but I did everything with hot glue. By this time I already had earned a good money because every challenge had a prize in cash, and I’m a perfectionist and a true competitor so I spent so much money to get to the finals. I set up my look for the final and I had spent, literally, everything I had. I got desperate because the final day was a Thursday and I had to pay my rent on Saturday and I also needed the money for food. I had to win or I had to win, otherwise I would be homeless and with no food at all.

Before they announced the result I was shaking and I could only think about my rent and all my bills and I had spent like 800 euros with everything. AND I WON! WHAT A RELIEF! I could paid everything, buy myself some food and after the competition I was invited to be part of The George’s drag queen cast and perform every week!

V.E.: I don’t know if it is the people who I related to here but I see Dublin as a really nice city with the drag queens. How do you think about this relationship about Dublin with drag queens? Do you think that the city is, in general, more open-minded with drag queens?
C.P.: Drag queen is art and Dublin respects drag queen as artists. Unfortunately, Brazil has a lot of intolerant people and when we talk about drags, transvestite, transsexual they think that everything is the same and they are all prostitutes, so this judgment makes people to close their mind for us. Here in Dublin drag queens are respected and people love to see our show.

V.E.: How do you feel as a drag queen and what is to be a drag queen for you?
C.P.: As a professional drag queen today (professional as I pay all the taxes and bills with my performance) I feel fulfilled by the fact that in some moment I put a smile in someone’s face and I made a difference even if it’s just for a moment for whoever watched me. Performing is really difficult because it doesn’t matter if you had a good or bad day or even a stressful day, it doesn’t matter because you have to give your best on the stage. For the moment you commit to the entertainment, you’re being judged every minute. For example: “oh that music again”, ” oh she is fat”, ” oh that outfit doesn’t look really good on her”. For me, being drag queen is to know how to manage all these things and give your best energy to the public.

V.E.: How was your best experience as a drag queen? Do you have some specific memory?
C.P.: Winning The George’s competition and going to Miss Universe in the Philippines with my cousin who is the current Miss Brazil, Raissa Santana.

V.E.: Do you suffer with stereotypes and intolerances as a drag queen? Do you think that these are things that are still really present in society?
C.P.: As I said, you will always be judged but all the judgments aren’t really intolerance, it’s just people’s opinion. What I do is to filter what is actually positive and constructive and ignore the rest.

V.E.: How is your transformation? How long does it take for you to prepare yourself?
C.P.: Oh, so easy. I go into the microwave, ask someone to press the popcorn button and in 30 seconds I’m ready and beautiful. Hahahaha, joking. I take in average 50 to 60 minutes but if I’m really inspired it can take like 2 hours. It depends really.

V.E.: What is essential to be a drag queen?
C.P.: Passion, talent, willpower and authenticity.

The amazing Chantelle Perez performs weekly at The George. Follow her on Instagram @chantelle.dublin.perez and go watch her show and have some fun! 🙂

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