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Kings of Joy podcast interview with Casual Harry: The Drag Daddy of South Africa

drag king kings of joy podcast Sep 22, 2023

Danica Lani 0:05
Hello and welcome. My name is Danica Lani. I'm known as the King Coach and you're listening to the Kings of Joy podcast. I am joined today with an incredible performer who I cannot wait to introduce you to... Casual Harry all the way from Cape Town, South Africa. Welcome Casual, Harry.

Casual Harry 0:25
Hi, thank you so much for having me on your podcast today. It's an absolute honor.

Danica Lani 0:32
Great, it's such a pleasure. I'm glad that you reached out. What how do you like to introduce yourself? What do you want people to know about who you are?

Casual Harry 0:43
So my name is Casual Harry and I am a Drag King and boylesque dancer. And my training specifically is in boylesque, which is an offshoot of Burlesque. Essentially burlesque being a hyper feminine expression, and boylesque being the masculine expression of a similar dance form. So in South Africa, I'm known as primarily the Boy of Burlesque. However, I've recently, rebranded renamed, as I'm expanding my repertoire into Drag as the Drag Daddy of South Africa, because I am essentially creating a platform and upskilling a number of... basically creating a platform for masculine expression within performance in South Africa, which is something I've tried to do before, but it's now ready, and people are really taking to it. So hence, the sort of Drag Daddy, you know, new approach, new rebranding.

Danica Lani 1:52
Yes, I love it. And I love it, because we are doing a similar thing here in Sydney. But tell me, I'm really curious about what's the climate, like in South Africa in terms of Drag or boylesque? Or leaning into the masculine at all, and in the LGBTQIA community? But beyond that, as well? What's it like there?

Casual Harry 2:16
So South Africa is, you know, we've got quite an interesting sort of political, economic climate. We've got a culture that is incredibly diverse, number one. Just to give an overview, we've got 11 official languages in our country. So we are called the Rainbow Nation because of that. And so we've got an enormous amount of different perspectives, different cultures, and also, you know, unfortunately, different education levels, which really splits our country. And I think what's been so beautiful and interesting about the Drag side of things is it's one space, where everything, all of the differences all these big, you know, essentially, what in the past has sort of created quite a separation, Drag is bringing us together under one umbrella, which has been really profound. And I think within the Drag King space, we're seeing that same theme or that same movement, and we're - it's not being defined by gender, class, education or culture, but more, it's being brought together in this expression, and this need for this expression of the masculine performance. And I'm finding that is such an incredible space of healing in our country, where, you know, we're all coming together under this sort of equal footing, Where it's new, it's marginalized. And we are all equal under this one need to express something that really doesn't exist yet in this country. And so as I have put the word out to, you know, for this platform, which I call the Kings Colab. Every week, I'm getting more people phoning me, messaging me saying, I'm really wanting to do this, can I get involved? And I'm saying yes, absolutely. These are the various things I'm doing, you know, whatever feels resonant to you come and get involved, and it's literally black, brown, white, you know, and that's what we're also finding in terms of gender expressions. There's just the variety of gender expressions. So on that topic as well, after shows, I've often gone- you know, when you go out to meet the audience at the after party, you know, I get various different gender expressions coming to me going, you know, I didn't know I would want to do Drag but I think you know, because of how I identify I need to be a Drag queen. And I said, I'm like, No, absolutely not, Anyone can be a Drag King. Is the calling for you in the masculine expression? Then Drag Kinging is for you, or boylesque is for you. And so I think we're still in that process, I'm not sure where you guys are, but we're still in that process of unpacking what a Drag King actually is. And it's, you know, 10 years, even to this day and age, which I'm seeing is quite a common theme globally is you can even be sitting at a dinner party amongst Queers. And you say, Well, I'm a Drag King, and they've never heard of it before. So it's not even- it's something that we in our community are still learning about, and still getting excited about.

Danica Lani 5:51
What an exciting time. And this is not your first rodeo, how long have you been doing this kind of work for?

Casual Harry 5:58
So I have been in Drag and boylesque for over 11 years now. And people have often asked me, you know, how did you get into it? And it's such a strange thing, because when I did this, I started with burlesque. And I went in as obviously, that hyper feminine expression, and there was no signs of the masculine performance in this country. They were whispers of it here and there, but but not really anyone to learn from or go by. And it was just this character that came out of me. And it was quite provocative at the time, because even at that stage, there wasn't the sort of clear understanding of non-binary or different gender expressions. We were still in South Africa, at least, you know, even the concept of gender queer hadn't that word I hadn't even heard yet. So it was quite threatening, even from a queer perspective that, you know, I could come on as the sort of hyper feminine role, and then the next breath be coming on as a man. And you know, and that was, I remember, even at that point, even within the queer world, that wasn't something that people were feeling very comfortable with. And over time, people became more comfortable with it. And then these sort of new expressions of gender came out. And I tried and I reached out at that stage to try and create a platform. But still, really, we weren't ready for that in the country. And so I think just after locked down, when we started, I think it might have been similar in Sydney, where where there was the sort of trend where we could start reaching through zoom and like what we're doing, you know, reaching into and out to other Kings in other countries, and start getting, you know, learning from each other. And that really has created more visibility and more willingness for individuals to start getting on stage for the sort of masculine expression.

Danica Lani 8:03
Beautiful. And I have a confession, which is that I've never heard of boylesque. I don't know if that's just me? But what is it that makes boylesque different than Drag? Or is there a crossover? How would you distinguish that art form? And what do you love about it?

Casual Harry 8:22
It's very exciting that you say that. Just in terms of that we are still in the brink in the fringe of this new movement, and I love that. I love that in 2023, there's still so much to explore within this artform. So Boylesque is the shoot off of Burlesque. And so essentially, it has an element of striptease in it. You must cover your nipples and you must wear underwear. So those are the three elements that define burlesque and therefore boylesque. It is focused to the sensual or the sexual so that's why the striptease comes in. Of course, we can- there are characters within burlesque or boylesque. So you could get the what we would call cheesecake, which is more of the comedy and the parody of the form whether it be masculine or feminine. Then you would get in say, the feminine version, which would be the seductress. So you would in boylesque, get the lover boy or the player. But essentially it is to do with seducing, seduction, the art of strip tease and there isn't lip syncing. So that would be I would say quite specific. In terms of Drag Kinging, it tends to be more over the top. If you think about with boylesque, our counterparts are a feminine that is quite natural. Even though it is hyper feminized, whereas with Drag Kinging, when we look at the Drag Queen, we want to stand up next them. It's going to be a little more dramatized. More over the top and also based in lip synching. So you can strip, you can perform, you can dance. But the focus is around the lip syncing, and the sort of over the top expression. Whereas in boylesque, a lot of the time we wanting to pass as real mean , whatever that might mean. And when I'm teaching boylseque, I often start with, what is the sexy part of the mess? What do you find sexy and masculine? What are you trying to express from a sexy point of view? So those two I would say is where it differs

Danica Lani 10:55
Amazing. And you are going to be gracing our shores very shortly. And leading a workshop on the secrets, your secrets of choreography. Can you tell us a little bit about what we could expect from the workshop?

Casual Harry 11:13
Absolutely. So I teach boylesque and Drag in South Africa, in Cape Town. I've got a troupe that I have launched and started, it's called the Rebel Sons. And I have a production company called the Kings Colab. And so, because of this, I have defined down almost exactly what I would say a toolkit and a dance form that we can start calling boylesque and Drag. Because I've found, in my process, one of the hardest parts and even in my workshops, when I speak to seasoned Drag Kings from abroad, is that people struggle with choreo. And it's something that has broken me down over the years where I just wished I could go to a boylesque class and someone could just give me a base to work from so that from there, I could expand and had I had that seven years ago, I think I I would be much further than I am now. And so I want to give that to people. I've spent so many years crafting this toolkit together so that there's this base to work from as a community. And it's something I feel quite strongly to just sort of lets, you know, to get it out there to give it to other performers so that they can, they've got a base that they can start from and they might hate or love some movements, but at least there they can start building on it. And in that way, also just to uplift the community. And to take it to the next level. I really believe that Drag Kings need to start all the ability for us to start cross pollinating information and knowledge is going to take our art form to a whole new level. And so that really is what I'm trying to bring across, I know I'm going to be learning so much from Sydney's scene and the Drag Kings there and I cannot wait to learn and bring these new gifts back to South Africa. But I also feel that I want to bring something to you guys and leave something there so that we are sharing and we are sharing knowledge,

Danica Lani 13:22
Yes, so important. And it makes our world a whole lot rounder to be global together. So that's really exciting. So the workshop is happening on Saturday, the 23rd of September, from 2pm to 5pm at the Working Kind Collective. So you can click on the link below to get your tickets to attend the workshop. I'll be there. I can't wait to be learning from you. And, I'm really, really happy that you're coming over, and that we can share this. One last question, what is your vision for the future globally for Drag Kings around the world?

Casual Harry 13:59
So I really believe that we need strong leadership and people doing things here. We have to step into our own power. I believe that this art form is so much, the essence of this art form is stepping into one's power. It helps to access authenticity. There is so much that is happening around the world. You know, there are boylesque competitions, for example, in Berlin. There's the big boylesque festival and so wouldn't it be fabulous if we can go there. And we are living in a global world now. So isn't it great that we can start to actually go into performing abroad and so you know, in South Africa at the moment, I am, you know, establishing sponsorship, we want to bring over people, you know, international performers to South Africa. Annually, so I run my shows three times a year. So then the last of the shows, we aim to bring international performers over, but also that I want to start taking South African performers abroad. Because there is so much opportunity, especially, you know, we come from a third world country. There is very little support, financial support, or any really real support in the arts. And so it's quite it, it creates a deep sense of value, being in a country that is prepared to pay it's Drag artists in the way that say, you know, Sydney is paying their artists. We don't have that sort of intrinsic value here or ability here. So I feel that the more that we actually expose each other to different countries will start to understand what kind of value this art form actually really has.

Danica Lani 15:58
Yes, absolutely. I couldn't agree more. Thank you so much Casual Harry. It's so great to see you online and I cannot wait until we're in person together. Yeah, it's gonna be so much fun.

Casual Harry 16:11
Yeah, very excited.

Danica Lani 16:12
I know you're doing several gigs as well, so we can find out about that as well. But thank you for being on the Kings of Joy podcast. Can't wait for your Choreo Toolkit Secrets. And we'll learn all about that next Saturday, the 23rd of September. So thank you so much!

Casual Harry 16:31
See, you see you on the other side.

>>>Grab your tickets to the Drag King Choreo Secrets with Casual Harry Workshop

Sat 23 Sep, 2-5 pm


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