Jorge Ardila is the mind and body behind cabaret sensation Veronica Montenegro, and one of the organisers of Haus of Royalz at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Valledupar, Colombia – that’s Colombia NOT Columbia – sometime in the early 90s (not saying my birthday cause that would be telling of my age). Me and my family migrated to London in the late 90s and have been here ever since.
And where do you live now?
I currently live in beautiful South-East London, between a Sainsbury’s and a chicken shop, and am living with my wonderful husband of eight years.
What do you love about London and why?
London is such a beautifully diverse place. It is rich in culture and people, and there is always something to do. I love that London is genuinely so different from any other city in the world – the energy here and the vibe is energetic and liberating at the same time. You feel like you can truly be who you want to be in London.
What was the first gay venue you visited?
My first gay venue, and I remember this vividly, was G-A-Y in Soho. A guy I was seeing at the time sneaked me in because I had ‘lost’ my ID, and we spent all night just drinking and dancing. It was my first proper exposure to gay culture in London and it was pretty fabulous.
How would you describe Veronica?
Veronica Alejandra Rosa-Maria Gutierrez Narvaez Montenegro De-Las-Mercedes, also known as Veronica Montenegro, is Colombia’s second biggest export; she is fabulous, charismatic, funny and larger than life – and she’s just the right size! Veronica is the rainbow sheep of the family. Think of Veronica as the crazy fun aunt that you see now and then, and always has a funny story to tell, which may or may not have happened ‘to a friend of mine’.
And what is Haus of Royalz at The RVT?
The Haus of Royalz is a family collective of drag performers that myself and some incredible talented friends put together after we all ‘drag-uated’ from the Michael Twait’s Art of Drag course. We found we loved being together and working with each other, and we thought the best way to continue doing what we love, and doing it together, was by creating our own haus. We now have a continuous residency at the place where we all performed for the first time, The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, and we always turn out one hell of a show. Make sure to come see us; our next one is next Thursday (24 Jan).
What was the last theatre show you saw, and what did you think of it?
I don’t get out much to the theatre, I just don’t have the time/money (delete as appropriate). But the last time I went to see a show was to see Jonny Woo and Le Gateau Chocolat at their residency at the Soho Theatre; it was spectacular. So much fun seeing two of the most prolific and incredible drag artists of our time doing show tunes and turning out the party! I was screaming with joy throughout!
What is your guilty pleasure and why?
Pop music that is so bad it’s incredible.
Video games. I cannot stop buying them. I’m a huge gaymer.
Best gift you’ve ever received?
Between my parents and my husband, they bought me a plane ticket to go see my grandma, who just turned 90 years old, this past New Year’s; and I was able to spend time with her and all of my family – and I was also able to come out to all my family, and they were all very supportive and understanding of it all. It was wonderful because it helped me to see everything differently, and changed me as a person. So yeah, that plane ticket truly changed my life.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
Being able to create a space and platform to perform with my best friends, who are like family to me, and being able to put on sold out shows every three months is an incredible feat. So, for me, my highlight is being able to have curated the Haus of Royalz, and to continue supporting one another and creating wonderful art with these incredible individuals.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Be like the bee, and always leave positive things wherever you go, and turn your hard work into sweet things that all can enjoy.” This reminds me to always try and leave the best of myself where I go, and to do good things with my energy and my experiences.
Who is your LGBT+ hero?
My Queer Hero is – and this will sound cliche AF – anyone and everyone who is able to live their truth, and be their best queer self each and every single day. My queer hero ranges from the person who just came out to their parents, to the trans individual stepping out of their house in their desired clothing, to the artist creating beautiful queer performance to challenge society. We can all be heroes, we just need to be our best damn selves and live our lives without apologies.
Who are the most entertaining people you follow on social media?
My cousins; they’ve always got some form of drama going on, and it usually escalates and gets pretty ugly. My family is like EastEnders, just much more entertaining and hilarious.
Where in the world would you like to visit before you die and why?
Japan and Hawaii; the cultures from both of these places have always fascinated me, and I’d love to experience it in person before I eventually die of very old, old, OLD age.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
That is it OK to be myself,and I do not need to live in fear of what other people may or may not think. Just live your best damn life for yourself! Also, ALWAYS trust your gut instinct. It will be right 100% of the time!
Haus of Royalz is on next Thursday (24 Jan) at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, tickets available via OutSavvy.com