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VINEGAR STROKES TO JUDGE DRAG QUEEN OF THE YEAR PAGEANT

On Sunday, March 7, a new Drag Queen of the Year shall be crowned.

In 2019, drag superstars Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 and Lola LeCroix introduced a new competition of its kind. The Drag Queen of the Year Pageant placed drag inclusivity at the forefront and created a space that was open to all drag performers regardless of their anatomy, gender identity, or experience level. The result was a fierce competition that electrified the audience, inspired the world, and broke down barriers.

Unfortunately, last year’s event was canceled due the COVID-19 pandemic, but Alaska and Lola teamed up with the groundbreaking streaming platform Sessions Live to launch a digital pageant competition that will bring together an audience from around the globe. Featuring eight stunning contestants carefully selected by a mysterious panel of anonymous Drag Elders, these outstanding artists will compete for a chance to win a crown, a sash, a bouquet of very nice flowers, a prestigious title, and a grand prize of $10,000 (via PayPal).

OFM had the opportunity to chat with Drag Race UK’s Vinegar Strokes who will be one of the pageant’s judges, alongside Nicole Byer, Peppermint, Shea Coulee, and others. Known for her hodge-podge looks and being a total slag, Vinegar is thrilled to be on the other side of the judge’s table and looks forward to seeing what these American queens have to offer.

Hi, Vinegar! Thank you for taking some time to chat with me about the upcoming Drag Queen of the Year Pageant. What can audiences expect?
Oh my God! They can expect pageant drag with lots of camp and fun. Obviously, it is being done a different way this year, but audiences can still expect a good, entertaining show.

How did you get roped into being involved?
I got a message from Alaska 5000, and she was like, girl! I want you to be a part of the show! I was like, okay [laughs]. I’m not doing anything, so why not? So, she roped me in. For me, being from the UK and being a very different type of queen with a very different view of drag, that is what also caught my interest. We do not have a pageant scene here in the UK. It is usually a man in a wig getting into drag, going out on stage, doing something crazy, and going from there. I am interested to see the American way of drag. So, that is what attracted me to doing this, and obviously, just Alaska being a legend. You can’t say no.

How does it feel to be on the other side of the judge’s table?
Oh, it is a pleasure! It is going to be fun. Coming from the UK, I come from a very different mindset of what drag can be. I am definitely looking at performance first and foremost. I always say, I am happy to go and see a drag queen dressed in a garbage bag as long as I am laughing, crying, and having a great time. That is good for me. It is going to be good to bring my British mindset and British sensibility to the table and give pointers to help the contestants out in some sort of way. That will be my role as the UK judge.

What are some of the qualities you believe one must possess to be a good drag queen?
Definitely personality. It is all well and good being gorgeous and having a nice wig and makeup, but if you cannot speak or make someone laugh or chuckle, it is kind of forgettable for me. So, for me, it is about having that great personality, which is charming, but at the same time, endearing and something you can connect with as an audience member.

Also, performance. I am a big fan of someone who can really perform. As I said, I am happy to see someone in a beanbag as long as they can really perform or do something that makes me go, oh my God! I have never seen that before! In the UK, a lot of people do that. So, personality and performance are the top two things for me, and great drag underneath that is kind of the cherry on top.

What do you hope contestants and viewers take away from the pageant?
I want people to leave afterwards saying that was a great show. All in all, we are in this weird phase in the world where everyone is locked down or can’t go out, so I think it is good to have a bit of entertainment, and I think that is where the show will come in handy. For people to sit back, watch, and go, I can step out of my troubles for an hour or so. I hope people think this show was entertaining and feel great about it. That they are reenergized afterwards.

I would like to switch gears and ask a couple questions about your time on Drag Race UK. Why did you want to be on the show?
First of all, I only applied just to kind of throw my name in. I did not think at the time that I would get on the show, especially the first season. I thought they were looking for the crème de la crème of the UK, but turns out, they were looking for anyone. Okay, I’m here! So, I applied just to throw my name in the hat so when I applied for season two or three, they would be like, yes! I remember her. She’s great.

Drag Race is such a massive show and offers so many opportunities. I think drag is one of those art forms that is so up and coming, and if you do drag, it is kind of a no brainer to just apply and see what happens. I am so happy that I got on and had that experience, and it has been an amazing ride since the show.

Although you only appeared on the first couple episodes, you made a lasting impact. What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?
When you come on the show, you realize and ask, what do I need to work on with myself? For me, I always thought that the performance was good, but maybe I should get some better looks and that kind of stuff. So, you do take away from the experience that you know what you want to work on and what you need to work on to elevate and level up. Also, I am so grateful for the fans and the people who are really connected to the show. Even to this day, I still get messages from people saying, oh my God, I saw you on the show and you were amazing. It is so nice to be part of something where you have fans and people who are maybe underrepresented and not really seen connecting with us who are just doing our normal day to day lives. They are getting something from that. All in all, if you can touch someone’s life in that sort of way just by being silly and wearing a wig, that is great. That is a massive takeaway from this as well because you are bringing joy to people.

For those who may not know, how did you first discover your passion for drag?
I suppose it started with a passion for performance and theatre. I have been performing since I was a kid, and it has always been something I have been interested in. Drag is kind of a byproduct of me performing and then going into cabaret, then onto stand-up comedy and improv. I like creating weird characters and drag was kind of the next step.

It was not something I was looking for, it just kind of happened. Someone said, can you come and do a gig here and do a few jokes? It is Halloween and it’s a witch themed night. Can you come as a witch? I was like, okay, if you are paying me, I will come as a witch. Why not? I got paid, thank God, but I think I spent the money on the costume and wig, so I was kind of working for free.

Anyway, it all kind of came up from there. I think when I was able to attach theatre, comedy, improv, characters, and songs to drag, I was like, this makes a lot of sense! Obviously, when you start seeing different shows like Drag Race, Panto in the UK, and different other acts around the cabaret scene, you start to get your mind going. That’s inspiring and that’s inspiring until you kind of come to your own place of what drag is. So, for me, I couldn’t not do it. I felt like I had to pursue it because it was so interesting to me. The history is so interesting. I am glad I found it, and it found me. I have been able to turn into something and still pursue it now. It is so amazing that there are so many queens now. It’s like, every time a gay person farts, another queen appears.

Have you remained close with your season one sisters?
Yes! We are all in a WhatsApp group together so we all chat with each other when we can. We are all in different parts of the country, and obviously, some of us are closer to more than others. I am very close with Blu, Crystal, and Divina, so we kind of all chat and whatnot. It is a nice thing to know that there are a few other people who know exactly what the experience is.

What are your thoughts on the current season?
I look at our season and think, we were so nice! Our season was the Von Trapp family compared to this one, but I love it. I am a very big fan of people shouting at each other on TV, I think it is fab. I think about who could go home next, but you do not really know. It is a really close and everyone is at a good level. My front runner for now is definitely Lawrence Chaney, but you never know. Tia Kofi has got some very hodge-podge outfits, but she has the personality. I feel like you do not know where it is going to go in this season, which makes it exciting to watch.

What more do you hope to accomplish with your platform?
Definitely some more theatre! As I said, theatre is my first love, so I would love to do some more drag in theatre, and even some more theatre out of drag. That would be amazing. I would also love to do some more TV, some more presenting, and some music as well. I think with drag, whatever you are good at or can do, you can dip your toe into it as opposed to someone who is kind of known for just one thing. If you can wear a wig and makeup, you can kind of do it all, and I think a lot of people are into that. So, more acting, more presenting, and more music.

Before we wrap up, are there any other upcoming projects or anything else you would like to mention or plug?
Yes, I would like to promote my band. I got a new band called Vinegar Strokes & The Morning Afters. We have some tracks on Spotify and iTunes, so please buy or stream them. That is a new project, and it has been quite fun. We are like a postmodern jukebox kind of drag band. We are going to take pop songs and turn them on their heads and make them cool and camp. I am also writing a new solo show as well, so that will hopefully come out towards the end of the year.

For more information on the Drag Queen of the Year Pageant, ticket prices, and VIP packages, visit sessionslive.com. To stay up-to-date with Vinegar, follow her on InstagramTwitter, and TikTok.