Drag Through My Eyes by Charné Churchill
The origin of DRAG started in the 16th century, with Shakespeare casting beautiful young boys whose voices had not broken yet as the female roles in his stage productions. Females were not allowed on stage back then. The boys were dressed in drag and literally “DRAGGED” on stage to perform as female impersonators. Hence the origin of “DRAG”.
In the west village of Manhattan in 1969 gay men who wanted to dress in drag had to do so in underground gay clubs to perform cabaret, but these clubs were often raided by the police and drags had to have male underwear on under their drag clothes. It was there where the first retaliation of a Drag Queen against police brutality started. Which we now know as “Stonewall”.
To my knowledge Drag in S.A started around 1977 in Johannesburg at the Dungeon, back then Drag competitions were popular, monthly competitions were held leading up to the Miss Dungeon. The most popular competitions were Miss Legs, Miss Transvaal, Miss S.A, and the biggest title to win was the Miss Gay Universe. Competitions were extremely fierce under the Queens, sabotaging another queen by any means possible. Granny Lee was the fiercest of all queens in that time, she won a competition whilst sitting in a wheelchair passed out only to find out the next day of her win. What a Legend.
Voelkop was established in 1989, and is the only Gay establishment with the same owners. They held the first Miss Gay North West. Voelkop is known to have the best comedic drag shows and competitions such as Miss Trash, and not forgetting the annual spring games.
My first ever Gay club I went to was the “Bird Cage”, that was when I saw my first Drag Queen, and drag show, The “Tuckshop Girls”. Coming from a theater background I thought to myself that I could also do drag one day.
Champions was when I saw more Drags and fell in love with the late Leones and her live performances. Pretoria was when I saw the truest form of Drag artistry. The Queens had style, grace and poise. Their Drag shows were always one of the highlights in the community every Sunday night, under the Direction of the Legendary Miss B. Inspired by what I saw, the young Clora boy decided to create a Drag persona for himself. Not having a clue as to where to begin, he bought his first dress and high heel shoes, coaxed into entering a drag competition “Miss Rio” at a club in Springs. No wig but a gold tinsel party wig, rouge as eye shadow and a red lip. The boy didn’t know he had to have a drag name when filling out his entry form, he then chose his name from his favorite sitcom “Martin”, character Chaneyney. There Charne was born. She then went on to entering competitions and the occasional drag shows.
Club Apollo was where she started to blossom in cabaret. Drawing inspiration from Drag icons such as Foxy Lopez Brown,Tequila Sheila, Fabritsio, Nomi Peron, Kitana Klitorus, Lameez Braxton, and Sahara. Her grooming came in the year 2000 from Miss B. Miss B always knew what genre would suit one best when it came to cabaret. That was where Charne realized the art of drag performance was her forte. Her Drag career took off when she joined “The Glitter Sisters”. Currently she is part of “Menopause” with the legendary Betty Bangles and Levine Dolcevita. I can truly say that the Drag scene in South Africa has evolved through the years and am proud to be a Drag Artist, or as I like to call myself a female illusionist.