These days you can’t swing your handbag without smacking a Drag Queen in the face. (Thanks RuPaul!) But Drag Kings in Cape Town are not so common. We spoke to Wolf.Steel, one of the mother city’s longstanding Drag Kings, about his new persona and his upcoming new WTF Showcase, debuting on Freedom Day.
QL: It’s been almost seven years since I last interviewed you as part of Bros B4 Hos, Cape Town’s first Drag King Troupe. What’s been happening since then?
Oh and what an amazing journey the last seven years has been!! Bros B4 Hos did great things, and even launched our own documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjFIQvzhwXA&t=4s
After the monthly shows at Bubbles Bar (now unfortunately closed), some went on to perform at Crew Bar, and at a certain point most members started traveling the world, studying and following different paths. I continued performing as a drag king. In 2016 I joined Black Orchid Burlesque, where I have been performing until the start of this year. After my physical and mental recovery following an injury last year, I decided to follow the solo performer path again. I am making my comeback on stage as performer and producer of the WTF Showcase, happening 27 April 2019 at Grounded Espresso Bar & Bistro in Green Point.
QL: RuPaul has said that we are all born naked and the rest is drag. How would you define a Drag King?
Firstly I think each drag performer has their own meaning around drag, which is amazing, and as performers like Spikey van Dykey etc. say, #alldragisvalid. For me drag was the link to my growth and it still is. The “anything goes” part of life. I usually quote Prince with: “I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I’m something you will never understand.” I feel that society has grown so much in the last 7 years of me being a drag king, especially with regards to the term “gender” and people are trying to understand the meaning of being gender fluid. Because what does it matter in any case!?
When I get on stage, it
feels like something that’s been resting comes to life (which is good, because
we all need rest!) I feel an energy coming out (pardon the pun!) and I get to
tell my story in a way that I can’t always find the words for. I’m always
looking for a way to help the world to have a better understanding of me and
mine, the people I cherish and love, the journeys I travelled and the ones I’m
still exploring. I want people to FEEL when they watch me, and walk away
reflecting on life in general. I guess I just want the world to feel love
again, ‘cause you know, life can be such a drag. But to me that’s life, the
QL: Has the Drag King Scene died or has it just gone underground? Is it a case of there not being a safe public space to strut your stuff?
Hahahaha, died? Shall we then call me the ghost of drag kings past? No, I do not think the drag king scene died. Maybe a little hibernation phase? I think a safe public space is definitely an important criteria to meet and of course, a willing audience. I have been speaking to my drag queen sisters and we’re definitely looking into them taking their brother out for a town night every now and again, and who knows, maybe even more drag kings can come out and play.
QL: Your previous Drag King persona FreDDie, inspired by Freddie Mercury, has morphed into Wolf. Steel. Who is Wolf.Steel?
Wow, so kind of you to remember! Yes, FreDDie has been a huge part of my history and where I got my oomf. Still Mr Mercury is very much my inspiration and motivation, because, what a legend! It was just time to grow into me as my own persona, being able to give tribute to the legends, but being me in doing so.
Wolf.Steel came into life in May 2016, on the 4th anniversary of the Drag King FreDDie, after performing with Black Orchid Burlesque SA. I started doing burlesque classes with Black Orchid and learnt the techniques of this amazing art form and how to incorporate them into drag. From there Wolf.Steel’s new classification of “draglesque” came to be. After FreDDie the Wolf came to play and is now the howling sensation of Cape Town. For Wolf.Steel it is all about connections, life is one connection after another, and connections connecting with each other.
QL. FreDDie was known to lip sync and sometimes sing live. What does Wolf. Steel do?
Wolf.Steel is an entertainer, and that includes, lip syncing, live singing, and then incorporating burlesque as a drag king and bringing the art of strip tease into performances. I realized the other day as I was working on new hashtags that I want people to not know what hit them, to ask questions, and to search for understanding after they met me, and I started my hashtag #iwillconfusethefuckoutofyou
QL: Tell us about The WTF Showcase. Apart from Wolf.Steel there are appearances by a drag queen and Burlesque artistes. How do these all fit together?
The WTF Showcase is about the weird, wild and wonderful world of draglesque mixed with a dash of ego and a whole lot of sex appeal. I couldn’t decide how to make my comeback as a drag king, so I decided to produce my own event. I wanted something different… as this wolf loves to be different and I wanted to leave you with a little thought of “wtf”. I approached various artists I know in various art forms and assembled an amazing cast including a Drag King (myself), amazing Drag Queen Morticia LaValle, poet Terri Dunbar-Curran, burlesque performers The Red Baroness and dance sensation Bonita Hill.
QL: Do you ever go out in Drag apart from when you are performing?
Yes, I do, and I intend to do it even more now that I am back on my feet, literally after a knee operation last year.
QL: Some people say that drag, whether performed by drag queens or drag kings, is misogynistic. How would you respond to this?
I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinions. If after meeting me and seeing me perform you still have that opinion, then so be it. I have the greatest respect to anyone of any gender. Be who you are and respect others for who they are. My shows, performances and persona are not a smack in anyone’s face or to prove any political or feminist agenda, but rather a way of empowering me, myself as a person. I love what I do and that should be respected.
QL: In the last year or so, with increased attention on transgender issues, some gay men who previously identified as drag queens now identify as Trans women. Drag is often a step towards transition. Have you observed any similar trends in the drag king community?
Ain’t it amazing that people could find a step towards their own acceptance? Yes, I have met many queens and even a king or two that is either in transition, considering it, or it motivated them to not classify as a specific gender. Hats off to them all. Their road and journey is difficult, and if this is a way to help ease it in towards their transition, by all means. I also think it should be stated that not all drag queens and kings are in transition or identify as the opposite sex. Everyone does drag for themselves and for their own reasons as I mentioned earlier. It’s a space to be you, and if you want to dress as a dinosaur and get on stage, then be the best dinosaur you can be! PS, I’m so open for a dinosaur on the WTF stage… Just saying!
QL: As a sometime Freddie Mercury impersonator, what did you think of Bohemian Rhapsody?
LOVE. There’s not much more to say about it. Personally for me, it was beautiful. I sat and sobbed like a baby through the film, as I went through my own relationship down at that moment and “Love of my Life” playing right through the movie just opened all the flood gates. Also, as with Freddie, my father and I also have our own shattered relationship and it hit right in the feels.
QL: Some critics said that the film de-queered Freddie for mass consumption. Would you agree?
What would the world be without critics? I do not agree personally, as that’s not the message I got from the movie. But, each to their own. Of course there’ll be some stuff that’s a bit coloured in for the experience of a movie, and also, how on earth do you think you can capture such an amazing and inspiring person’s life in one movie!?
QL: Who’s currently the hottest lesbian on the planet and why?
My girlfriend… Yea, I’m still that smitten.
The WTF Showcase is on Saturday 27th April at the Grounded Espresso Bar and Bistro, 30 Highfield Road, Somerset Square, Cape Town. Dinner served from 6PM. Show at 8PM. Tickets R100 from Quicket: http://qkt.io/wtfshowcase
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/736042430127351/
A portion of the tickets, as well as funds raised on the event, will be donated to the Garden Route Wolf Sanctuary close to Plettenberg Bay
Follow Wolf.Steel on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WolfSteelCo/ and Instagram: wolf_steel_gram