alfie ordinary | drag prince
Drag prince Alfie Ordinary (he’s the son of a drag queen, you see) took a break from being fabulous to chat to us about how he got into drag, RuPaul’s Drag Race and why Brighton is such a great city to live in.
Where in Brighton do you live and what do you like about the area?
I live just by the station with my partner Alex, he plays Sophie and Glenda in Cinebra and also parades around as the Queen Flea Lydia L’Scabies, too. It’s great here. We’re close enough to town to pop in if we need anything or just fancy a wander around the Lanes, but we’re just off the main road, so it’s quiet. It’s my first time not living in a shared house, so it feels very homely.
Your character, Alfie Ordinary, is a drag prince, where did that idea come from?
I was studying for a Masters in theatre and reading a lot about queer theory, clowning, drag and camp, and I was very interested in make-up, costume, wigs and performance, so I started playing with drag. I wanted to create a character that was a bit of an outsider, different from the others, even within the drag community. And I couldn’t walk in heels! Through my studies, I noticed the similarities between drag queens and clowns and found the way they both used their craft to hold a mirror up to society inspiring. So Alfie was born as the love child of a drag queen and clown.
How would you describe Alfie and your act to someone (shame on them) who has yet to see you perform?
As a drag prince, Alfie identifies as one thing and one thing only and that’s goddamn FABULOUS! He’s the happiest person you’ll ever meet, so content in his own world of sequins and sparkles. He’ll sing, dance and tell you stories about what it’s like to grow up fabulous, and, ultimately, remind you that it’s absolutely gorgeous to just be yourself.
When did you start performing as a drag artist?
I have to admit, I’m one of the generation of drag artists that became interested in drag after watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. It wasn’t until season 4 when I saw Sharon Needles [who was known for her unconventional aesthetic and make-up choices] that I realised it wasn’t all about becoming the best woman you could. At the time, I was trying to make it as a singer-songwriter, writing and playing soppy, gender-neutral love songs I’d written when I was 18. I had just finished my degree and didn’t know how to make my way in this new world of being an adult. I started going to shows, both drag race ones and out on the local drag scene where I met lots of like-minded people. I was lucky enough to meet Lydia, who I mentioned before, and her drag family, the House Of Grand Parade. They were running monthly shows in Brighton at the [now defunct] Blind Tiger and invited me to perform. At the same time, I met Cherry Liquor and Joe Black, who both taught me so much and inspired me to take drag and cabaret more seriously. I still work with all of them to this day. It’s funny how people with similar interests find each other, and that, I guess, is the beauty of Brighton.
Your make-up is also fabulous, do you do it yourself? How long does it take?
Oh, thank you so much! I like to give myself two hours to get ready, mostly because I have terrible allergies, my eyes water and my lashes don’t stay on. If I put my mind to it, I could probably get it done in an hour.
You’re touring with Jinkx Monsoon this year (winner of the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race), how did that come about?
I’ve met Jinkx a few times before. She’s good friends with my friend Joe Black, so we’ve all hung out on several occasions. We went for a lovely meal at Meat Liquor once followed by seeing Sally Vate at The Queens Arms. We also did a show together down in Bristol. We’ve stayed in touch since then and she had this tour booked and just asked if I’d like to open for her! Obviously, I was over the moon to be asked and I am so grateful that I get to travel and spread awareness and visibility of the fabulous community across the UK.
The Brighton show at Revenge is already sold out sadly, so is there anywhere else we can see you locally?
I still have two more dates of my solo show, Help! I Think I Might Be Fabulous, left and a few tickets, too, if you’re quick. After that, me, Lydia, Ro[Coco Chanel of Cinebra] and Joe are doing a show all together at the Rialto Theatre on 29th July. We started off getting together to fundraise for Edinburgh Festival runs, but we enjoyed the show so much we’ve done two more since. We all play different instruments so it’s a bit like a live band/cabaret show crossover. It’s so lovely to be able to do a show with my friends where we just put together our favourite songs and have fun. Tickets will be on sale soon. On Saturday mornings, I host a Bottomless Brunch at the North Laine Brewhouse. It’s so much fun! We play bingo, have a paper people princess pageant and a disco while the guests enjoy unlimited mimosas or bloody marys with their food, all for just £25!
What inspired your Brighton fringe show, Help! I think I might be fabulous? Can you tell us a bit about it?
The show is about Alfie’s teenage years, which he spent at Madame LeCoq’s Preparatory School for Fabulous Boys. Alfie is happy and content, coming from a privileged background with a very accepting drag queen mother. However, he befriends a boy called Jon who is what is widely known as ‘Muggleborn’, neither of Jon’s parents are fabulous. and Alfie becomes Jon’s guide through his troubles. The show is essentially a coming-of-age/coming-out story that touches on my own relationship with my mother when I was that age. Although it’s very specific and far-fetched (think Hogwarts but with Dame Edna instead of Dumbledore), the story seems to resonate with lots of people, gay, straight or whatever. I just wanted to make everyone leave feeling lifted up, happy and proud to be themselves, whoever they are.
We love that! Your show also features lots of songs and you play the piano, is music something you’d like to focus more on in future?
I’d love to start writing music again, and hopefully I will. I’d also love to work with a band and bring some of the energy that the music scene has into the drag scene. I’m really inspired by the great showmen like Freddie Mercury and Elton John and would love to be able to channel just a fraction of their talent into my shows.
We have to ask, when did you first realise you were fabulous?
Alfie was born fabulous, but I guess, even though it’s cliché, Alfie taught me everything I know about being fabulous. Of course, that was through watching drag on television, old Queen concerts on YouTube and the incredibly hard-working drag queens on the Brighton scene.
You said earlier that you became interested in drag after watching RuPaul’s Drag Race? Would you ever apply to go on the show?
I absolutely love RuPaul’s Drag Race but I wouldn’t apply. However much I’d love to be on the show, I don’t think my drag is versatile enough for the competition. I do hope they bring it to the UK, though, and if they do, I hope the contestants are a broad range of queens, from social media queens and theatre queens to pub queens and more!
What would be the ultimate dream for Alfie, and for you?
My ultimate dream is to have a Christmas number one. If that can’t happen, Eurovision!
What do you like to listen to when you’re not performing?
I seem to be working my way backwards. I stopped listening to chart music a few years ago when I sold my car and haven’t been able to reconnect with it, so I’ve been finding amazing songs from the 70s and 80s. I love Donna Summer, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Alison Moyet, Kate Bush and all the other icons of the time.
Are there any drag stars who you particularly admire or take inspiration from? Anyone we should know about locally?
There are so many, too many to mention! Of course I’m in love with Cinebra. The way they combine drag and theatre is so inspiring, and Lydia and Ro are incredible artists on their own, too, both performing regularly at The Powder Room. Also Joe Black is obviously a fine example of someone who has carved their own way in the industry. I also love Spice, the kindest woman in showbiz; she covers my Brunch when I’m away.
Finally, what would be your perfect day in Brighton?
My perfect day would start with a gorgeous coffee with friends, some shopping in the North Laine, dinner at one of the amazing vegan diners, a beer by the beach and then a drag show. I’m so grateful to live in Brighton because I can have the perfect day every day here!
You can see Alfie Ordinary in Help! I think I Might Be Fabulous on Sunday 27th May 2018 at 9.30pm and Tuesday 29th May 2018 at 7.45pm in the Spiegeltent’s Bosco Theatre
Photo credits: Greg Bailey; Eddie Adams