If you are a burgeoning drag king, queen or adjacent, it’s very likely that at some point you want to start getting paid for it. Drag ain’t cheap sis, and unless you’re getting onto RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, it’s very unlikely that it’s going to pay for itself. You’re going to have to get yourself a regular performance gig.
That being said, getting booked is a lot easier said than done. Especially nowadays when everyone and their mother is competing for centre stage.
So if you’re not sure where to start, or are looking to accelerate the process a little bit, then keep reading my handy guide for how to get booked regularly as a drag performer – including handy tips from some of the girls already doing it!
Go to drag shows
To be a successful drag queen or king who’s getting regular bookings, you should be going to drag shows anyway. You need to live and breathe something to become good at it.
What is it they say? “10,000 hours of sucking dick makes you an expert?” Well, get off your knees, slap the dicks away and get to the clubs because you’re going to need to do a lot more than deepthroat to make it here.
You should learn from those who are doing it well (drag, not deepthroating). Watching people who are successful could give you inspiration for what you could do for your own performance – though you should never copy, unless you want to be dragged harder than Michelle Williams on, well, pretty much every day of her life.
Not only will watching other queens give you inspiration for what to do, but it could also give you inspiration for what you don’t want to do. I always thought I’d want to be a lip syncing queen before I started drag. It was only after watching 10 different queens do the same Gaga medley that I realised I’d rather be doing anything else.
And if you really, really want to be noticed – go to the clubs in drag! You want to get people to know who you are before you perform, right? It’s more likely they’ll remember you if you come in full drag than if you pop along in a pair of skinny jeans and a mesh top… maybe.
If you can’t find a drag show near you – not all of us are bougie and live in London or Manchester – then thanks to modern technology, most drag performances are on YouTube or Instagram anyway. If this stuff isn’t coming out of your pores, how much do you really want it?
“It is essential to go to your local gay bars and support all the local queens, see what sort of drag they all do and think what do you do differently to them? Go to those bars and shows in drag to get yourself noticed, because we live in a world where there are so many new queens coming about all the time you need to show that you are someone that should be known.”Sapphire Stonee, @sapphirestonee
Speak to promoters and performers
While you’re at the bar/performance space, you’ll probably see the other performers mingling around, having a drink and chatting to people. Go have a chat with the relevant people! What are you doing being shy? You’re in drag! Or you should be if you read my previous step.
Other drag artists and the nightclub promoters are the ones who are going to be giving you the gig, or at least able to point you in the right direction, so maybe all that dick sucking from earlier (can you see there’s a common theme here?) will come in handy because you’re going to need to get in nice.
That’s not to say be fake, no. Be as real as you can be when you’re a 6 foot man with 12 pairs of tights and 3 inches of makeup on. But you’ll never get that gig or get known from the next queen if you stand quietly in the corner.
“Be seen. Speak to people. BE NICE. People will see you and they will want to know you – you add colour to the room! Soon you could be booked to host or even perform if that’s what you want to do!”Miss Taylor Trash, @misstaylortrash
Figure out what you’re good at
If you’re interested in performing then you must have some idea of what it is you want to perform. Can you sing? Dance? Act? Can you shove an entire watermelon up your whatsit? (If you can, first call a medical professional, then slide into my DM’s)
You need to be able to offer something unique or entertaining. You want to get booked to lipsync? Great! What are you going to do that sets you apart from the 10,000 other queens that lip sync?
Think of it this way: would you pay to sit through your own performance? If the answer is no, then other people are probably thinking the same thing.
Everyone is good at something… and if you’re not, just start a blog…
The incredible Cheryl Hole killing it at Drag World UK 2018.
Practice and rehearse
So you’ve gone with the watermelon thing *clench* and you’re ready to hit the stage! Right?
Wrong! You need to practice taking that watermelon over and over until you know it back to front (or top to bottom, as it may be). Memorise your performance back to front. There’s nothing your audience is going to hate more than you forgetting your words, giving a half-assed performance, or worse… boring them.
And not only will your audience not forgive you, your promoter is not going to forgive you too. Those bitches have loooong memories, and they all talk too. So if didn’t have your shit together, getting booked for another gig at another bar is going to be 100 times harder.
You don’t even need a fancy studio to practice your number. Everywhere is a stage, babes! If you’re singing, practice the words in the shower. Lip syncing? Pop those headphones on at work and don’t take them off until you can recite the entire thing backwards. Go to your local dogging common if you need space to practice your choreo.
There’s no excuse for a messy queen who didn’t have their words locked tight!
“Practice. Practice over and over and then make your debut when you’re polished and confident. Hit the ground running that way because people are very impatient and it’s hard to grasp their attention. It’s the best way to make an impact.”Mars, @mrmsmars
Try some unpaid work
There’s always the age old question of “should you do free work as a performer?” Some people will say no, and for the most part I agree. People will try and take the piss and you really do need to know where to draw the line.
But when you’re just starting out and trying to get booked, free shows – especially for charity performances – can be a really good way to help you get that necessary exposure you need (exposing yourself is always necessary, no matter what HR keep telling me).
Not only that, but they’re a great opportunity for building up your portfolio – more on that later.
There are heaps of LGBTQ+ charities out there that would no doubt love the free talent and you’re doing something for a good cause too (the cause is yourself and your drag career, duh).
There are many, many successful queens in the UK who got their big break doing a competition at a local bar. My first ever drag performance was at the Meth Lab in front of Michelle Visage. I’d never performed in front of people before, it was a horrible train wreck, but it taught me what to do and what not to do… albeit the hard way.
So whether it’s a local talent contest, a live Drag Race-esque show or a lip sync battle, use the competition to fuel your competitiveness. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little healthy competition to make you work your ass off and be better.
Not only that, but most competitions come with judges, and judges come with the most important thing of all… feedback. What did they love? What did they not get?
Your judges (probably) aren’t out to get you, so use the feedback productively to improve. Every time on the bottom is a time to learn, as daddy says.
Film everything you do
These days there’s no excuse for not having an extensive portfolio of your work. We’ve all got a phone and we can’t rip ourselves away from them. When you’re doing those free shows, use them as an opportunity to grab a little promo clip of yourself. Someone watching will be more than happy to film you if you didn’t bring anyone along with you; if it is a queen, make sure they don’t run off and sell your phone for ket.
Then put the clip up on YouTube or your other social medias. Not only will it help when promoters ask you for footage (and trust me, they’ll ask you for footage) but it’ll also just act as free advertising. A promoter or another drag performer might come across it without you having to do anything and reach out to you.
Promote yourself on social media
Which brings me nicely along to my next point – promote and network. You’ve done the free shows. You’ve been in competitions (and you probably came last, but it’s only because your parents didn’t love you enough). You’ve got that footage up on YouTube. Now it’s time to get booked and you need to promote the fuck out of yourself.
Reach out to other, relevant social media pages, ask if they’d be interested in posting some of your performances. People are nicer than you think (ha!) and asking doesn’t hurt, does it? There are even social media pages dedicated to it: @ultimate_drag1 on Instagram or Let’s Talk About Drag have regular performance content on their pages.
Keep your performances fresh in everyone’s memory. If you’ve not been booked for a drag performance in a while, whack your last show up on a story or a post for a little Throwback Thursday.
Follow performers, promoters and club nights. Like their posts. comment on them. Reach out to promoters over DM and start building those relationships, so the next time they have a slot available, you’ll be the first invited along to perform.
On the subject of promoting yourself, do you follow me on Instagram? You should do: @envy.incarnate. Here’s me with a fan.
Work hard and have fun
Remember, if you want something, you need to put the work in. Everyone and their mother is doing drag these days. If you want to stand out then you need to step your pussy up.
“Don’t think that you are entitled to anything. All the queens you see at the clubs and bars have had to work really hard to get where they are, so you need to work just as hard to get where you want to be.”Sapphire Stonee, @sapphirestonee
That being said, you have to remember to have fun! From my experience, when people start to really knuckle down and focus on their career in drag, they forget to actually enjoy the process. You’re so focused on being the best, you can forget why you started drag in the first place.
Take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. After all, you’re a person, wearing makeup, being a fool for everyone’s entertainment. And you still have that watermelon inside you.
“Learn from your mistakes, listen to those you look up to, ask questions, be your own true self, grab a mic and have fun but most of all LOVE DRAG.”Crystal Lubrikunt, @crystalubrikunt
So that’s it, my comprehensive guide to getting regular bookings as a drag king, queen or anyone in between. I hope it helps and you can really get out there and get yourself known, because it really is an incredibly fun and worthwhile – albeit often tiring – journey and experience.
A huge thank you to @ultimate_drag1 who graciously allowed me to use their instagram content here. Go give them a follow!
Do you have any other tips you’d recommend to a new queen starting out? Let me know below in the comments what you’ve tried.
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“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but Envy rots the bones.”
Drag Queen 💃🏼