Yesterday, we introduced you to handsome gay brothers Kevin Grogan and Tony Fran who told us about the difficulty they had coming out to their families and to each other. Now closer than ever, the boys are happily living fruitful lives; Kevin, as a successful actor, and Tony a talented illustrator and devoted boyfriend to Vangelis from The Voice. But when they’re not doing their 9to5, the boys lead a very different life – as drag queens. Introducing Veronica Green (Kevin) and Fantasy (Tony).
When did you both discover drag? Did you come to it separately?
Tony: We’ve both always dressed a little differently to everybody else, it was definitely quirky. But I’d say we both really took to drag when we first watched To Wong Foo together. I was amazed at how beautiful RuPaul looked and I was convinced the other drag queens were women. I remember me and Kevin just reading the credits at the end of the film looking for the other drag queens to find out their real names to see if they were boys names or girls names hahah. It blow me away. From then on I started writing, hoping that one day they’ll make a Drag Miss Congeniality film and I’d star as the undercover agent. I think after watching that film I was so intrigued by fashion and it helped that our mum was a seamstress. She’d make costumes and clothes and I remember this purple wizards costume (which I almost broke my neck in, but that’s another story) and I remember feeling the fabric swish when I moved. I’d twirl and I adored the shapes the robe made when I looked down.
Kevin: Since we were children like 8 years old we were clued up on drag queens and loved it. I had wanted to actually do drag for a couple of years prior to my first time but It wasn’t until 2013 when I finally plucked up the courage to do drag for Halloween! I was working in Singapore for Universal Studios and a few of my colleagues had expressed a desire to do drag as well. By this time I was an avid fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race and wanted to do it properly so I watched Manila Luzon’s YouTube tutorial and made my very own Poison Ivy outfit. It was such a success that my friends started inviting me to perform in drag for them at birthday parties and charity functions. I thought it was just a bit of fun and then Tony contacted me and said he wanted to do it too, so we went out in drag together and things just started to take off from there really.
Tell us about your characters – how did you create them?
Tony: Well I gots lots of characters, hahah! My drag character Fantasy however was created for a short film I’m writing. In order to truly understand what it’s actually what drag queens go through (not just to get ready but the reactions from the public and the emotions they experience whilst gigging) I felt that I needed to experience it myself and do some research. Turns out Fantasy’s a pretty good drag queen and she’s been paid for every single event she’s hosted (little known boring fact when I hosted my first event I managed to get Vangelis his first paid gig there too!)
Kevin: Veronica Green is a very classy lady. I didn’t want her to be your typical drag queen, so as a rule I very rarely swear and vulgarity is a no-no. Veronica is actually my sister’s name and because she is an inspiring figure in my life I decided to steal her name. She’s totally cool with it and every time I hear it it reminds me if her. Green is just a random choice because I had always said I didn’t have any green items of clothes in my wardrobe and now whenever I go out clothes shopping that thought is stuck in my head and I’ve now got green everywhere! A very droll reason, I know.
What’s she like?
Veronica is elegant, glamorous, sassy, genuine and very versatile. She sings, dances, acts and is a complete illusion from head to toe. A lot of people don’t get it because they think I’m an actual girl. I also like the fact that I’m subvertly challenging gender norms by following the stereotypes for what is socially acceptable for women. I don’t often talk about my true gender on stage so it’s really satisfying to see people get confused and slowly come to the realisation that the person they are watching is more than meets the eye. It really enjoy people coming to their own conclusions and really start to think about what they are seeing. It’s far more powerful for me to allow them to make up their own minds.
Was telling your family that you wanted to be drag queens like coming out all over again?
Tony: Hahaha, it might as well have been. My mum loves it now though. Because she loves fashion. She’s so intrigued with what looks we come up with next. Our dad just said ‘if it’s making you money then do it’. Bitch gotta pay ‘dem bills honey!
Kevin: It’s really difficult to try to explain to people that I want to dress as a woman but I don’t want to be one. I don’t think people are properly educated on the differences between drag and trans and I feel it’s so important for them not to be lumped together because there are so many differences and I feel it’s important for transgender people to not be labelled as drag queens. Because I’m a gender illusionist people don’t always understand that I’m challenging gender norms by saying ‘hey I’m a man and it’s ok for me to do all of these things women do as well’. My parents are perfect examples of a generation of people that are uneducated on different types of people.
You have boyfriends – is it easy meeting guys who accept what you do?
Tony: I love telling people I do Drag! I have this need to make people feel uncomfortable. Ha! But to be honest majority of the time people are amazed at our transformations and keep asking when we’re gigging next because they want to see the real thing. I’m a pretty open-minded person so when I meet guys I give them the low down from the beginning, like with Vangelis we both lay everything down on the table when we started seeing each other and basically said ‘here’s my baggage, if it comes to bite me in the arse later down the line at least you’re aware of it’.
Kevin: I’ve been with my boyfriend Steve for six years so he has seen me throughout my whole journey of drag discovery! He’s very supportive but says he wants me to buy another wardrobe as I’ve taken over the bedroom with my drag stuff.
Tony, Vangelis said he used to be scared of drag queens. How did you cure him?
Tony: When I moved to London, Kevin introduced me to RuPaul’s Drag Race and I’m not going to lie, that show saved me from falling into a very dark place. Shortly after Vangelis and I started dating, Season 6 was going to air so I invited Vangelis around for the first episode and forced him to watch it and he fell in love with Alaska. And the rest was HerStory.
Where do you perform?
Tony: Well Fantasy is still pretty new to the scene and she’s mainly hosted gigs and special events. She hosted a Pride event last year and appeared on a TV commercial, which she SLAYED! I walked into the audition, wearing underwear and a fur coat, in the middle of summer, carrying a picnic basket with a bottle of Prosecco poking out the top. And in September Kevin and I both hosted FAHJ (Face Addict Hair Junkies) Fashion Week party (which was amazing!) and Fantasy actually performed for the first time.
Kevin: I’ve performed at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern a couple of times as a guest. One of my idols Lily Savage was discovered there so it is alway going to be a favourite venue of mine. I’m still new on the drag scene and finding it hard to get a foot in the door in such a tight circle but I’m currently performing every Monday at Bloc Bar in Camden for the it’s a drag knockout competition hosted by METH. (Unless I get knocked out of course) show time at 8pm.
Is it a glam life?
Tony: My experience, once I’m fully ready in drag, have been pretty glam in someways. But I’m still new and I’m not on the scene so I image it’s very different if I was trying to make a career out of it. Fantasy is more about the high fashion and being a personality at an event rather than putting on a show. Her character is to be adored and looked at and she’s very good at that.
Kevin: Not at all. I may look glamorous but it’s anything but. It takes hours to get ready, I have to shave pretty much every part of my body, the hip pads I wear chafe and wearing a corset hurts. My feet die in heels after hours of dancing and my wig itches but I wouldn’t swap it for anything. Performing for 10 minutes as veronica makes up for all of the discomfort 1000 times over.
Do you fancy trying for Rupaul’s Drag Race?
Tony: Abso-bloody-lutely! But I’m not ready yet. I’m sure Kevin is, she’s much more polished than me and she has experience performing. She’d nail it.
Kevin: I wish they would hurry up and get a UK version. I would love to do something like that. Drag is not getting enough attention in this country at the moment. Now that Lily Savage and Dame Edna have retired we don’t have anyone really famous or well known for their drag in this country. It’s time to bring drag queens back to the masses in the UK.
Has that show made drag more acceptable?
Tony: I think it’s opened up people’s minds a little to the art form, but there are always people who will never find it acceptable. I do as well feel like some people only think drag is what’s shown on Drag Race and that annoys me because I think there’s still a sense of ignorance there about what drag is.
Kevin: Yes. The UK has always been accepting of its panto dames and comedians dressing in drag as characters on TV (Little Britain Kathy Burke as Perry in Harry Enfield and Chums etc) but drag is still very underground in the UK. If the right queen came along we could have a golden era in this country, it’s just going to take a brave producer to bring us to the forefront.
Which of the queens have been your favourite?
Tony: Well when I lived in Spain I was told I looked like Manila Luzon but I had know idea who she was until I moved to London and watched Drag Race. So she’ll always have a special place in my heart. But my absolute hero is Bianca Del Rio. I love her wit and she’s so interesting to watch. I could literally watch hours and hours worth of her stand up. So when she performed in London I had to make her a lil something.
Kevin: My all time favourite queen is Raven, hands down. I love her style and her self confidence. If I could have believed in myself half as much as she does…
It’s been argued that American queens are more polished – do you agree?
Tony: There’s a different style of drag over in America and the people who say they’re ‘more polished’ are the same kinda ignorant people I talked about earlier. We have some pretty fabulous queens over here who are just as fierce and talented. Polished or not Drag is whatever you make it.
Kevin: For one, I don’t think you can lump all American queens into one category and say as a whole they are ‘polished’. Secondly, lack of polish doesn’t always mean that it’s bad. As long as a queen has brains and performs her act intelligently then I’m all for it. Drag doesn’t have to be one thing or another. Personally I enjoy going for the full illusion but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to be a little rough around the edges.
Would you ever consider playing the NYC scene – it seems the cool drag place?
Tony: I’d love to! You never know if Vangelis gets a gig over there I’ll be his chaperone. I wouldn’t feel guilty about stealing his thunder then 😊
Kevin: NYC has some of the best queens in the world. I would absolutely go there in a heartbeat if it was possible for me.
Would you like to make this a career?
Tony: Absolutely! I’ve noticed since creating Fantasy how much I actually enjoy it and how good at it I actually am. I’m pretty modest.
Kevin: I was always worried that doing drag would affect my professional CV. You hear horror stories that once a casting director knows you’re a drag queen, they won’t see you for anything serious. Personally it’s not affected me in that way because I’m working on a show right now but I definitely want to challenge the notion that if I forge myself a career in drag that I will have to give everything else up. I still want to play Boq in wicked, I still want to be successful in musical theatre but I really want a drag career to take off as well. I’d love to have my own TV show or be a television presenter in drag. I shouldn’t have to give up being Kevin to become Veronica
Does doing drag give you a sense of freedom?
Tony: I’m going to sound like an actual cliche but it actually does. I’ve loved every aspect of creating Fantasy, putting together a look, customising an outfit, the build up to the event itself. It’s so fulfilling being in those heels on the night and just taking a second to appreciate what you’ve crafted and seeing so many faces appreciating it too, it’s pretty liberating. Even if the night goes to shit I’m still looking fabulous.
Kevin: It allows me to express myself in new and exciting ways without having to worry about the consequences. I guess being Veronica is a bit of a safety net and I’m never self conscious in drag because mistakes mean nothing to her. Being Veronica has taught me so much about myself that I didn’t know. It’s ironic how becoming somebody else has helped me find myself.