Princesses: Caroline Mitchell, Aisha Khan, Zodwa Nyoni, Kirsty Taylor
Location: Shakespeare Avenue, Leeds
Caroline: “They (princesses) made me want to give them a good shake as a child. especially the one in The Princess and the Pea. Bruised because she was too tender! Oh please.”
Aisha: “This project made me giggle in a ‘ooh I’d like to do that’ kind of way!”
Zodwa: “There is a westernized stereotype of what princesses look like, usually blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Certainly with fair hair and skin. I come from a culture with royalty that doesn’t look like that, but is never held up, celebrated and respected as royalty.”
Kirsty: “Should I bring like a tracksuit top and Nike air max to go with the dress? With me Pat Butcher earrings?! Is that the look or not really…?!”
It is now! #PrincessRealness
As a boy (which is most of the time…) I work in social media. I’ve been doing drag for a few years on fun projects or performances I think are cool. I used to really worry about doing ‘amazing’ drag and looking as much like a woman as I could, however, over time I just decided to do projects which I thought were interesting. I’ve run around Leeds Market filming for the council, I’ve been in a music video for a rock and roll band and I made 400 people take part in a 80s themed work out with me at Leeds Town Hall. That sort of stuff.
My drag name is Maria Millionaire and I wear a lot of black.
As a drag queen I’m aware of always doing things ‘dressed as a girl’ which aren’t derogatory or insulting to women. As a drag queen I want to celebrate womanhood. I’m not sure the ideal archetype of a princess does that. It often presents women in the way of needing saving, needing a man or that the only worthwhile pursuit is singing to birds and collecting fruit. Princesses are I suppose, a form of drag, in that they present a made up, over-feminised version of reality, but I feel drag is a critique of our expectations of humanity – we over draw our eyebrows, play with silhouettes and wear oversized hair to draw attention to the fact that in life we all wear masks or different identities.
Typical princesses only offer one dimension, drag offers thousands.
I’m not sharing any project portraits until we get closer to the exhibition, but I can tell you about some of the Princesses. On the morning the general election results came in, Kath Morgan-Thompson and I had surreal fun in the ladies’ loos at the gorgeous Iberica, Leeds.
Kath is many things. A Yoga teacher; Bollywood, Kathak and Northern Soul dancer; performance artist; kick-arse comedian and a Mum. Her burlesque character Mrs No Overall is a downtrodden ordinary cleaning lady who breaks out from domestic drudgery in a celebration of middle-aged exuberance – and she won the Welsh Heat of Burlesque Idol 2016. Her other comedy burlesque character – Lady FTP – messes with the stereotype of a posh country lady, and has been accepted to compete in Burlesque Idol 2017 in London. And most recently Kath was a member of The Gulabi Gang in the Transform Festival production of The Darkest Corners, produced by the dance and theatre company RashDash (‘The punk princesses of late night theatre’ – according to The Guardian).
I asked Kath about her opinion on fictional, fairy-tale Princesses:
I’m one of six children and have four brothers, so spent a lot of my childhood on a bike or in a rugby scrum. Though being the only girl child for ages meant that I was mum’s little helper, and also treated a bit more special.
I was never really bothered for the princess thing as a little girl and saw through the ridiculous idea of a prince coming to save me. That was probably due to the mystique of manhood being farted out of me by my four flatulent brothers!
I like the idea of a punk princess (Siouxsie Sioux) and my favourite fiction character is Ripley from the Alien films. A smart, athletic, independent princess not a frothy, fluffy marshmallow princess.
I had a discussion with my daughter Pearl (19) about this and she says she liked fairies better than princesses because
a) they have powers that make them kickass
b) they can wear cool outfits
c) they don’t need anybody to save/rescue them…
So where/how the hell does a Princess store her massive frocks? I got a couple of costumes from a charity shop. This one took up the entire back seat of my car.
And we won’t be using this chair until I figure out storage…