All Blog Posts / All Hail the Reigning Kings of Drag
All Hail the Reigning Kings of Drag
Published On: January 6, 2020
Written By: Bianca Sutton
Trixie Mattel has not only become a successful recording artist but has launched her own range of make-up, Bianca Del Rio recently sold out Wembley Arena in the UK, Katya sold out numerous venues across North American with her Help Me I’m Dying Tour and RuPaul, well, she is probably bathing in a jacuzzi of dollar bills as we speak. It seems everywhere we look there are queens, from Taylor Swift’s recent music videos to last years award winning movie A Star is Born. And don’t get us wrong, we can’t get enough of drag queens. Give us more, we won’t complain. But you know what else we want? Drag kings. In fact, drag queens, drag kings, drag things – we’ll take it all.
Drag kings are not a recent phenomenon, and shame on those who think so. It is said, according to my good friend Wikipedia, that the word drag king was first used in text back in 1972. That really isn’t that far back, but I can tell you, drag kings have a much richer history than 40 years. There are iconic people throughout history who dressed up in men’s attire for the art of entertainment; the first popular male impersonator Annie Hindle, blues singer Gladys Bentley and English entertainer Hetty King who was celebrated for her impressions of sailors. In fact, Annie Hindle was so convincing in her act, she left the UK and found fame amongst the bright lights of New York City, even inspiring other performers to dress as men.
Many would say that up until now drag kings have been on the fringe of drag culture, many others would argue that drag kings have a long way to go to get recognition still. Well, we aren’t here to fuel the debate, but what we can tell you, along with numerous kings taking to the stage and finding fame during the 17th, 18th and 19th century, kings have also featured in the mainstream today. Over time there have been slight nods to drag king culture, for example Sex and the City (Season 3, Episode 4 for the superfans) once had Charlotte dress as a drag king for a photographer, The L Word introduces the character of Ivan Aycock who does one hell of a sexy lip sync to Leonard Cohen’s ‘I’m Your Man’ and let’s not forget Lady Gaga’s drag alter-ego. And lastly, there is you – don’t tell me you didn’t put bubble bath around mouth when you were little and pretend you were Santa.
We’re lucky to have programs such as the New Zealand reality show, House of Drag, which not only featured the first ever drag king on TV, but also crowned them winner. And most recently, our show The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula introduced the world to the incredible Landon Cider. We are constantly shown, what drag queens can do, drag kings can do too. So to celebrate some of drags finest… here are some of our favourite kings out there (in no particular order).
No list of kings is complete without Landon Cider – google it, I won’t be wrong. You’ve probably heard of Landon Cider, he just won this season of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula and has been a vocal activist for fairer representation of all forms of drag. If you haven’t seen him live, you’re going to want to – he captivates his audience in a way that even if the whole room were on fire you wouldn’t divert your eyes from him (it might sound OTT but you’ll agree once you see him). Landon is based in Los Angeles but with the title of World’s Next Super Monster under his belt, it won’t be long before clubs near you will be booking him.
We mentioned Hugo Grrrl in the intro to this post so it was only inevitable he would wind up on this list. Hugo, whose goes by George Fowler when out of drag, found his fame on the New Zealand reality show House of Drag (available to binge on OUTtvGo now – you’re welcome) where he was not only the first drag king to appear on reality TV, but was the first to win. Very much a comedy king (along with an array of other talents), Hugo Grrrl creates unique, political and crude shows that promise to ‘leave ya with a smile on your face and a bit of glitter in your hair.’ You will need to travel to Wellington, New Zealand to see him though. If you are a bit strapped for cash though, his instagram is also prone to putting a smile on your face.
Image courtesy of @malcolm.xtasy
With experience in theatrical makeup and special effects, you know Malcom Xtasy isn’t messing around – especially when it comes to painting on abs. He cites A$AP Rocky as a style inspiration – something that is evident looking at him. If you have a scroll through his instagram, you’ll also see this king has that sexy, smouldering look down to a tee. He’s based in LA and produces Man Candy, a drag king collective based in the city.
The brains behind drag king Adam All is Jen Powell, who has been performing as a drag artist for over 12 years. He is based in the UK where he performs gigs across the country, however, if you are visiting London (UK – not Ontario folks!) you’ll be able to pop along to his monthly Cabaret Drag King Night in Soho, run by the king himself. All has a signature look, instantly recognizable by his blonde tash, beautifully quaffed hair and vibrantly coloured suits. But it’s not just his look that has people talking, he can also put on one hell of a show. Just take a look at his instagram post where he rips of his boxers, to reveal another pair, to rip them off and reveal another pair, and on and on, you get it.
SPIKEY VAN DYKEY
Image courtesy of @spikey_van_dykey
Florida based Spikey Van Dykey describes himself as ‘a gender-bending performer, who feels most at home on the stage.’ He is that – and a whole lot more. Having appeared in the likes of Elle magazine, Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post, Spikey Van Dykey hasn’t gone unnoticed. With his spiked-up colourful hair and his occasional glittered beard this king can turn a look – plus the abs… have you seen the abs… look at the abs?
Based in California, Ivory Onyx has been in the business of drag for over 20 years and has made quite a name for himself – even Vogue featured him! He’s taken home the title of Mister USofA MI twice, first in 2013 and again in 2017. Having been working the clubs since the tender age of 18, Onyx has not only been able to watch drag kings multiply but has watched as drag culture left the fringes of the queer clubs and sashayed its way into the mainstream. It’s also been said he does a killer Bruno Mars impersonation.
Firstly, the name. It’s all in the name. Except, as well a great name, Travulva has plenty more that makes him a king worthy of being listed. Based in the UK, Travulva is part of a drag troupe called Pecs Drag Kings (seriously check the whole group out – you won’t regret it). Travulva is the slap-your-leg and cry laughing kind of funny, so if you’re into comedy kings, here’s your man. Also, did I mention he has a great name. When out of drag, Jodie Mitchell will keep you laughing as a comedian and host of the podcast Secret Dinosaur Cult.
DRAG KING COLE
Co-founder of London’s Pec’s Drag Kings (another one on the list- I told you they were good), Drag King Cole (or known also as Tyrell Williams) has a whole back story for his character. In his own words he ‘is a singer, songwriter and producer from Chicago, Illinois. When he’s not performing, Tyrell can be found working in the studio, rolling with his boys or chilling at home with his dog, Killer.’ attention to detail.
Photo by: @dundorephoto
If you check out his instagram, this Minneapolis based king refers to himself as “the bodacious beefcake.” And that this king is. It just takes a couple of scrolls through his Instagram feed to see how talented he is, he can literally transform himself into any character or look – our personal favourite is his Austin Powers, or maybe his Sonic the Hedgehog, or possibly his Freddie Mercury… it’s so hard to pick. And when he isn’t in drag, he owns and runs a tattoo shop – so you know, he’s pretty cool.
Australian drag king, Dani Boi describes himself on instagram as a ‘Genderfluid Dragtivist,’ and has talked openly and beautifully on the subject of gender identity for numerous media outlets. They were also the subject of Australian network ABC’s short-form documentary Love Bites: Dani Boi, which brings one their performances from the stage and onto the screen. We love this king, not only for their amazing drag alter-ego but for the amazing voice they have lent to the queer community and their mission to teach others about the importance of gender expression.
Although he sounds like some sort of creature that would haunt your nightmares, he’s really the thing dreams are made of when it comes to drag kings. This Florida based king might be young in age, but you would be wrong to underestimate him. His devilish good looks, incredible talent with an eye-liner (just check out the facial hair he draws on) and stylish outfits make this a king you want to see when scrolling through instagram.
Photo by: @mettieostrowski
If you can’t take my word for it then take Sasha Velour’s who hand-picked Vigor Mortis and several other kings to feature in a GQ article earlier this year. Based in Brooklyn, Mortis is a staple of the cities drag scene and was awarded Drag King of the Year at the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards in 2017. He regularly performs as part of a drag collective called Switch N’ Play, that consists of some of the cities most fun and exciting performers.