I went to see Lolo Brow, the awarding-winning burlesque drag queen, as part of the VAULT Festival last weekend and my edges were snatched. Here’s what I thought of her show Attention Seeker. WARNING: this post contains RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 spoilers and opinions on the ‘who can be a drag queen’ controversy. So if you want to spare yourself either (or both), go away.
Born Naked and the Rest Is Drag
So ICYMI, drag has gone full on mainstream, and it’s mostly due to RuPaul’s Drag Race. The show didn’t invent drag – the LGBT community did, ages ago – but it’s definitely responsible for the unprecedented following drag queens have gained these days.
RuPaul has won Emmys and has a $7m net worth. The show has moved from smaller LGBT network Logo to VH1, gaining new fans by the day. If you thought drag was niche, now it’s a cultural phenomenon in its own right, so much that drag queen Trixie Mattell was interviewed by men’s mag GQ US. As GQ says, now drag is entertainment for everyone, and it has brought lipsyncs, over-the-top costumes and make up to the main stage.
I’ve always loved drag shows, but since binge-watching Drag Race I’m now officially obsessed. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that feminist drag queen Lolo Brow had a burlesque show based on audience voyeurism at the Vaults.
Lolo Brow’s Attention Seeker
Lolo Brow’s Attention Seeker at the Vaults was easily the best burlesque and drag show I’ve seen so far. Our moods were lifted, our edges were snatched and our opinions were challenged.
Lolo Brow opened her show dressed in a gala gown, her waist squeezed in a corset, with fierce lipsyncing to classic tunes like Xtina’s Dirrty and Elton John’s Your Song among others, each song cut and mixed with the next to prepare us for what to expect from the evening.
Then the songs finished and she started talking. Precisely because we’re so used to Drag Race, when we read “drag queen” and “Lizard Lady” in the show’s description we were expecting she’d be a man. Not because she wasn’t beautiful or feminine, but because drag queens on RuPaul’s show have made us accustomed to padding and make-up that trick you into thinking they’re women. Yet, turns out she was indeed a woman, and a nasty one, in the best possible way.
What To Expect
Lolo Brow’s show is all about quick thinking and plain dumb luck. She leaves the reins to the audience, from choosing the songs she should strip to, up until the very last skit, when we even got to pick an envelope setting the tone for what we wanted to see next.
It’s a burlesque drag show, so expect swearing, nudity, sexual innuendos, sex toys and the like. In short, my kind of entertainment… so maybe don’t bring your nan there, unless she’s super chill.
Lolo Brow’s Attention Seeker was nothing short of brilliant. If you read this blog you know I’m a less badass Batman, I lead a double life (or a quadruple one). I’m an academic, feminist and a pretty political person by day, pole dancer and blogger as soon as I’m free. It’s pretty hard to find shows and events that effectively blend the two, but Lolo Brow’s Attention Seeker did.
Lipsync for Your Legacy
Lolo Brow managed to get naked, be funny, engage the audience as she lipsynced and stripped while holding a huge dildo, but she also criticised consumerism and our attitudes towards buying and replacing items we don’t need. She did it dressed as a glittery pirate, stripping down to a see-through skeleton leotard and lypsincing to Opulence by Brooke Candy remixed with other tunes.
I really loved how her lipsyncs weren’t just to popular songs, but to lines from classic movies like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and my teenage favourite School of Rock. Especially after an All Stars season that lacked the theatrical lypsincs we all know and love (aside from Shangela’s), Lolo’s lipsyncs were a real treat.
Can A Woman Be A Drag Queen?
Drag has been in the eye of the storm recently, what with RuPaul’s comments on who should be a drag queen and that season finale. You know, the All Stars 3 finale, where the true winner still in the game was eliminated just for politics. So seeing the show last weekend was perfect timing.
After RuPaul was once again accused of transphobia following a Guardian interview, my friends and I have been debating the pros and cons of having women and people identifying as women on the show. Extract of the interview for reference below:
“Would RuPaul allow a biological woman to compete on the show? He hesitates. ‘Drag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it’s not men doing it, because at its core it’s a social statement and a big f-you to male-dominated culture. So for men to do it, it’s really punk rock, because it’s a real rejection of masculinity.’
So how can a transgender woman be a drag queen? ‘Mmmm. It’s an interesting area. Peppermint didn’t get breast implants until after she left our show; she was identifying as a woman, but she hadn’t really transitioned.’ Would he accept a contestant who had? He hesitates again. ‘Probably not. You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body. It takes on a different thing; it changes the whole concept of what we’re doing. We’ve had some girls who’ve had some injections in the face and maybe a little bit in the butt here and there, but they haven’t transitioned.'”
That morning, my argument was that although drag should be equal, it’s hard to make it equal in a competition. If a woman or a trans woman joined the show making her identity clear from the start, there would be an uproar whatever her performance. Were she to win, people would say she had an advantage compared to other contestants. If she was eliminated, people would say it would be unfair and that it’s due to her identity/gender. Then I went to see Lolo Brow and my opinion changed.
What I Think Now
As I mentioned already, before Lolo Brow started talking I just assumed she was a man. I was initially thrown by her voice and her breasts, but then that all disappeared. All I saw was an incredible performer that did everything you need from a burlesque drag show and then some.
So forget my useless cis woman argument I wrote above. If your style is that of a drag queen and you can pull it off this way, then you should be a fucking drag queen. Drag is a performance, it’s hyperfemininity, over-the-top make-up and costumes. It’s about cheeky jokes, making the audience uncomfortable, lipsyncing and whatever each performer makes of it. You can do it whoever you are, and you should be able to.
You can be a woman and an amazing drag queen, or a woman and a shit drag queen. Just like men. I know I’d be horrible at it: I may have tits, but I can’t sew or do my make-up. So maybe all it takes is one amazing performance to blow everybody’s mind and get their shit together.
Lolo Brow’s Next Shows
Saturday night was the last night of Lolo Brow’s show at the Vaults, but she will soon be performing in Brighton and at the Underbelly Festival by the South Bank.
You can follow her on Insta at @lolobrow. Snippet of the Lady herself in action below.