For many of us who’ve witnessed this pandemic unfold, saying that our world has turned upside down is a massive understatement. Even Sydney’s top-performing drag artists have felt the devastating effects of COVID-19 and have lost several income streams along the way. But even when the nightlife is currently on hold, Australia’s queer culture continues to push forward. If there’s one thing that drag queens, drag kings and drag things have in common, it’s their inherently shrewd creativity. Let’s take a look at how Sydney’s famous drag stars are weathering the storm and where you can watch their digital shows.
Before Australia’s borders were closed, Penny Tration was living a busy life. Juggling a day job as a flight attendant and a larger-than-life drag queen at night, Penny still manages to perform across Sydney and host GenderBender Bingo nights on several occasions. After two weeks of isolation and having returned to her one-bedroom apartment, Penny thought of hosting digital drag shows to pass the time.
Little did she knew that her digital shows would blow up. Since then, a Facebook group called Tration in Isolation was created and it has transformed into an online community where Penny can connect with her fans and do what she does best.
“What was meant to be a documentation of two weeks in isolation has now ended up a great community that allows me to do a daily show with DJ Dan Murphy, The Lunch Time Lockdown, and two weekly drag shows, Frightful Fridays, and Shift it Back Saturdays,” Penny explained.
Once people are allowed to congregate again, Penny plans on making her digital show a live one. “I would love to do a live Tration in Isolation show at a venue that really needs the help when we reopen, that would be fantastic, a get together with the people that have contributed so much to my shows. I’d also love a boozy lunch with my besties down by the Harbour,” she added.
Etcetera Etcetera is the epitome of a full-time drag queen. Working four to five nights a week in multiple venues (primarily in the Imperial Hotel and Universal), the self-proclaimed “glamour bug” manages drag events on the regular whilst generating thousands of dollars worth of brand work. The absence of nightlife didn’t stop Etcetera Etcetera from doing what she loves and hosts Livestream showers on Instagram wherein she does makeup and drag costume tutorials and guest hosts Loud ‘N Queer TV, a weekly live streaming drag party.
Etcetera Etcetera can’t wait for her first night out once all of this is over. When asked about her plans after the pandemic is over, she said, “I’ll be back at the Imperial Hotel in Erskineville of course! I miss her, and I miss the people I work with there. I’m ready to perform on the bar top to a packed crowd and then get out of drag and have a sweaty dance sesh in the basement until the lights turn on.”
Chloe London is the do-it-all queen who works across several venues like the Imperial Hotel and Ching A Lings where she hosts and curates events. While in isolation, Chloe’s been running Instagram live shows and hosting discussion panels with hopes of creating a tighter bond within the queer community. She encourages members to reach out and give support to those who find themselves in marginalised positions to lift up the community as a whole.
“I think for a lot of my peers the work we do means a lot more than just an income; for me personally, curating events such as Going Zodiac and Honcho Disko meant being able to create safe, supportive environments for queer people, something I think we’re all struggling with the loss of at this time,” Chloe said.
What are Chloe’s plans when she returns under the spotlight? "After I French kiss each of my close friends for 45 minutes at a time, I think I’ll look to throw an accessible, all-inclusive event (hopefully free or as close to it as can be) as quickly as possible to remind all of us how powerful we are, as each of our beautiful selves and as a community."
Timberlina could very well be the most hardworking drag queen in NSW. She does a lot of things exceptionally well like performing in drag shows, working as an event producer, and hosting podcasts whenever possible. While her previous schedule consisted of working in multiple venues across NSW, she now streaming events right from her apartment.
Timberlina also hosts Drag Queen Bingo where she entertains viewers with her naughty, quick wits. On top of that, she also hosts live streams on Instagram which is an all-inclusive show for drag performers wherein viewers can tip their favourite drag stars via PayPal. Timberline wasn’t too fond of hosting online events at first, but she quickly adapted without any issues.
“I feel like the biggest thing was (and still is) self-teaching myself about all the IT and tech that goes into creating interactive online events. I had to give myself a crash course as to all things IT so that I could quickly navigate the ever-changing online world, and order everything before the tech sold out!” she said.
Timberlina is eager to get back to the crowd and have them in stitches with her sense of humour. "I cannot wait to be back in front of an audience! And dance my heart out for them! I want to feel that joy in a room like I did before this all happened!” she added.
Even if the lights are still out, Sydney’s drag stars are working hard to give people the entertainment they so desperately need especially during these times of isolation. Make sure to catch them on their own shows so you can get your daily dose of drag.