Ndella Longley interviews the sassiest (and possibly the only) drag queen in New Cross.
What do you think of when you think of drag queens? When I asked myself this question, my answer was pretty much two words…. “Ru Paul”, which left me wondering whether I was alone in my staggeringly meager knowledge of the drag industry.
It turns out I am not. Over the last few months I’ve been lucky enough to get to know someone who has to be one of the youngest queens in the business at just twenty years old, fabulous as both a male and a female, and kind enough to give me my crash course in drag education, as well as take part in an exclusive photo shoot with [smiths].
Ladies and gents, the marvellous Mitsie Monroe.
NL: What first interested you in drag? What draws you to it?
MM: Being able to be someone else for the night, a different character. Perry’s at home asleep and Mitsie’s out to play. Nobody knows who I am -I can go to a club and nobody knows me, which is cool.
NL: Can you remember the first time you saw a drag queen?
MM: I can. I was about 11, and I was in Brighton for May Day. I saw a guy wearing big pink feathers and it instantly attracted me and I said ‘Look at that woman!’ Mum and Dad said ‘No, that’s a man!’ and I thought, ‘You can do that?’, and ever since then it was in the back of my mind.
NL: How did you come up with the name Mitsie Monroe?
MM: I was working at Topshop and we were going through names and at the time I liked the character Mitsie from Hollyoaks, and then my friend and I both screamed ‘Monroe!’ We put the two together and along came Mitsie Monroe.
NL: In general, what are people’s reactions when you tell them? Do you think people find it shocking?
MM: No, every friend I’ve told has always reacted like ‘Oh-my-god-amazing-shut-up-show-me-a-picture!’ and they all want to know when she’s next going out so they can meet her. Everyone’s been supportive – I’ve never had a negative comment, thankfully. But I know I’ll have that to come.
NL: What do you think it is that some people might have a problem with?
MM: That I look better than their girlfriends! I mean, obviously a lot of people don’t like people being gay, which is one thing, but when gay people want to dress up like women, that’s a whole other thing. But…it’s 2015, it’s the 21st century!
NL: I bet loads of guys would love to get all dressed up!
MM: Yeah exactly, I just do it and get paid for it!
NL: Do you see Mitsie as quite connected and close to Perry, or more of a separate entity?
MM: A completely separate person. When I’m Perry, I’m Perry and Mitsie is just a friend. She’s at home in a box. And when I’m Mitsie, Perry’s the friend at home in bed and I’m completely Mitsie. I like that I can be two completely separate people. I’m secure enough in my sexuality to know that I don’t want to be trans, I don’t want to become a woman, it’s just a job, a living, a way to make money, be someone else for a few hours and then come home and be Perry.
NL: What is it that’s different about Mitsie’s personality compared to Perry?
MM: She does not give a fuck. She will walk into the club and if you’re in her way she’ll push you out the way! Seriously though, she’s got a lot more confidence, as soon as I’ve put on the finishing touches to Mitsie, that’s it, I’m a whole new person and Perry doesn’t exist for the night. She’s got sass, she’s so sassy… confidant and sassy.
NL: Is there a lot of rivalry and competition between queens?
MM: There is a lot of rivalry and I don’t really know why, because every queen is different, no queen is the same. I think they get scared when there are new queens on the block and think ‘they look dusted* and they’ve just started…!’ But I’m just a sweet bitch, I say ‘Hi, how ya doing’ and then say whatever I want behind your back!
NL: Is there a big difference between attitudes in New Cross and attitudes in Soho where there’s lots of gay clubs?
MM: Yeah there is because Soho is its own little country, its own little island. So it helps when there are other people around you who do it as well. I wouldn’t go out in New Cross in drag. The Amersham did a drag night and it just went completely wrong. The queens that were coming got quite a lot of verbal abuse so now they’ve stopped it. A lot of gays don’t go to the Amersham because they’re against it. New Cross is a no go, Soho is definitely the place.
NL: What advice would you give to aspiring queens?
MM: Don’t try and be that instant, beautiful, fishy** queen your first time doing it. Do it how you want to do it and then learn from your mistakes. Do something wrong ten times so you can eventually get it right.
NL: What about the process of getting dressed up and going out as someone else, is that ever difficult?
MM: No! Normal life as Perry’s just average, it’s good to be someone else for a few hours. What’s difficult is dealing with haters and the non-acceptance part… I’ve been walking down the street and had someone threaten to slit my throat before, which you just have to kind of brush off and run away as fast as you can in your heels!
If you want to meet Mitsie in person you’d better start hanging out in Soho ASAP! In the mean time you can follow her escapades on instagram at www.instagram.com/mitsiemonroe.
*dusted – the act of looking flawless, polished or perfected
**fishy – a queen who looks extremely feminine, or closely resembles a ‘biological woman’
Photography by Matthew Barnett