Polari Pages – In Conversation With Actor, Live Singer & Drag Artist Ava Cardo

Enter entertainer, actor, live singer, and drag artist Miss Ava Cardo! I had the pleasure of chatting to Jack (a.k.a. Ava Cardo) in a very middle-class cafe in the centre of Brighton. Ava now performs all over the UK, including in all your favourite London, Manchester, and Brighton venues! Read on to get some insight into the wonderful world of Miss Ava!

Tell me the Ava Cardo origin story. Who is Ava Cardo?

I started doing drag in 2016, but originally I wasn’t called Ava Cardo as I was working for this holiday-entertainment company in the Canary Islands. I won’t say her name because I don’t like that character so much! When I moved to London in 2017 I wanted to continue the drag so I needed to come up with a new identity – my own act! I was very much performing under this company and now I wanted to perform as myself.

The name I came up with because I was newly vegan at the time! There’s a rich history of drag queens naming themselves after food, I liked the name Ava. It’s silly, it goes with my character. When I started doing gigs on the London scene the name stood me out because it made people laugh!

I definitely transform when I’m in drag compared to my everyday life. I’m quite quiet, chilled, reserved. I’m much more confident nowadays, and when I’m in drag – Ava is very confident! She laughs at herself, she’s not afraid to make a fool of herself on stage. She’s quite naughty, she’s not afraid to flirt with the audience and tell dirty jokes!

She’s a bit outrageous, whereas Jack is quite the opposite. The transformation is not just the costume but the character as well. She’s still a part of me, the character comes from me and my personality – just perhaps not the side of me everyone gets to see out of drag.

What was your first experience in drag like?

The first time was at university, I dressed up for a party – my friend had a drag-themed party. I remember dressing up and I was very interested in the make-up. It was such a liberating experience, and something about it that just felt right. Whenever I did it I’d get a lot of compliments, which was a good ego boost I suppose. I went to drama school as well, so I had a lot of performer friends, and to be working as a drag performer was a bit different.

Tell me about your creative inspirations.

Definitely old school British live drag queens! That tongue-in-cheek, innuendo humour. Stand up comedy. Those queens who trained me in the beginning in the Canary Islands, and here in the UK – big names like Dave Lynn, Mary Mack, Son Of A Tutu – seeing how they can hold an audience!

How’s the prep for the Fringe show going?

It’s a bit different! It’s very stressful because you’re putting on your own show. When I do gigs I just have to turn up to the venue and perform! When you do the Fringe Festival you don’t just have to perform in the show you have to devise a creative performance – a whole show from start to finish – every detail. These people have tickets, it’s not free cabaret in a pub! You also have to be props, tech, sounds, and doing all the marketing as well.

The show’s about two people falling in love and the stages of life together, there isn’t much dialogue. It’s all narration, music, physical comedy and theatre. They get married and have a baby, etc., etc.! It’s nice to do the drag and combine it with theatre. I’ve gone back to my acting roots! And I can combine the two worlds. I did panto recently for Christmas and Easter playing Snow White.

If you could change anything about the creative industries, what would it be?

I’d like to see more equality of opportunity, in terms of age, gender, sexuality, social class, ethnicity, and culture. Education particularly should be more accessible. Equal opportunities so that people can fulfil their dreams and pursue what they want to pursue! I couldn’t tell you how to resolve that though! I just think it’s important.

The music industry is dictated by how you look. You’re sold as a product. Some of these singers aren’t even good! Not compared to the man I see busking down the high street, or some of these teenage girls on TikTok!

Do you have any words of wisdom to impart?

Yes! What I’ve realised in finding drag is that being mostly self-employed gives you a lot more freedom to be creative. If you’re a creative person and you don’t know where to start nowadays you can create a drag persona and put yourself out there on social media. You can put your own Fringe show on and devise a whole creative performance, and someone might see it and give you another job! Do your own thing! Don’t rely on other people. Make your own work. Take what you love and make work out of it!

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