Buzz’s Hannah Collins talks to Victoria Scone – the first cis woman to feature on Drag Race, and the first representative of Wales’ capital at that – before her early-January appearance at the Glee Club in Cardiff (since delayed a few months in that way we all know and love).
UPDATE: This show was originally listed to take place in January. It has now been postponed until April.
Umpteen seasons into its decade-and-a-bit run, you might think RuPaul’s Drag Race would be running out of steam. The reality competition show sees aspiring queens compete for superstar status – and, on the other side of the pond, a hefty payout of money and makeup. But as the series has continued, international iterations of RuPaul’s media empire and the emerging and increasingly queer-positive Gen Z brought up on it demand more and more diverse representation in the media they consume, the spaces they inhabit and the communities they endeavour to raise up. Enter contestants like Victoria Scone, a Cardiff resident and the first cisgender woman to be featured on the show.
“We want Drag Race to represent an authentic version of a queer scene in the UK,” Victoria – or just Emily – tells me over a mid-morning breakfast call. (Drag queens, they’re just like us; cereal and everything.) “Currently it’s getting there, I guess. You know, with the representation of trans and/or non-binary people, and with me as a cisgender woman and as a lesbian, but it’s still got a long way to go.”
Coming off of a spate of hosting gigs in the aftermath of her Drag Race UK Season 3 run (sadly cut short by an epically-acquired, mid-lip sync knee injury) Victoria is set to embark on her first solo tour, Jam Packed. The name, by the way, was lost on me until she spelled it out: “Where’s Victoria? Victoria’s Scone!”
She adds: “I wanted Victoria because it sounds like a very regal queen name. It’s also the name of the dance school that I went to when I was younger, Victoria School Of Dance. And I wanted something food-related as well because I enjoy incorporating food into my looks. And I also enjoy being a curvaceous woman who likes to eat.”
During the handful of episodes Victoria featured on, her looks were, subjectively, some of the most polished of the Season 3 cohort: almost literal afternoon tea platters come to life. They wouldn’t look out of place in the stage production of Beauty And The Beast, in fact, among the enchanted servants-turned-animated furniture and crockery. (Hire Victoria, Disney!) These, her Krystal Versace lip-sync battle to Bonnie Tyler, and her comedy chops will be what viewers remember her for, but what was it like watching herself back on TV?
“I loved it… I think I’m a massive attention seeker and an even bigger narcissist. So, actually, the competition format for me is perfect!” she laughs. “I think I was very fortunate with what happened while I was there, other than the obvious injury, but in the time before that, it was very nice to see myself back in a positive light and thriving. We don’t get to see women, in my opinion, talk about being good enough. We don’t get to see women confident in their jobs and talking about just being good at a job. I think I’m a good drag queen. And I think if I had stayed in the competition, I would have given them all a run for their money.”
Her Snatch Game choice of Danny Dyer might have given Scarlett Harlett a run for her money. Unfortunately, Victoria wasn’t present at that point and Scarlett was nudged into doing McCauley Culkin instead by Ru, robbing the British public of not one but two potential drag Dannys (Criminal!). Victoria won’t divulge her other celebrity impersonation choice in case of a Season 4 call, one that is undoubtedly in gestation as you’re reading this, but she does have more to add to comments she made on the show about the barriers women like her face in the drag scene.
“Women are looked down on or seen as ‘lesser’ than other drag queens immediately, and I still find it now. When I’m Emily but I’m not Victoria, I’ll just sort of be looked through as irrelevant because there’s just an expectation straight away. ‘It’s just a cis woman in a gay venue. They’re irrelevant, what are they doing here?’ – which is just revolting to me. That seems to be a bit of a running thing at the moment, women being excluded from queer spaces because they’re assumed to be straight or not queer. I think people forget that women can be queer too.”
The contradiction of a culture that celebrates, even emulates, various forms of femininity while doing all the things that Victoria speaks to is frustrating. When I ask her about the lack of dedicated spaces for queer women, comparable to those that are mixed or dedicated to a male-identifying majority, she’s sympathetic but unconvinced that more exclusivity is the answer. “You know, you could look at that as a positive thing or as a negative thing because really, in the scene, I’m aiming for more inclusivity as opposed to separation. I understand that we, as lesbians, may want that but I personally enjoy inclusivity and everyone having a party together. That’s just a personal thing, but I understand the need or for lesbian bars completely.”
On a more positive note, the mainstreaming of performers like Victoria on national and international TV is a hopeful counterbalance to barriers that remain inside and outside of the LGBTQ community. As well as non-binary, trans women, people of colour, and even some queer parents (still a rarity in mainstream media), Drag Race introduced the wider world to Gottmik in Season 14, the show’s first out trans man, whose comfortability in their own, effeminate skin earned a legion of adoring and enlightened fans.
“Drag Race has obviously brought a lot more attention to drag and dropped it into the forefront of mainstream media,” says Victoria of the artform’s unprecedented popularity. “There are more queer bars that are putting on drag, even more stereotypically ‘street’ venues putting on drag, which is amazing. You know, we’re all getting paid more and more and working more and more. We could never have enough successful queer people, of course, but I think it swings around about again because people are sort of just starting drag because of Drag Race or with the aim to get on Drag Race, which I don’t think is necessarily healthy or amazing for the drag scene.
“And especially coming out of a lockdown, drag is a little bit diluted now. There’s so many of us that have been out of work for so long. And who’s to say that only Drag Race people should be booked? I think that after an awful year we should be supporting local queer art because if we don’t have local queer art, then we don’t have anything to give to Drag Race, either. It feeds itself.”
Local queer art like Victoria’s upcoming tour, kicking off in her hometown at the Glee Club. Suitably, given her name, Victoria promises audiences are in for a Royal Variety-type performance, which she likens to a cross between the Michael McIntyre Show, Barbara Streisand at Central Park and In For A Penny. “It’s gonna be interactive – lots of show tunes, lots of everyone singing along. Basically a big old knees-up, and that’s very triggering to me.”
This is all well and good, but I couldn’t let Victoria go without getting her to weigh on a much more pressing issue: jam before cream or cream before jam? She takes her time with this one, knowing its divisiveness, before deciding diplomatically that “aesthetically, jam looks better [first]. But I understand that many feel very passionately otherwise.”
Glee Club, Cardiff Bay, Mon 11 Apr (rescheduled from Thurs 6 Jan). Tickets: £12/£20 VIP. Info: here
words HANNAH COLLINS
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