Drag legend Lola Lasagne opens up about life in lockdown, Drag Race and more…

Long before Drag Race was even a twinkle in RuPaul’s sickening’ brain, drag legend Lola Lasagne was hot-footing it around the gay venues of the UK leaving audiences belly-laughing and begging for more.

It’s hard to believe that the larger than life drag superstar has been tirelessly performing week in week out to jubilant crowds for over 30 years. However, due to this blasted current coronavirus crisis, Lola, like the rest of us, has been forced to stay home and self-isolate.

Luckily, you can’t keep a good drag queen down. No sooner had lockdown been imposed on the nation, and the fabulous Lola was dreaming up ways of keeping her fans entertained by hosting a weekly online quiz, which has gone down a storm.

Here, in the first of a two-part interview, Lola – aka Stephen Richards – opens up about how tough it’s been for her to be away from the circuit, why she’d never do Drag Race and her fears that the drag scene could be wrecked by Covid19.


Lola, how has this dreadful isolation period been for you?

It’s been a mix of good days, a few bad days, but mainly good. Basically, it is what it is and we just have get on with it.

You’re such a big bubbly character, you must be finding it hard being at home.

Only in the respect that we’re only allowed out for essentials and our government approved walk/exercise. Flying around the UK means I like to come home, lock the door and forget about drag for a while. Lola’s a huge part of me but underneath there’s Stephen who’s very different. There’s nothing I like better than just filling the house with music and being lost in my own thoughts.

How have you been occupying your time?

Listening to LOTS of music! Reading. Thank god for Netflix, Amazon, YouTube etc – can you imagine what we’d have done if this had happened 20 years ago! Walk nearly every day. Just seeing other humans with their kids or pets makes me smile a lot. People have been a bit lovely where I live.

Are you worried about the financial situation?

Of course! Who isn’t? But nobody expected this so it’s all about having to adapt.

Mary Mac, Sandra and Myra Dubois are among the queens who are hosting weekly ‘shows’ and you do your quiz….  how important is it for you to keep working?

I was so against doing anything online at first. I’m a technophobe and some artistes were having terrible difficulties with the feed, sound etc, which they gradually sorted, but I’m limited with the tech I have available and I wish I had Mary’s voice – god, that makes me sound like Ursula!! Little Mermaid reboot anyone? People were messaging me asking when I’d be doing a show and because I really enjoy the quiz I host and write at the Duke Of Wellington, I suddenly realised that I could do that and bring a bit of Lola to people. We’ve done four weeks. It seems to work judging by the messages I’ve received and it’s put people in touch with each other every Wednesday, as have the other artistes with their shows/quizzes etc. I realised how much I miss performing although not the travel, so the simplicity of getting ready and sitting down in my room really appealed!

Drag Race has changed the way the world sees gay men and drag – do you think the show has done the community favours?

I’m sure it has. When I grew up, there was a serious lack of LGBTQ representation on television and film  and the world we lived in meant that stereotypes were the main focuses for them. Women were housewives, gay men were effeminate, lesbians were bull dykes, people of colour, if represented at all, were slaves, thieves, cleaners and so on. We know that has changed and now we have an abundance of LGBTQ in film, television and so on. For the younger community RPDR is there for them showing gay men, drag, acceptance BUT I think the show could do so much more.


By choosing drag kings, bio queens, female drag and giving a fair representation to the trans community. By his own admission Rupaul has said there will be none of that on the show, but past contestants are speaking up more and challenging that view and quite rightly so. So hopefully that will change on subsequent seasons. Celebrity Drag Race just featured three women as contestants and Vanessa Williams showed that women can do drag just as well as men can. Whilst the show is a competition to find ‘America’s Next Drag Superstar’ (sic), underneath the sequins and make up is a person who should have as much air time as their drag persona but then the programme is a competition first.

Would you ever consider going on it?

Not for anything! I was ready for the UK version to be a car crash, but it surprised a lot of people, myself included, and I enjoyed it much more than I expected to. The girls, six of whom I already knew, did really well. However despite having worked 30 years as Lola, I’d barely last 30 minutes on the show. I can’t sew and my days of dancing in heels are long gone, but I’d at least move across the stage in the lip sync! I know that the queens arrive with the majority of their runway already prepared but there are other things for them to do to win the competition and there are countless younger queens much more prepared and better equipped for all of that then I would be.

What do you make of the current trend for look queens? Do you prefer all rounders?

ABSOLUTELY YES! When I, or any artiste, do a show we can make our entrance in a newly designed gown, hair. jewellery with exquisite make up, but that is the first 30 seconds of the show for the audience to wave their fingers in the air, scream “Yes Gurl, you are giving me LIFE with that mug, shape etc”. But then then we normally have 59 minutes and 30 seconds left to entertain that audience. That’s what we’re there for. And if you consider yourself a true performer or actor you’ll play any role and sometimes you don’t look pretty.

Which drag queens do you think tick all the boxes?

If we’re judging this on RPDR then Bianca Del Rio is my benchmark. She walked into that workroom and we knew she was the winner and by episode three, she’ll have known that she was the winner. The other girls were great, but Bianca came to win a competition knowing she had everything the judges wanted in her bag of tricks. And she’s gone to show the world everything from season six and 1000 times more. Plus she’s not afraid to take the piss out of herself in anything she does. Looking good is great, but being good is better. Of course models are there to look good and very little else, but I expect drag queens to be so much more than that.

Which of the current crop of queens are legends in your eyes?

I see very little drag as I have a busy diary and we normally only see each other at a Pride or a charity. But if I have a Sunday off in Brighton there’s a wide choice of acts to go and see. Similarly if I’m booked on the Power of Four on a Sunday at the Two Brewers I like to get there early and leave late so I can watch the other acts on that night. I’ve always said and I’ll stand by this, that no one dreams of becoming a drag queen, especially when they see how uncomfortable and time consuming it is. They dream of being an entertainer and all entertainers are different with the talents they offer. Which is why the likes of Lily Savage, Adrella, Regina Fong, Dave Lynn, Ceri Dupree, Miss Jason have lasted so long. All the current acts are great, but my personal favourites are Mary Mac cause she’s an all rounder. And Myra Dubois (created by Gareth Joyner) as she is another all rounder and the funniest & sharpest wit on our cabaret scene right now. But there are a host of queens out there, some live, some lip syncs who have enormous talent and when we’re allowed to go out again, you should go see them. What I always look for in an act is humour. They have that and they have me watching them.


A lot of bars have disappeared – which bars do you miss most?

The ones that employed me! Lord, all venues are unique for different reasons. Some for cabaret, some for social drinking, some for their more alternative nights. It’s amazing to think that London had such a vibrant scene in all four quarters of it, once upon a time. Now it’s a shadow of its self. But it’s worth remembering that some venues shut down cause they were badly run. Offer the customer a clean, safe welcoming atmosphere and that customer will come back. Gay venues got complacent cause they believed that they had a captive audience, but as equality for our community grew and acceptance became wider, LGBTQ people realised that they could go to their local, in most cases, rather then just the gay scene because a) we’d fought for that right and b) the local was offering all the things I mentioned that some gay venues weren’t. That said, I miss the old White Swan, back in the 80’s/90’s where on or off stage you’d have the best time. Bromptons and the Penny Farthing in west London were absolute jewels. And then of course, Brief Encounter, on St Martin’s Lane and The Black Cap, Camden.

Legends closing was a shock – how do you think this Covid19 situation will change the Brighton gay scene?

This current pandemic will change Brighton and the rest of the world not just the gay scene. It’s going to take a very long time for us to get back to how things were in February before the world virtually stopped.

View this post on Instagram

Thinking of Andrea Dykes, Nick Moore & John Light, who lost their lives & the 79 people injured by the bombing of the @admiral.duncan, on this day in 1999. Like many other people I should have been there on that day with my friend Jane. We changed our minds as is a queens prerogative & went elsewhere as it was a beautiful day. I still remember vividly the panic & horror when the bomb went off. Mobile phones going crazy as people tried to contact their friends who were in Soho. The emergency services racing through London. Going to my gig at Central Station that night & trying to lift the mood as it all sank in. David Copeland attacked a community & that community stood tall, proud & resilient. It made me start to use the stage as a soap box for which I will never apologise when I know that the fight to be accepted as equal still needs to be fought. Especially as 21 years later so much but also so little has changed for us ❤️ #soho #17-24-30 #lgbtq+ #lovewins

A post shared by Stephen Richards (@marvelousstephen) on

We recently marked the anniversary of the Duncan bombing… how do you think that tragic event affected the community and how did it touch you?

Like a lot of people I was in London that day I should have been in the Duncan, or Compton Street at least, at 6.37pm when the bomb went off. It was a glorious day, weather wise, so my friend and I took advantage of the old KU bar, on Charing Cross Road, as they had outdoor seating. We were in a restaurant nearby when the bomb exploded. Our phones were going crazy and the emergency services were hurtling through the streets. I had to work at Central Station that night and it was the oddest gig having to be ‘jazz hands and wacca wacca wacca’ to a room full of people who were part of a community that had been targeted by one person full of pure hate and evil. But the community stood tall and resilient. We’d fought before and we fought again. I started to use the stage as a soap box and continue to do so. The fact that the Duncan is still open as a LGBTQ venue is a testament to that resilience and fight we showed in 1999.

You constantly pack out your venues – what’s the secret to your success? 

I’m very lucky that what I do has kept me in bookings for all this time, but it gets harder each year. My knees are dodgy, I need glasses to read and I can’t do a death drop, even if I wanted do – which I absolutely don’t. There’s a song from the musical Gypsy called You Gotta Get A Gimmick, where three slightly over the hill strippers give young, pretty, slimmer June/Gypsy the benefit of their wisdom in how to perform and how to survive, and there’s a line which Mazeppa says ‘To have no talent is not enough. What you need is an idea to make your strip special’. And if you paraphrase that slightly and apply it to drag or any entertainment then that’s the advice I pass on to baby queens. And when you do shows NEVER lie about how the show went from any perspective. If you want a career then be honest with yourself because there are far too many people who’ll tell others the real truth about how the show went. If you ask a drag queen how their show went, nine times out of ten they’ll say ‘Girl, it was packed’ and that’s not the question that was asked. Fifty people or 500 people make for very different shows and not in the way that you’d normally think.

If you had to do it all again, would you change a single thing?

I’ve always said that if I could speak to my younger self I’d say “Learn to sew, learn to style wigs, learn to dance”, otherwise as Lola no. As Stephen, there’s a few things but hey that’s life!

What’s your dream and what other things do you still want to achieve?

My only dream was to be happy and  for the most part that’s what has happened. I never had a plan A to be Lola for this long and at the minute I don’t have a plan B for this pandemic and the aftermath. I’ve done some proper acting away from the scene and would love to do more of that. I guess there’ll be time when I hang up the heels but if I can continue working on the scene and help people but joining an organisation or producing events that would benefit many then that would be good.