Polari Pages – In Conversation With Singer, Dancer & Drag Artist Darcey Nox

A triple-threat herself, poised and polished Darcey Nox has had a recent residency hosting the ‘Triple Threat’ cabaret at Studio in Brighton, alongside fellow performers the fabulous Miss Ava Cardo, the energetic Miss Mary O’Kart, and occasionally the soulful Miss Alex Fincher.

The show’s set to continue, with the new venue yet to be confirmed. Darcey is also known for her work with Qwerk, her residency at The Marine Tavern on Broad Street, and the Tucked Brunch bedlams. Continue reading to find out more!

Tell me the Darcey Nox origin story. How did you discover drag?

I was born in Brighton but lived in Spain for eleven years. I returned to the UK to live in London for eight years, and then moved back to Brighton four years ago. At the time I was recovering from a dance injury where I tore my ACL. I’d just taken on a ‘normal’ job getting used to new Brighton life.

After about a year I started to feel the urge to perform again. I didn’t want to dance though – and go through the whole audition process again – been there, done that, it was not for me again. Quentin messaged me, who would be the director of an alternative pantomime we did, ‘Big Dick Whittington & His Pussy’, starring Mrs Moore, Stephanie Von Clitz, Miss Jason, Davina Sparkle, Dave Lynn, Lola Lasagne, Jason Lee, Alan Jay, Sally Vate! We started rehearsals and very quickly I became good friends with Steph Von Clitz.

She mentioned her open mic drag night at the Marine Tavern, and asked if I’d ever considered drag. I’d done it here and there for a bit of fun but had never considered it as a job. She told me to come down to watch her night and see what’s what, and then if wanted to do it she would book me in.

I watched one night and thought “I can do that, but ten times better!”, I went to my first week and completely bombed it – but enjoyed the night so much! From there I just kept on going regularly. It wasn’t long before I was in at Le Village doing my first big show. That’s when Darcey took off. That’s the origin story. Hah!

Please describe your cabaret act. Who is Darcey Nox?

Well. Darcey is the Brighton blonde bimbo bombshell in blue – the five B’s! That means she can count but she’s also incredibly dumb! She’s a mixture between the old-school cabaret style of drag with the new-school style. She’s a dancing, campy, singing, funny drag queen, who does everything from 60s to 90s, musicals, even current songs! She enjoys making people smile and laugh even if it’s at her own expense.

My drag stems from femininity, OTT, and stupidity! I’m not precious about being perfect all the time. I’m more than happy to be the butt of a joke, I’ve learnt in this industry that you really have to be able to take it before you can dish it out. You can’t just be one of those queens who dishes out comments every five seconds and not be able to take it yourself.

Darcey is what I like to call “a stupid fairy princess, who believes the whole world is her stage”! The world is my stage, and the stage is my world. I love the little hits of adrenaline I get at the very beginning of a performance. I love warming the audience up. I love surprising the audience. I’ve found as a new queen often the audience takes a while to warm up because they don’t know me. Maybe it’s because I’m young they think I’m either going to lip-sync or just be singing chart hits.

When I surprise them with Elton John or Elvis they’re like “Oh, hello!” This queen has done her homework! I cater to all. Well, I’d like to think I do. That’s my favourite feeling when I surprise a crowd.

What kind of response has Darcey Nox had so far?

It has been mixed. I’ve gone from nought to a hundred very quickly. I’ve done things in a very short period of time. It’s never been said to me, but I did feel as though some people thought I was going to fail or burn myself out. I think people forget or don’t know that I come from a performing background, drag is new to me but performance isn’t. I like to think of myself as quite ruthless. I will get somewhere if I want to get there. It’s like a competition with myself, I want to be the best that I can be and then better and better. I set myself milestones and go from there.

The responses I’ve had to my drag have been mostly positive. If not always. There’s always someone who won’t like you or your drag. I always say, “Well, if you don’t like it, don’t come!”. I always see drag as a job for me. It’s not a way of life. I don’t wake up and get into drag, well sometimes I do when I have to be in drag very early! But I don’t go to sleep thinking of drag, I don’t dream about it, I have my day to day life as well!

Most of my training has been in musical theatre, ballet, and contemporary dance. What I’ve heard of my technique has kind of translated into my every day life, so the two sides of me do interact. If I’m not in drag I still carry myself well. Brighton is a small place. I’ll walk down St. James Street most days and see someone I know. I do love the sense of community. The Brighton circuit is like a family. Everyone has their differences but ultimately we do love each other and care for each other. Being able to give back to the community is the icing on the cake.”

Recently, you’ve begun to branch out into the London scene. Does anywhere else quite compare to Brighton?

“I’ve had a handful of gigs. I’ve loved being back in London, living there for eight years it does feel like a second home, but nowhere compares to Brighton! It’s definitely a challenge though. There’s so much talent down here, such incredible acts. It’s not dog-eat-dog, but you either get your foot in and keep it in or – you don’t! I’m never going to say I’m the best performer or the best singer, but what I think I do bring to the stage is something different. That’s my way in! I don’t know if it’s working, but it seems to be for me!

It humbles me to be one of the queens on the scene. There’s such incredible cabaret here – Billie Gold, Von Clitz, Alex Fincher, Miss Jason, Snow White Trash – there’s so many of them and they’re all incredible in their own way. They all bring something special and something different. I love the variety you get in Brighton. It’s a hard gig to get into, but once you’re there it’s brilliant.

What’s been the highlight of your cabaret career? And does any moment particularly stand out as the worst?

I’ve definitely had my fair share of gigs where I’ve come off and thought, “I bombed that, that was absolutely awful” and I’ve felt rubbish to the point where I’m questioning whether I’m even any good! I won’t mention the venue, but I very recently did a charity event where I felt I just bombed completely. I didn’t show my true potential. I didn’t have my game on. I didn’t show Darcey in truth. But it’s the ones where you do well, where you come off and go “Oh my God, that was incredible, I want to do it again!”.

One of the best experiences was when I did three shows in one day! Although, afterwards I was absolutely knackered, but each gig I did was euphoric. The amount of love I felt from each crowd was amazing. Nothing else can beat it. Another gig I did recently up in London, I was only set to go on for a short amount of time, but the audience were loving it so much they were wanting more and more! Each time they kept cheering for an encore. I just kept going! I have enough songs to go on for over two hours, but my gigs are on average an hour to an hour-and-a-half long.

As a drag artist – a fundamentally and historically rebellious occupation – how do you feel about the current Government’s recent draconian policies?

I’ve always been a more liberal person. I have a liberal ethos – everybody should have the right to live somewhere, travel where they like, everybody should have the right to have the same level of respect and dignity shown to them as is shown to people who live here.

Being part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I personally have always felt like a bit of an outcast. Living in different places I’ve had different experiences in my life and been treated differently. In Spain when I was growing up, I wasn’t bullied but I was made very aware of my Englishness and that I was an English kid living in Spain. Kids were always going say something, if it wasn’t that it would have been about me being overweight as a child or a gay boy. I think kids can be the worst!

It never got to me really, I never felt as though I was unwelcome in Spain. Some kids can be horrible, obviously not everyone – there were incredible people I was friends with. My mum owns a bar out there, a lot of the people who would come in would obviously be Spanish, we’d go to parties and family events. They were accepting and welcomed us with open arms even though we were from England. I’ve had both sides I suppose, and I guess that’s why I always want to make people feel loved and welcome. You never know what someone is going through or has gone through.

I’ll happily sit down with someone who has opposing views to me and discuss it. But it’s absolutely disgusting that we’d deny refugees access to the country or make it any harder than it already is. It’s not just the UK of course. But in the UK we seem to celebrate being a tolerant and modern country. Why are we all of sudden going backwards? I’ve listened to both sides of the story, I just don’t understand why we should deny people access to our country whether they want to visit or if they’re looking for a better life. It’s disgusting.

We’re lucky in England, most of us don’t go through the hardships these people are escaping. Yes there’s always going to be bullying and so on, in whatever country or context – that’s actually something I’d like to see challenged and change, LGBTQIA+ should be seen as more normal. Homophobic bullying just shouldn’t be a thing, especially in schools.

It’s improving for sure. But in over 70 countries being gay is still illegal and underground, just to put it into the LGBTQIA+ context. So, people saying these refugees and immigrants shouldn’t have access to our country – it’s awful. Say there’s a young teenager who realises they’re gay, and they want to move to a country where they’re able to be themselves and not live in fear. To deny people a better life is disgusting. I know everyone has their own views on the issue, and I don’t dismiss their views but that’s just what I think. Love wins! Haha!

If you could give your younger self some constructive advice, what would it be?

Stop caring about what people think. I think that goes for my adult self too, I’m still trying to learn that. You’re not going to please everybody and that’s okay. People will say bad things, everyone’s allowed an opinion. Just don’t focus on that too much. Just focus on you and the people who love you. That, and don’t smoke!

Who are your artistic inspirations?

Although my name comes form Darcey Bussell, who is a retired prima ballerina – she now lives in Australia – I always get a lot of my inspiration from different dancers around the world – everything from can-can dancers, the Moulin Rouge, ballet dancers, tap dancers, contemporary dancers – they’ve always been my biggest inspirations. I get a lot of inspiration from ancient deities as well. Greek mythology, Egyptian mythology, Norse mythology, etc.

People like Stephanie Von Clitz and Billie Gold of course, they’ve definitely influenced my drag. They’ve inspired me in so many ways throughout my drag career. Some of the old underground movements as well, the Club Kids for example. I get costume ideas from them. The drag that has paved the way for us as a younger generation of LGBTQIA+ people.

People like Dave Lynn, Miss Jason, Davina Sparkle, and Rose Garden are such an inspiration too. They paved the way for us to be able to hold hands in public. They grew up in at time when being gay was illegal, everything had to be underground and behind closed doors. My message is that I’m not going to stop fighting, we’ve still got a long way to go. I’m grateful for the work you’ve done, I can’t wait to start my work as well. Through drag, protest, anything I can do to make a difference.

What effect do you think Drag Race is having on drag in this country?

I believe it’s had a good influence on drag. It’s made it more popular. It definitely sparked an interest for me. Although, I wouldn’t say I’m a RuPaul drag baby, as in I didn’t start drag because of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s a good thing though, it’s taken drag into people’s homes, it’s made queer culture more normal and better understood.

I’ve spoken to heterosexual people who wanted to talk about Drag Race, they ask questions and are really interested. Not just heterosexual women, but straight men too. I think it’s interesting now we have this heterosexual man on Drag Race which is all very new. But I don’t think that it’s as new as people are treating it. There have always been heterosexual drag artists.

Taking a look at the British version, I felt it was such a shame how little of Joe Black we got to see! I absolutely adore Joe Black, he’s such an incredible artist. He’s brilliant, and beyond creative. I don’t think some of the queens who have been on the UK version have gotten the opportunity to showcase how amazing they are. I’m not sure if I would go on Drag Race though, I’m happy with what I’m doing at the moment. Hopefully I’ll get more gigs up and down the UK in the future.

Thank you Miss Darcey, it’s been incredible!

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