We chat drag as Seoul's best LGBTQ party returns to Beijing

We hear it all ahead of Shade's takeover at Dada this Saturday

We've loved getting deeper into Beijing's ever-more vibrant drag scene of late, most recently for our July-August issue cover feature, so it's good to have friends from abroad reach our shores to get in on the fun too. This Saturday, June 30, sees Shade, Seoul's premier and most forward-thinking LGBTQ party, return to Dada – read more on their last visit here – bringing a collaboration of DJs and drag queens together for a hell of show. We talked to one of their greatest performers, Charlotte Goodenough, about coming to China, how she got involved in the drag scene, and how you can too.

When would you say you first began experimenting with gender bending and drag? Was it something you could see yourself getting into since you were a child?
I have always had an inclination towards women’s fashion even as a child but, growing up in a relatively conservative small city in rural America, I stayed away from experimenting with gender-bending and drag myself until I moved to New York at 23. Some friends took me to my first drag show there and I was fascinated by the creativity and grandness of it. So, I began practicing make-up and studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but only went out in public in drag once during my time in NYC.

Shade Seoul Crew
Charlotte and the Shade crew.

What can people expect from a Charlotte Goodenough show?
The first two drag queens I saw live were Acid Betty and Peppermint from Rupaul’s Drag Race, back in 2006. I was fascinated by Acid Betty’s creativity and larger-than-life character. So my drag now is all about being as tall and creative as I can – I design and sew all of my outfits myself. I am known in Seoul for my big hair, curvy figure, long nails and creative costumes – I also like to use lights, sirens and headpieces in my look to give extra flair to my drag.

People can expect a lot of variety in my performances. I hate performing the same song too many times, so I’m always coming up with new numbers. I’m known best for my ballads, but I also do a lot of up-tempo and high-energy songs with hair flips and costume reveals. I also co-host a weekly show in Korea and enjoy bantering and chatting with the audience between numbers.

What would you say is the biggest change you feel when you transform into your persona?
As a man, I am a pretty relaxed and quiet guy, but once I become Charlotte Goodenough, my drag persona, I walk and talk with a lot more confidence. I also socialise much more freely and am less afraid of being sarcastic and flirtatious with others. Although, after a few years of doing drag I have found that the confidence I gained as Charlotte has carried over to my personality as a man and I feel much more confident as a person overall.

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It can take a long time to get ready. Do you ever feel impatient or that, excuse the pun, it can be a drag having to spend so much time on make-up, or do you still enjoy the process every time?
Yes, it takes a long time to do drag make-up, especially contouring and doing the eye make-up. When I first started, it took me at least three hours, but now I can get it done in about two hours or less. Most of the time I enjoy it, as I can experiment with new shapes and colours. When I’m in a rush though, it can be stressful. I have a few standard looks now that I can do in about an hour if I’m short on time. Even when I’m really exhausted from a busy day, after I start putting on my drag make-up I find myself reenergised and ready for the night.

What tips would you give to someone just starting up in the drag scene?
Drag takes a lot of time and money to start. So first, you must be truly interested to get started in drag. If you are, my best advice is to practice make-up as much as you can, and go out in drag to local events. Practice your make-up at home a couple of times a week and take pictures. Ask drag queens for advice and look at various drag artists on social media to get inspiration.

The most important thing, however, is to go out in drag – it’s the only way to meet other drag artists and make important connections for performance opportunities in the future. Also, remember that anyone can do drag. Our Seoul scene has drag queens, drag kings, bio-queens, transgender performers and all sorts of gender-bending artists. There is no one way to do drag, so have fun and try it out.

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Do you feel there is a common misconception you encounter from people as a drag queen?
It is important to remember that drag artists are people underneath all the make-up, wigs, padding and outfits. Some people think they can freely touch our hair or body because it isn't 'real', but you still should ask any drag artist before touching or hugging them. Also, while we appreciate your advice and comments, please be careful about respecting the effort and time put into drag. Some people like to compare our drag with those of our fellow queens who we work with on a regular basis, which can make us uncomfortable as we all try to develop our own style and don’t want to be seen as 'better' or 'worse' than a fellow queen. Drag queens have feelings too!

What has been your craziest experience in the scene so far?
I've had so many crazy moments in drag, so it’s hard to choose! The most amazing thing has probably just been the amount of places drag has brought me. I've been lucky enough to have performed all over Korea, as well as in Bangkok, Shanghai, Beijing and NYC. I was also able to perform at my hometown Pride in Michigan, in front of my family, which was such a rewarding experience and something I never imagined I would do. The last Shade tour was also so much more crazy and amazing that I could have ever imagined. I got to meet so many awesome and creative people in both Shanghai and Beijing that I hope to see again when we're back this weekend!

Interview by Yinmai O'Connor

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