Miss Penny is the Birmingham-based drag sensation who performs at all your favourite London venues, including being a judge at It’s a Knockout at Halfway II Heaven. She’s a massive Tina Turner fan and has 35 wigs at home.
Where are you from originally?
I’m from a small town called Atherstone in Warwickshire, conceived under a wandering star and born on a policeman’s overcoat in a bus shelter.
And where do you live now?
I know reside in Bearwood, Birmingham, and have done for a number of years. It’s central for gallivanting across the UK, spreading my joy and vulgarity. I live with my partner, who some know from adult DVDs and even VHS. And also my housemate, Sam.
What do you love about living in Birmingham and why?
Well there’s a Gregg’s on every corner and an Oddbins every four paces, so it’s pretty good for that. Birmingham is such a diverse city and is currently undergoing a lot of redevelopment, which will be a boon – when it’s all finished. I like it when people go ‘Oh I can tell you’re from Birmingham’ and then talk in a Black Country accent. No, it’s totally different bab!
What was the first gay venue you visited?
The first gay venue I visited was The Fox, which is Birmingham’s lesbian bar, ran by Andy King – he’s been there for years and is a major face on the gay scene here. It’s such a fun bar. I remember they played the song Court of King Caractacus and all the girls put down their drinks, climbed up onto the bar and tables and did the dance. It was sooo camp and hilarious… Obviously I’m not camp at all; butch top, me.
Anything you are looking forward to at the moment?
I was looking forward to judging the opening of Bette Rinse’s It’s a Knockout at Halfway, but I’ve been a tad poorly lately so couldn’t be there. It’s a fun time of year with Halloween, my birthday in November and, of course, Christmas coming up, and I cannot wait. I like a strange man popping down my chimney, and the stockings, obvs.
What was the last theatre show you saw, where, and what did you think of it?
OMG Tina The Musical! I’m a mahoosive Tina fan and Mum got me premium tickets. I went with Olly Blatherwick from The Welly and it was A-MAZ-ING; the staging, songs, actors, lighting – just a total joy. I would recommend it if you haven’t been.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Good food! I don’t care how much I spend as long as it’s good and I don’t have to wash up. I mean, these hands don’t do dishes, that’s what the houseboy is for…
Wigs! I have so many. I have 35; I think I have a problem. I literally love them! Oh and jewellery, too. I have four drawers full, rings, necklaces and earrings. My name is Miss Penny and I have a wig and jewellery addiction – send help.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
Oh loads since I started this journey, from my first proper show all those years ago. My first show in London, being part of the comedy roast of Rose Garden at The RVT, working abroad. I did a wedding at The Clink a few years ago, that was so surreal but amazing; I’d never done anything like that. Slightly kinky too. I’ve also been lucky to be a regular host for Jimmy Smith for some of the biggest charity nights at the Brewers.
Best gift you’ve ever received?
Most recent has to be my Eurythmics box set from the better half. He hunted high and low for it last Christmas and I was over the moon when it arrived. And my Tina musical tickets from Mummy.
If you could go back in time which year would you choose and why?
The 90s, mainly because I love the music; there were so many good dance tracks then. There were hardly any mobile phone and people actually had conversations.
What’s the best party you’ve ever been to and what made it so good?
That’s a silly question – as if can remember any of them!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Drag-wise it was from Tony Page: ‘You must learn how to lip-read dear.’ Sounded strange at the time but how true he was. You can scour a crowd while singing and see what people are saying and it triggers things in the brain for patter as you go along. So beware…
Who is your LGBT+ hero and why?
There are many, but my personal one has to be Son of a Tutu. She is so attentive to all things LGBT+ and an avid supporter of our community. The video she just did for BBC is amazing and inspiring; she knows how to put things across in ways that many cannot. Her finger is on the pulse constantly, nothing gets by her. Tutu’s knowledge of our history and politics is vast. A true hero for speaking out and a true hero for the support she gives to our community.
Who are the most entertaining people you follow on social media and why?
Oh I love Bette Midler and Cher on Twitter; their posts are hilarious. John Partridge is a total doll to chat to and follow. On the drag circuit it has to be Ginny Lemon from Birmingham, her live videos give me life and are so whacky. She’s out to lunch on a one way ticket.
Where in the world would you like to visit before you die?
New York is on the bucket list, and Thailand. Maybe Bognor as I’ve heard it’s nice through a car windscreen on a cold wet night.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
If I knew how much effort doing drag entails and how much high heels hurt when you’ve been doing a two-week straight run of shows, then I might have worked in a library instead. But I would never change anything. I’m a true believer in your fate is your fate. Hindsight is a wonderful, but you can’t do anything about it.