Drag Idol is the UK’s biggest cabaret talent contest and this week the team officially launches the 2017 competition. Now in its 13th year, previous winners include Baga Chipz, La Voix, Son of a Tutu, Danny Beard and many more big names. Dave Cross had a catch up with some previous winners, including Kelly Mild who, along with Crystal D’Canter, is hosting this year’s battle, and last year’s winner, Vileda Moppe, to find out how entering and winning the contest changed their lives.
Hello Vileda, how has winning Drag Idol changed your life?
Oh my god, where do I start? Since the competition I’ve performed all over the country and met some truly amazing people. It’s nice to think of how many friends I’ve got in sequins and sling backs. And that’s just the bar managers…
A couple of months after you won, you seemed to disappear from the scene for a few months – what you were doing?
Ooh you’re going straight for the jugular, Mr Cross, so probing and evasive. In my show I tell people I fell in love with an oil sheik and moved to Dubai, only to find out he was really a reporter from the Daily Mail. In reality I was offered an acting job, which I couldn’t really turn down. When you’re a poor scrubber like me you can’t ignore a healthy pay packet, subsidised travel and accommodation on the glittering shores of the United Arab Emirates. It was dangerous though, I had to wear a burka the whole time and I came back with a full beard, great big tan line around my eyes and I wasn’t allowed in America!
But you’re back now…
Absolutely. I’m back in the game and ready to work. I’m not proud: if you’ve got a milk crate and a candle I’ll come and do my show for you. My diary’s emptier than Tanya Hyde’s knicker drawer. It would be really naff if I told you my email is email@example.com, so I won’t.
Your path through Drag Idol wasn’t exactly straight forward…
That’s right. I started off well, winning all three heats I entered, and the heat final at Halfway, where I wore the infamous mushroom dress with side boob. Then at the semi final at the RVT I lost my way a bit and the lovely Fanny Burns pipped me to the post. I went on to the wildcard round and that was electric, but not as fantastic as the final, which was the best gig I’ve ever had.
Are there any moments that stand out, good or bad?
This is about the turban, isn’t it? I knew you’d ask me about that, you snake! I didn’t actually forget my wig, I tried to restyle it, cut a fringe in, and had to chuck it. With next to no money I glued some sparkly shit onto a head form, a wig base and packed it ready to go. The whole outfit was supposed to be a reveal, but nothing worked.
What do you remember about the Grand Final?
Martha D’Arthur told me I should relax and enjoy it and that was the best advice. It was such an insane atmosphere and a lot of people came to support me, which made it really special. Just having that moment to take it all in made me enjoy it even more. Danny Beard said the Drag Idol Final is the best gig of your life and I think he might be right.
Has your act changed since you won?
I still do things the same way, it’s just the material that changes, to keep it fresh. I’ve improved my look and I’m starting to build a more detailed backstory for Vileda. The story at the moment is that she cleans the loos at MI5 and listens in on all the state secrets. She’s a wannabe Bond girl, so no stranger to an evening dress and smokey eye.
What advice would you give people wanting to enter this year?
Be nice. I can’t stress it enough. No one wants to work with a bitch. It’s a competition of course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t zip people up and lend them a hair grip. A good attitude can get you a long way. Secondly, don’t over-prepare; leave yourself some wiggle room for if something throws you on stage. If it’s not working and you need to change tact, or if an unexpected funny falls out if your mouth, be ready. And be in the moment with the audience.
Are you thinking of entering Drag Idol this year? We asked four previous winners to tell us their thoughts on the contest.
Co-host 2016/17 and winner 2007
“There was I time I thought I’d never perform again and Drag Idol changed that, plus I’ve met amazing friends and I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It’s an amazing platform that guarantees work for the winner. If you have the slightest tremor, don’t resist the urge – do it!”
“It was a total stepping stone for me and gave me the career I never thought I’d have but had always dreamed off. If you want to enter and are prepared to put the work in and really go for it then you absolutely should enter.”
Son of a Tutu
“Entering and then winning Drag Idol was the single most transformative moment in my career. I had one career the day I went on stage at the Final and a different one the next day. I was originally pushed into doing it and I’m very glad I was. If you’re thinking of entering and it’s in your spirit then just have a go. And remember, you don’t even have to win to learn and benefit from the experience.”
“Winning Drag Idol gave me a huge opportunity and it was up to me to then run with it. I went from being an actor and part time chef to working as a full time entertainer. The competition is hard work and can be stressful but I totally encourage people to enter. If you want a career like this, it’s a great way to learn and get exposure.”
What you need to know to enter Drag Idol 2017
Drag Idol 2017 will take place across the UK in 21 venues. Each hold their own heats, most of which start at the end of April and last through May. Each then chooses a venue champion to go forward to the Semi Finals and then to the Grand Final at the Two Brewers at the end of June.
The 2017 venues hosting heats are: Eden, Birmingham; Sundowners, Margate; Mary’s, Cardiff; OMG, Bristol; Quay Pride, Great Yarmouth; Eazy Street, Newcastle; OMG, Plymouth; OMG, Swansea; Via, Manchester; Queens Court, Leeds; OMG, Sheffield; Charles Street, Brighton; Richmond Tea Rooms, Manchester; and in London, Halfway II Heaven; Her Upstairs; the Two Brewers; the Old Ship; Central Station; the Admiral Duncan; The Victoria; and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
If you want to enter, go to the Drag Idol website dragidoluk.co.uk and fill in the form.