Jenny Purr, Lola VonHeart and Chardonnay Bublée are as fierce, cheeky and passionate offstage, as they are on stage. Coming together as part of a new female-led drag initiative, Femme In-Unity, they are on a mission to change the landscape of gender non-confirmative performance.
What is a Bio Queen?
A Biological Drag Queen—also sometimes called a Faux Queen or Hyper Queen—is, simply, a biological woman in drag. “Apparently you have to tell people that you have a vagina when you’re a biological woman in drag, as a drag queen…” Jenny explains “I take it as a compliment if people ask me, are you a woman? Because I’ve blurred the line of gender. That’s drag for me; it’s making people question what they know.”
Lola says she doesn’t mind the term. “I just don’t think there shouldn’t be an otherness. Drag is subjective, it’s your own expression of whatever you want to heighten.”
Though playing with and expressing an extreme and heightened form of femininity, there is an openness in the way these women see the art form, “At the end of the day drag is a performance art and what you’re portraying doesn’t have to be subject to gender or anything else,” states Chardonnay.
Falling headfirst into Drag
“I watched all these beautiful Drag Queens on stage, and I felt like, I wish I could feel my fantasy like them,” Jenny says of her drag evolution. “2016 was a very rocky time for me because I hated my body after a very traumatic event, but I still wanted to find some way in myself to express it.” Seeking a platform of expression and with unending support from incomparable drag matriarch Gógó Starr, she recalls discussing the idea of becoming a queen. “Gógó said of course you can, it’s your gender, you can express yourself. It’s performance art; you just do it.”
Jenny may be the original trailblazing Icelandic Bio Queen, but Lola and Chardonnay were hot on her heels. Lola recalls the moment she realised she could be a part of this world. “I was watching Drag Súgur and thought ‘wow I wish I could do this.’” After being told Jenny was a woman, she realised there was nothing stopping her.
The youngest of the Bio Queen personas, Chardonnay performed first show in September 2018 and hasn’t looked back. In the short time since, she’s made a name for herself as a talented live singer, host, one half of a power couple with Milo de Mix and undoubtedly one of the hardest working Queen’s in Iceland. When she casually says, “I’ve been super active” it’s somewhat of an understatement!
Greater lashes, bigger hair
It isn’t always easy being a Bio Queen. While taking on an art-form with a complex history of marginalisation and discrimination, some female performers have their areefforts dismissed, being objectified or told they have an advantage, Jenny says. “I think it’s so crazy how females are always held accountable for being the best—you have to be better and work harder than a guy.”
“It has to be more. Greater lashes. Bigger hair. Because if I go on stage as a Bio Queen with a more natural look, I’m just a random girl going on stage,” explains Chardonnay. Whilst it might be considered sparkle and superficiality, what they are portraying is the female narrative. “Yeah sure a cis male can come on stage and be a queen and talk about being a woman, but we are women and we deal with misogyny every day. It’s so precious to have this platform to scream it off the stage. You’re a woman and you’re willing to fight.” Chardonnay continues.
Drag is inherently political. It is a statement every time a performer puts on their metaphorical (and literal) war paint and walks out of the house. However, as Lola makes clear, “We are still choosing to do this. This is something that we really enjoy doing, and for whatever reason we continue to do it, even though it’s hard.”
“And we do have the privilege of being undercover drag queens,” adds Jenny “In the daytime, we don’t look like drag queens; but in the night time we are like Batman! Fabulous drag Batman!”
Creating a community full of love and support is at the heart of the scene. “It’s so funny because people like to pit us against each other,” Jenny says. “We’re not throwing pearls at the stage, saying I hope she falls. We are a community.”
Lola reiterates how important her drag family is: “We are always there to help, and comfort. People have this perception of Drag Queens being catty and never getting along. And also, just women in general can NEVER get along.”
“And that’s why I love that we’re doing a show with an all-female cast,” Jenny continues. “It’s very empowering. We are women, and we can put on a show together, we can support each other. We can appreciate everyone’s effort and we’re not intimidated by each other.“
Femme In – Unity is the result of their passion, love, and a desire to work together. “We just figured why can’t we do that on a grander scale?” Chardonnay explains. “We have amazing kings, queens, monarchs…monsters. We have everything.”
Far from excluding anyone, this is a show about empowering a certain group within the drag scene. Taking place at Gaukurinn—the spiritual home of drag in Iceland—a cast of ten will cometogether for a spectacular show in support of Stígamót; an institution that helps survivors of sexual abuse and violence.
With every penny of ticket sales and tips going to the charity, Jenny explains the importance of this event: “Basically, at some level, we have all experienced some form of attack. Whether its harassment or, unfortunately, actual assault. This is something that we women can connect to.”
What can we expect?
“A spectacular show!” says Chardonnay, “I also love that we’re getting a bunch of kings in one show. That doesn’t happen in other drag scenes, because it’s always separate. That’s something that’s very special about the drag scene in Iceland.”
“Drag kings face a lot of obstacles in drag. So, we are booking drag kings because they’re amazing, they’re female, and they deserve the stage and platform,” Jenny adds.
At the show itself, you can expect guaranteed comedy, fabulousness, fierceness as well as a more serious take—“Just like every female mood-swing!” says Jenny.
There is no doubt these women are doing something differently, and are about to smash the glass ceiling; all the while they’ll be holding hands and looking fabulous!
Femme In-Unity takes place at Gaukurinn on September 19th at 21:00. Pay what you want (1,500 kr. minimum)every króna goes to Stígamót.