Under The Wig with Charity Kase: The problem with feminine beauty ideals in drag
17 June 2021, 16:33 | Updated: 30 June 2021, 18:19
"When drag is so focused on that mainstream idea of what beauty can be, it can be quite damaging to the world, and perpetuate social stigmas and even misogynistic stereotypes"
For Pride month, PopBuzz is going 'Under The Wig' with drag queen Yshee Black to chat with four very different - but equally iconic - drag artists to explore the UK drag scene. In our third episode, Yshee meets East London drag queen and "snot gremlin" Charity Kase.
Charity found viral fame in 2018 after undertaking a 365 days of drag challenge. Every day for a year, Charity created a new look, often nightmarish or otherworldly in style, and uploaded the results to their Instagram account, resulting in praise from drag fans all over the world and features in publications like Vogue and Vice.
In this excerpt below from their conversation, Charity talks about their influences, the problematic relationship between drag and feminine beauty ideals, and how drag helped Charity process their emotions following their HIV diagnosis.
Hit play on the video at the top of this page to watch the full interview and then head over to our YouTube channel and switch on notifications to be the first to see our final episode of Under The Wig next week with Juno Birch.
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YSHEE BLACK: So obviously, your influence comes from everywhere. It's very character based. But do you have a particular film or character that got you into all of it?
CHARITY KASE: So there's not one in particular, but I have a few inspirations when it comes to creators and creatives. So, I love Grayson Perry and the way that he plays with gender and always has done. I love Josephine Baker and her performance style. I love modern day artists like Ryan Murphy, Tim Burton, people like that, that have really inspired me through the years and drawn me to this dark twisted aesthetic.
I'm also inspired by a lot of politics and what's happening in the world. My drag is my way of expressing my opinion and trying to push back on things. My drag isn't very traditionally feminine most of the time. That's kind of my way of showing my support and showing the validation of those beautiful women and beautiful men, beautiful trans people who are not appreciated by the mainstream media and their version of what beauty is, and what beauty can be. I know many beautiful women with hairy legs and with bulges. And that's why I'm not gonna bother hiding mine away. Because, again, I'm not trying to pretend that I'm a woman, I'm trying to give someone an illusion. And I think sometimes when drag is so focused on that mainstream idea of what beauty can be, it can be quite damaging to the world, and perpetuate social stigmas and even misogynistic stereotypes. So I tried to use my drag to voice my opinion on these matters. And that's kind of a big inspiration for what I do as well.
YSHEE: I love that. Look at you, go for it honey! Yes, I'm with ya! Now, we must talk about the 365 day challenge, one drag look every single day for a year. And during lockdown, you did a 200 day challenge as well. So you've got no shortages of ideas. Now I just want to know bitch. Why bother? Why?
CHARITY: Well, for the first time, the 365 days, it was gonna be a 100 days of drag challenge. And it was something that I'd seen other people do. I really wanted to get better at makeup, I was sick of going to the club and seeing everyone with gorgeous makeup and me with crap makeup. And I really just wanted to be good at it. I'd love dressing up already, so it seemed like the right direction.
And it was also a very therapeutic thing for me. At the time, I just been diagnosed with HIV and I was 18 and my relationship was falling apart. I felt really lost and it was probably the darkest point in my life that I've ever been. Then drag became my way of painting my emotions on my face and processing how I was feeling. And doing these different characters every day was my way of...if I woke up angry, I turn myself into a demon. And I'd feel angry and be angry and look angry and act angry. But it was my way of getting these emotions out and using them for good rather than just hurting myself and other people with them. Which I think we're all guilty of doing. So that's kind of why it started. And then after 100 days, I'd already been picked up by a few magazines and it was just like why would I stop right now? Like, yeah, it's tiring. It's a lot of work, but this could build me a career. And so I carried on for the rest of the year. And here she is today.
YSHEE: You were out there putting Instagram on blast for everyone to see, it was amazing. And it was honestly some of my favourite drag ever. Like, ever! I'm not gonna get a soppy because I'm still getting paid I'm on the clock....
CHARITY: It's been a lot of work that I've put into get here. Doing those 365 days was heavy work and it was intense. But it's built me up into a place where I feel like my drag is respected by people, which is really overwhelming and really fulfilling, you know? To meet these young queens or even older queens, older like yourself [laughs] to meet you guys with your like walking sticks and stuff, telling me that you appreciate what I do is so fulfilling.
YSHEE: You may be young but listen...I still got a slipper with your name on it. Don't worry. I'll come down. Aunty Yshee will be around soon.
CHARITY: I'm already ready, baby.