‘I found confidence in drag I’d never experienced before’ – Zac Collins-Widders on the life changing power of drag
Who does and doesn’t get to perform drag? This is the question that fueled the creation of Lou Wall’s Drag Race. Fighting the perception that drag is somehow just for cis gay men, Lou Wall’s Drag Race features queer, not just gay, Queens of a variety of gender identities. Drag does have a diverse and inclusive history, particularly in its performance in 1980s New York ball culture, and that’s something this show seeks to embrace.
Zac Collins-Widders is a proud queer Aboriginal person who has been performing drag for about a year as Zodiac, who is making her Melbourne Fringe debut and battling out for the title of Melbourne’s next drag superstar in Lou Wall’s Drag Race. Zac chatted to us about why drag and comedy go hand in hand, the importance of rocking the boat and the power of representation.
What is your definition of a Queen?
I think everyone is a queen, except the actual Queen, she’s a parasite. But anyone can be a queen, I think the qualities that queens possess are confidence, kindness and the ability to inspire others.
How did you come to drag? What does it mean to you to perform gender?
The first time I ever performed in drag was in 2017 at the NAIDOC Pride Night but I had been ‘doing drag’ since I was a child. I always used to dress up as a kid, and once I got older and more comfortable with my sexuality and gender (and moved to Melbourne) I felt a lot more freedom to do so more publicly.
Performing gender was really life changing. It’s cliche to say ‘it’s changed my life’ but it honestly has. To those who knew me before I did drag, they knew I was very insecure, had little to no self-confidence whatsoever and it really impacted my mental health. But I found this confidence in drag I’d never experienced before, I felt confident, narcissistic even (those who know me can vouch for that). The trouble was learning to apply that confidence when I was out of drag. I think I’ve learned to do that now, and my life is in a really good place. So in a way, drag did save my life.
Can you tell us a little bit about Zodiac? What is her version of femininity?
I like to describe Zodiac as a poxxxy, pink, princess. Picture, Northshore Sydney private school girl meets Barbie. I like to think she’s a comedy queen, but I think that’s just what people say when they don’t have any actual talent, i.e. me. Zodiac’s version of femininity is hyper-fishy-fem mostly because that’s just what I do well. But I think Zodiac’s brand was born out of exaggerated female stereotypes, thin, blonde, pink, feminine. And inspired by all the great movies of the 90s, like Mean Girls, Clueless, Legally Blonde etc. I like to think that my hyper-fem version of drag is poking fun at female stereotypes, by showing that these traits of a ‘beautiful girl’ can be possessed by anyone of any gender.
What do you think the relationship between drag and comedy is? What’s the importance of using humour when performing?
The point of drag (for me) is to break free of all limits. You can change your gender, you can change your class, you can even change the shape of your face! Drag gives you the permission to be who you want to be. And I think that emerged from comedic drag, which gave people the permission to poke fun at the world, poke fun of gender roles, poke fun of the elite, poke fun of celebrities etc. Drag and comedy go hand-in-hand. Sometimes using humour is the best way to convey a serious message, and I think that’s what a lot of queens do do.
What does Ru Paul’s Drag Race mean to you?
Whilst the show does have its flaws, RuPaul’s Drag Race has been instrumental to me. I think it was the first ever show I’d watched where queer people were actually the focus, rather than some fashion accessory to straight people *cough* Queer Eye *cough*. Not only does the show demonstrate the incredible skills and talents drag queens have to possess, but it also was a show by and for queer people. It was a show for us. And plus, I LIVE for all the drama in Untucked!
You spoke at the NAIDOC State Reception at the Parliament of Victoria in drag. What’s the importance of engaging with institutions like Parliament through performance?
Besides the fact that it’s just so much fun to rock up to these classical, white institutions as a proud Aboriginal person in drag, it’s an act of subversion. I think it’s just my personality, I love to rock the boat and I think it’s really important to. I always used to look up to out, loud and proud queer people pushing the boundaries, because they were so carefree and creating the space for others to do so, and one day I just thought, why can’t I do that? And now that’s who I aspire to be, those loud and proud, trailblazing queers, paving the way for future generations.
You’ve spoken before about the need for more queer Aboriginal representation in Australian media. If you could make a TV show or movie to help address that, what would it be about?
It would be about a young gay blackfulla who’s just moved to the city, who is trying to navigate both the queer scene and the Koorie community. He’s trying to fit in in the white queer world but feels excluded. Something is missing. That’s when these two beautiful black drag queens come along and teach him about queer history and culture, and introduce him to the QTIPOC realm.
Who’s your favourite drag queen and why?
My favourite drag queen is Trixie Mattel, I think because we share a similar dark sense of humour. And her entire brand is “larger than life Barbie”, so it’s also our mutual love for pink. But I’m also inspired by our local queens who continue to amaze me with their creative skills and talent, and kindness.
Fringe is a great time for shows that push boundaries and explore art forms. If you were going to see a double feature with Lou Wall’s Drag Race and another show, what would it be?
Lou Wall’s Drag Race is on at the Fringe Hub: Lithuanian Club until 29 September 2018 as part of the Melbourne Fringe. Show times, accessibility information and tickets are available from the Melbourne Fringe website.