As a group, drag queens are known for being a talented bunch. Some are singers, some are dancers, some are expert seamstresses. Most queens will tell you it takes more than glitter and a good pair of falsies to make it in this day and age; if you want to add longevity to your drag career, you also need a skill.
Aussie queen Kitty Glitter has no troubles in that department. Hailing from Sydney, she’s a successful international star who’s performed all over the globe, from Shanghai to Saskatoon. But her gift isn’t gluing on sequins at the speed of sound or the ability to lip-sync Céline Dion’s entire repertoire from memory. Glitter is a sought-after DJ, spinning beats guaranteed to get the party pumping wherever she goes. And on June 20, she’ll bring the party to Ottawa.
Glitter will be performing at the Bank Street Glow Fair, Ottawa’s inaugural festival of light and electronic music. For two days in June, the Glow Fair will close down Bank Street, bringing neon installations, performance art and talented musicians and DJs to the Village. Of course, no festival in the gaybourhood would be complete without drag queens, and Glitter will be leading the fray.
“I started doing drag probably about 16 years ago,” she says. “I started doing a talent quest, like every other drag queen does, and won that talent quest . . . then I started doing shows on Oxford Street in Sydney.”
She spent about seven years performing on Sydney’s drag circuit, doing collaborative stage productions with other queens. In 2006, she was named Sydney’s Favourite Drag Queen at that city’s DIVA Awards and decided it was time to add another element to her act.
“When the word got out that I was learning how to DJ, the venues that I was working in doing shows said, ‘Why learn at home? Just come and learn on the job.’ So I basically got thrown in the deep end. Because I had a strong following doing shows, I had a lot of people that were really interested to see how I was going to do as a DJ,” she says.
Ignoring the skeptics, Glitter followed her passion and soon found herself working all over Australia, then in Asia and North America. She says it was a natural blending of mediums and made sense for her as a drag queen performing mainly in clubs. “A DJ is an entertainer, and a drag queen is an entertainer, so why not combine them, I thought? Music has always been a passion of mine, so it was just a natural progression, I guess.”
When she works the clubs, Glitter says, she typically plays remixes of popular hits. But if she’s working a larger event, she goes for a sound that’s harder and edgier. In addition to honing her chops as a DJ, she also had to work on establishing her character. “When Kitty first started, she was like a hot, tartish (I must say) club kid. These days I don’t really party so much, but the character’s still there. She’s a bit wild and vampy.”
Originally, she had planned to call herself Kitty Litter but settled on Glitter to lend more glamour to her image. “My star sign is a Leo, so I’ve always felt a bit feline, I guess, in spirit,” she says. “I knew I wanted to be a pussycat of some sort.”
Glitter’s success has enabled her to travel internationally, and she has become a mainstay of Toronto Pride (where she’ll be heading after Glow Fair). She says she’s impressed by what Canada’s gay scene has to offer, particularly given that Australia doesn’t yet have marriage equality. “We have festivals in Sydney, Australia, but it really didn’t compare size-wise to what Toronto delivers. I think Canada’s just got it happening — I need to find a husband and move there, I think!”
Glitter’s globetrotting has also taken her to places where being gay is less accepted, and she’s had to learn to adapt, she says. “It changes so drastically from country to country, so you’ve really got to adjust to which city you go to.”
In places like Shanghai, for instance, she mainly keeps to the clubs when she’s dolled up. “In Toronto, I’d be out in the streets at all times of the morning in drag,” she says.
Of course, sometimes the most exciting and unexpected things happen closest to home. After playing a gig in Singapore, Glitter learned that Lady Gaga had been in the audience and got to meet her after her set. She returned to Sydney with a story to dine out on, but that wasn’t the end of it. “A few weeks later, I got a message from Gaga’s personal assistant saying, ‘We’re having a private party; we’d love you to come and DJ for us.”
Thinking the star and her crew were back in LA, Glitter declined the invitation, only to find out that they were in Melbourne, Australia. “I was able to do that, and it was phenomenal,” she says. “It was a private party just with her crew, no media, no fans, so I really got to see her comfortable and relaxed and having a lot of alcohol and a lot of fun . . . [Gaga] came up to me as soon as she came into the room and said, ‘Thank you so much for doing this; everybody loves your music,’ so she was really sweet.”
With fans like Lady Gaga and an international career that only seems to be getting hotter, it’s safe to say Kitty Glitter’s appearance at the Bank Street Glow Fair will be an event not to be missed. “I’m looking forward to it,” she says. “I’m really honoured that they’ve asked me to come along.”