Drag is socio-political performance art….with glitter”


Drag King, performer and host Adam All is at the forefront of the UK Drag King scene. Co-founding BOiBOX alongside their wife, Apple Derrieres, in 2013, the pair have been working together to champion spaces that uplift and celebrate all forms of drag.

Collaborating with Meta on Queens Of The Metaverse earlier this year, Adam is exploring new possibilities. Whatever the future of drag looks like, kings are, no doubt, leading the way.

DIVA: How did you first get into drag?

Adam All: I suppose I first got into drag when I was a kid and Father Christmas tried to give me a plastic pink hair dryer one year. I wanted an action man, so next year I dressed as a boy. I’ve always been very androgynous. Doing it on stage took a lot of courage but it was retribution, and a calling I couldn’t ignore. I took my first stage gig in 2008 and haven’t stopped since.

DIVA: What inspires your drag aesthetically? Do you have any huge style inspirations?

I’m hugely inspired by men’s formal wear, particularly the suit. I focus on bright bold colours and prints, bringing some pizazz and charisma to an old standard. There’s so much fun to be had if you just think outside of the box. I usually put together my own looks but recently I had a suit designed for me that really pushed the boundaries of what’s possible. Up-and-coming designer Christie Lau created me a suit in the metaverse for an awe-inspiring campaign with Meta called Queens of the Metaverse – it even had augmented reality embellishments.

DIVA: Your drag very much toys with masculinity. How are you seeking to rewrite the so-called rules on performed masculinity?

My mission has always been to talk about, explore and disentangle masculinity. There’s so much that we don’t talk about and it’s a problem. We can’t just keep damning men and calling masculinity inherently toxic because it’s not and it’s not all about men either. Masculinity, like femininity, is a set of socially performed traits that we present and arguably we are all capable of the whole spectrum. We can’t just pretend that all humans are split into two distinct groups – that’s not how nature works.

DIVA: How would you say society views masculinity today?

I do see signs that things are beginning to change. We’re talking about mental health, we’re talking about emotional support and appropriate behaviour, we’re even talking about gender specifically blurring the lines and widening the spectrum. But it’s slow. I’ve always believed Drag Kings would help a great deal in this progress. Give us our own TV show and we’ll change the world!

DIVA: What importance does the drag king heritage hold for you?

Drag King history is of vital importance, and I hope that I am worthy of carrying the mantel forward for future generations too. D.R.E.D. was a master and Dianne Torr was a leader, but when you dig right back to the male impersonators of the 1850s to 1940s you find the most incredible stories you never could have imagined; fame, fortune, legacy, careers spanning six decades. It’s very inspiring. 

DIVA: Out of drag, you identify as non-binary. What was your journey towards realising your identity like? And what was coming out like for you?

I came out very young by the standards of the time. I was 14. It was not at all easy as we were still dealing with the confines of Section 28. I’ve always known I didn’t feel right identifying as female, but the law made it something that was very hard to learn about.

My journey was alienating, lonely and often frightening. I was 18 before I met people from the trans community willing to talk and 20 before I first heard the term gender fluid. It immediately struck a chord with me. Drag has been a huge part of the process of me discovering who I am and reaching this point. 

DIVA: Drag has come a long way, and we now have shows like Drag Race, Drag SOS and Drag Idol bringing drag into the entertainment sphere. Has this commercialisation impacted the message or meaning at all?

There have of course been huge benefits to drag getting some mainstream attention; there are bigger stages, bigger audiences, more exposure and more people talking about gender expression. For established drag artists, that means seizing those bigger stages and platforms and reaching different audiences. I recently had the opportunity to work with Meta for their Queens of the Metaverse campaign which was a bit mega! Drag artists of the future won’t just be in local LGBTQIA venues and on the telly but we’ll be popping up in virtual reality too – and queer representation is important in all spaces.

There are so many different and exciting varieties of drag and drag performers, and we have so much further to go. My hope is that the empowerment at the root of drag reaches a wider audience. I’m delighted we are living in this time and that I’m able to contribute to this enormous wave of drag, but I do hope it helps people understand and accept human differences more. 

DIVA: You also founded drag king night BOiBOX in 2013. What has this journey been like for you and what inspired you to create this space?

At the time we launched BOiBOX, Kings were so underground in the UK. When I say we, I mean my on and off stage actual wife, Apple Derrieres who has been integral to the success of BOiBOX. When we began BOiBOX, there were very few spaces to perform but even fewer to explore. The original concept was a platform for learning and trying for the first time. Nine years on, we are now in an exciting place where we are selling out shows and championing those who have really excelled. The Drag King scene has exploded over the last decade, and I can proudly say we have been a part of making that happen.

DIVA: If you could offer one piece of advice to people looking to start drag, what would you say?

The drag scene may look like a glamorous and exciting world to leap into, but it takes a lot of hard work in a lot of different areas. You have to be able to juggle a lot of different skills to turn it into a career and that can take a lot of grit and determination. What’s truly important is that you bring yourself and what you have to say to the front. First and foremost, it is socio-political performance art….with glitter.

The last BOiBOX of 2022 takes place on 20 November at The Phoenix Arts Club. Want in? Grab a ticket here.

DIVA magazine celebrates 28 years in print in 2022. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQIA media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. 


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