By TRACEY ROXBURGH
WHILE RuPaul’s Drag Race gets much of the credit, born-and-bred Queenstowner George Dagg was possibly always destined for his new career path.
Dagg works at Life’s a Grind Espresso by day and, more and more often, by night he transforms into Phoebe Moore, one of the Wakatipu’s founding drag queens.
It’s ironic considering it wasn’t that long ago, while living in Australia, he discovered a fear of them.
‘‘I was always scared of drag queens when I would go out … I would be very intimidated by them.
‘‘But the love for it started about five years ago when … I started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race … and seeing what the art of it was all about, and seeing how happy they became — these other personas and another side of them would come out.
‘‘That really helped me as well, just growing up gay, I guess.’’
While he and best friend Levi Tokona first embraced their own drag alter egos — Tokona performing as Indica Wolf — at a Pride event in Canada two years ago, for Dagg it wasn’t his first rodeo in heels and ladies’ fashion.
‘‘From a young age I was dressing up in my grandmother’s fancy dress clothes and wearing heels that were way too big for me, but that feminine side of me’s always been there and I’ve always been fascinated by women’s clothing and fashion.’’
Dagg reckons it wasn’t too hard to get used to the six- or seven-inch heels he performs in — Tokona, though, needed ‘‘a bit of training’’.
‘‘Respect to women that can wear heels seven days a week.
‘‘We can usually only last about three hours and that’s it, they’ve got to come off.’’
After the Canadian debut, the pair were hooked and decided to learn as much as they could about the art form, playing with make-up and gaining confidence before they started taking it to the people.
The make-up was the most time-consuming aspect — it can take up to five hours to do a ‘‘nice, polished face’’, he says.
‘‘It’s literally an art form, which is what’s so much fun because the possibilities with make-up are endless, and seeing your whole face transform is mind-blowing.’’
And while at the moment they’re buying most of their costumes online, the pair want to learn to sew to make their own outfits, and be more sustainable.
Dagg says by the time they moved back to Australia they were ready to go to more social events, like Drag Bingo, met some other queens and were inspired further to create their own personas and aesthetics.
When the pair came back to Queenstown early last year, ‘‘the opportunities just started to blow up’’.
‘‘There’s not that much of a drag scene here … other than Winter Pride there’s absolutely no kind of representation for that part of the rainbow flag.
‘‘What really inspired us was if we did this, and we did it right, we’d kind of be the founding queens, I guess, of that kind of movement.
‘‘I’ve seen it in Wellington and Auckland, it’s so prominent in the cities because it’s so easy to build a name for yourself in a city where there’s gay bars and a following already for that kind of thing.
‘‘That’s really what’s made it so exciting — we’re kind of front-runners, I guess.’’
The pair got in touch with a bunch of bars they were familiar with and others they thought would be gay-friendly, and were astounded at the positive feedback, which cemented their decision to try and carve out a name for themselves in the drag scene here.
They’re now hosting Drag Bingo nights themselves — the next event’s at Cargo at Gantley’s Pub tonight — and other, more social, events in bars where the aim’s to strut their stuff but also meet people and interact more with them.
Of tonight’s event, Dagg says it’s designed for people to forget about the distractions of 2020 for a couple of hours, ‘‘give people a good time and spread some love and joy’’.
One of the most exciting things for him is being able to follow his passion in his home town.
‘‘That’s such a dream.’’
Drag Bingo, Cargo at Gantley’s Pub, 7pm, tonight. Tickets $20 via ‘Indica Wolf’ or Cargo at Gantley’s Facebook pages