DRAG ME TO BEEFCAKESby Storm Mudde / Illustration by Kaylin Carollisen / 22.10.2015
I am obviously nervous as my companion and I walk towards the neon pink sign. I’ve read reviews and watched Connie and Carla enough times to know what to expect from a place like this but I still feel the anxiety tingle in every ounce of my being. I do not drink. I do not dance. I do not know what the hell I am doing here on a Monday night.
A manager with turquoise hair and a glossy smile greets us at the door and immediately informs us of an R80 cover charge for the show. After a few moments of awkward “yes we know’s” and “thank you very much’s,” we are shown to a table overlooking a tiny stage. I notice two complimentary hats dipped in glitter and placed carefully on the table amongst long feather boas and plastic flamingos. I glance down at my plain white t-shirt, leather jacket and jeans and feel more exposed than the shirtless waiter who quickly arrives to take our order.
“Are we sucking or nibbling tonight, ladies?” he asks without breaking eye contact. I feel the blood rush to my cheeks and fumble for a witty response from my, ‘I-studied-English-literature-at-university-for-three-years’, mental folder. But I fail miserably and now look like a tit in front of a man who sees fake breasts on a daily basis. Sensing my absolute horror, my friend takes it upon herself to order us both a glass of white wine, from a menu riddled with options like “Blowjob” and “Pink Lady.” The booze arrives and I try to loosen up.
We chat about our new degrees, recent travels and plans for the future, deliberately ignoring how strange it feels to be on a dinner date, in a drag diner. I’ve barely sunk my teeth into a “Slimmer Sue” burger, when a theatrical voice demands that we prepare for the arrival of The Queen. At this point, I order another glass of Tokara Sauvignon Blanc.
She’s tall, over 6ft, wearing platform high heels, with muscular thighs and arms exposed in a tight leopard print dress. Her blonde wig is a GHD dream: smooth, straight, long and enviable. There is no denying that the way she effortlessly oozes sex appeal and confidence is both exciting and intimidating. Although the venue is reasonably quiet for a weekday, her energy is magnetic and all eyes are fixated on the modern-day pop princess. The DJ spins a Katy Perry track and instead of cringing, as I normally would, I find myself clapping and singing along with a group of young girls celebrating an eighteenth birthday.
After thirty minutes and forty decades of the most colourful pop music, the show is over and I’ve made some new friends. I’ve also somehow managed to squeeze in another glass of liquid courage, and my poor little unprepared head is spinning. Despite the sickening realisation that I will be hung-over in the morning, I continue to enjoy my rare night-out, without inhibition. The atmosphere is light, fun and I forget about all impending academic deadlines and disappointments.
Contrary to my very public declaration that I can “party all night,” I’m exhausted and ready to go home by 11pm. As I carefully navigate towards the exit, I am made aware of the fact that the princess of pop has disappeared. In her place is a casually dressed man with short hair, clear skin and not a trace of the overarched eyebrows, false eyelashes and bright lipstick can be found on his freshly washed face. The transformation is as uncomplicated as her powerful stage presence. Once again I am in awe of this creative hyper-feminine character; a constructed persona and consciously crafted brand that is able to entertain and open minds to new possibilities and experiences.
En route to the southern suburbs, I think about how grateful I am to be a citizen of a country with a constitution that supports freedom of expression. I am even more grateful to live in a province that is predominantly tolerant of alternative lifestyles and art. I know that it could be worse; that it is worse in some communities and that Beefcakes is just a bubble – a protected world away from the harsh realities of gender-related hate crime. I look down at my friend’s baby blue acrylic nails that have been sharpened to a dangerous point and embellished with sequins, stars and glitter. What was I so afraid of?
Artwork © Kaylin Carollisen