Kings of Joy Podcast interview with Ragnor the Ravishing: Breaking Viking Normative StereotypesOct 26, 2023
Danica Lani 0:00
Please welcome to the stage, our one and only Viking of the night... and of the community. Ragnor the Ravishing! Make yourself at home.
Danica Lani 0:30
So everyone, welcome to the Kings of Joy podcast Show Live at the Bandstand by Qtopia Sydney. Gathering here on Aboriginal land, so I'd like to pay my respects to the traditional custodians of the land where we've gathered today on Gadigal country of the Eora Nation and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded. So no treaty was ever signed. And it's time. There's something new coming. There's something coming. Something good is coming. I can feel it. So here we are. Ragnor the Ravishing!
Ragnor the Ravishing 1:15
Danica Lani 1:15
Hello. Tell us where do you hail from?
Ragnor the Ravishing 1:19
I am from the northeast coast of England from a Viking settlement called Skarthi Burg. Also known as Scarborough. But seriously, the original name was Skarthi Burg.
Danica Lani 1:34
Is that right?
Ragnor the Ravishing 1:35
Yeah, it's actually a Viking settlement. Yeah.
Danica Lani 1:37
Oh, wow. Okay, so we've gone deep - you went deep into your cultural heritage, then?
Ragnor the Ravishing 1:43
Danica Lani 1:43
Was that your inspiration for your Drag King persona?
Ragnor the Ravishing 1:47
I think there's always a little part of me that's always just wanted to be a bit of a Viking. I'm not gonna lie. So when I was looking at all of the options, what could I pull off? I was like, Ooo, yeah. Okay. Let's give that a bash. And here I am. Successfully. Yeah.
Danica Lani 2:03
And might I add, fresh from the stage, fresh from your debut performance? Tell us about that.
Ragnor the Ravishing 2:09
I performed for the first time with a beautiful group of humans last week. And we danced to Cream by Prince. This armor is still smelling a little creamy actually. I did give it a good wet wipe. But it didn't quite cut the mustard.
Danica Lani 2:30
Ragnor the Ravishing 2:31
Danica Lani 2:32
No. Nor the cream... So last week was your debut performance. What was it like having done the 6-week program? And what are you left with afterward?
Ragnor the Ravishing 2:47
A lot of dates. Actually. I got a lot of dates out of that performance... It turns out Ragnor's a thing. Like, people are into Viking vibes. Right? Like whom would have ever thought that? Yeah.
Danica Lani 3:04
But also you're a Viking on a mission. You're not just any Viking, right?
Ragnor the Ravishing 3:06
No, I'm not. I'm really trying to break Viking-normative stereotypes. Not all of us are pillagers. Some of us are just villagers. What you laughing at? And, you know, sometimes we need to be able to show up in different ways without being stereotyped. Just because of what we look like on the outside doesn't mean that's who we are on the inside.
Danica Lani 3:34
Can you say a little bit more about who you are on the inside? Just to reveal, just between us?
Ragnor the Ravishing 3:39
Yes. I am a person who had a very challenging childhood. Who struggled to be in my body for a long time. And who has made a career out of telling stories and being on stage in a different kind of way. Definitely less ass cheeks on show in my other role.
And I was diagnosed with autism and ADHD not long ago. And there's been a lot of transformational change in my own life. Which I probably wouldn't have engaged with if I didn't have a marriage that didn't work. And that pushed me into all kinds of exploration. Who am I? What's next? And the lack of authenticity in which I was living, I think was making me quite unwell from a physical lens. Like I've always been a bit glass half full in my head. I'm quite a happy human really. But in my body, I was suffering from chronic pain and discomfort and just wasn't doing very well.
So in the end, becoming medicated for my ADHD, going on a journey where I could start to embrace being in my body again, because I've always kind of just felt like I was this orb floating around with this body attached to me. Do you know what I mean? Yeah. And that's been a journey that I've been very intentionally going through.
So I can redefine trauma in the body to be about love, pleasure, and not pain, and the discomfort of trauma, whether that's generational trauma, or the other traumas that come with it. So, that's been my journey. And that's how I got involved with the Kings of Joy. My best friend did the program about a year and a half ago. And then I was like, Oh, what's this? And I came along. They were a Cat Daddy, by the way, The Ultimate Cat Daddy.
Danica Lani 5:52
Ragnor the Ravishing 5:54
Yes. And I was like, wow, this is really brave. And then a few other people I knew did it. And at that time, I was probably really lacking in confidence, in some ways. Lots of confidence in other ways. And was like, Okay, I need to kind of explore, is this something I want to do? As part of being around that community, I started to learn a lot more about gender diversity and things that had probably been going on in me that I had been suppressing for a long time.
And I tell the story now of how when I was younger, I used to get everybody to call me Andy. And I would only hang out with boys and girls were a bit gross. For the whole of my childhood, just wanted to play soccer, and why are they allowed to run around with their shirt off, I'm not allowed to run around my shirt off on the two days a year in Scarborough when it's sunshine. I mean, even a glimmer of sunshine behind that cloud, and we love our clothes off, you know.
So it's something I've suppressed for a long time. And once I started exploring it, there was no hiding Andy anymore. Everywhere I looked, Andy was there. Everyone I spoke to was on a journey that Andy could relate to. And the reality came where it was like, actually, if I'm going to live my next decade of my life in full authenticity of who I am, I need to remember that Andy is this beautiful human that deserves to be here and exist and not be afraid of being who I am.
So I think, yeah, so that's, that's how I came to get involved. I've always used humor and comedy as a way of disarming people. So I can be the true version of myself throughout life. And it served me very well if I'm being honest. But sometimes I think you do have to have honest, real candor, within the authenticity in which you want to show up. So people know you mean business. And I'm really proud. It's not been an easy journey, certainly with my career. I've had to take quite a few people on the journey with me and I changed my pronouns to she/they. Not because I am she/they. But because I know it's important that maybe the way I can show up is to create a safe space for those that are not as exposed to gender diverse people to get it wrong in the pursuit of them getting it right. So that's one of the reasons I changed my pronouns to she/they was just so eventually, the people that might not be able to get with the program will get there with my patience.
And I know that some people are like, No way, get my pronouns right. And that's how I feel inside. I heard Chris correct somebody earlier on my pronouns, and my heart sang. And I was like, Oh, my God, I just - when that happens, I really feel seen and loved. But it's a journey, and I'm in a position within my career and in my role, where I can take people on a journey. And transformation takes time and patience. And that's something I have in abundance. So that's my story until now.
Danica Lani 9:30
Beautiful, beautiful...And I know you've always had a strong connection with performance, as well. Can you tell us a little bit more about your journey and your story with performance?
Ragnor the Ravishing 9:45
Yeah, so I grew up on a traveller community on the northeast coast of England, and it was like tourist caravan parks. A bit like the NRMA big fall parks that you've got here. Except because it's raining all the time in the UK, they've got these big entertainment centers in the middle of them.
So as a kid, I grew up around traveling show people my whole entire life, from circus to performers to big, massive Broadway productions. It was a very overly sensory environment for a child like me. But it probably resulted in me having all of these unique communication abilities for somebody who's autistic. And I've met 1000s of people from a young age and could read people well, because everything was, you know, I was on fight or flight response all the time as a kid.
So it was always a place that I could go and I could daydream. And I could be in a different place, you know. Where I could sing, and I learned to dance from a young age. It was a place of escapism, really. And you know how a lot of neurodivergent people, one of the things is, are you a daydreamer? And it's like, yeah, I never want to come back. I love that place. So that was my childhood growing up.
And I also went into the care system for a while and one of the saving graces for me getting kicked out of school - not because I was like a mean kid. But I was just disruptive like, I was an undiagnosed unmedicated ADHD teenager that had grown up in a completely different environment and didn't operate within this system. So I'm like, why are we doing that? What's the point in that? Why are you doing that? Why do I have to wear this uniform? And then we're just like, get them out of here! Bloody hell, they're so annoying.
So for me at that age, it was, you know, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Now it's more like same-sex, vitamin B, and gluten-free sausage rolls. I say that joke every time but everyone seems to love it. Sometimes vegan, you know. So really, my journey throughout my life has been where sometimes it's the most unlikely characters that show up and have got the next key or piece to the puzzle for you. In the moments where you feel despair, in the moments where you feel alone. And loneliness is one of the most chronic conditions that we face in this world so many terrible outcomes come from with regards to mental health and all of those things.
And I've been lucky enough along the way to have met people that gave me the opportunity. I got the opportunity to go to drama school, which was an Alan Ayckbourn - I don't know if anyone knows Alan Ayckbourn the playwright. An amazing playwright from the Northeast Coast. Getting into that was a way at that age, where I was able to suddenly be in all of these characters that helped me process the reality of what had just gone on in my life.
And even when I was at school, I had a stammer. This stammer came out of the blue, from nowhere. And you know, when you're at schooling, you like, get that crippling insight like, Oh, my God, you've got read in a circle, and then they're gonna come to me, and I'm just wanna die and your anxiety peaks just before you have to do it. And I just went through this terrible period of just not being able to get my words out. And it's because I was so unable to process the world that was going on around me.
But then when I started performing, I didn't stammer. I didn't stammer when I was in character. And it was something that, you know, when you look at like Stanislavski, and method acting, and all of those things, I probably... It was a coping mechanism where I would get so into these characters, that I could just be there somewhere else for a little while because it meant I could deal with the world. And if it meant I could do monologues about people that have been hurt because that's how I felt. It meant I could be all of the different things that I needed to be for myself at that time.
Interestingly, throughout my life in the different phases of my life, performance has always shown up just at the time when I needed to get into character to transition into my next chapter. And this isn't any different actually from that.
Danica Lani 14:28
Amazing. And so, with your experience of Kings of Joy, because you have been someone who has been watching from the wings for a little while, but not just watching from the wings, you've been someone who's been the wind underneath the wings of the Kings of Joy community and who we are and what we stand for, and then to have you finally participate in the program itself and go through it, have your own lived experience of it. What was that like in terms of looking at it from the outside and then now having gone through the program, what are the key takeaways?
Ragnor the Ravishing 15:06
I think the first thing that really struck me about the Kings of Joy was literally the joy. And I just spend my whole existence trying to be in a state of joy. And I know we have to change in life, and sometimes things aren't that joyful and this and that, but I love to laugh. I just love to feel joy. And this next chapter of my life, I've done so much frickin work on myself, I'm deserving some joy. Yeah.
It's always been the positive psychology side of stuff is something that I've seen within my career in the work I do, creating spaces where people who've gone through the most remarkable trauma journeys can start to recover. Because when we laugh, and when we create a space of joy, we break the differences in the boundaries between us. And just for a minute, we're all eight years old. You know what I mean?
And it's the power of music as well, we're on a frequency. It's a frequency. And I've always been really fascinated by that. Even when I was performing. I was the dork that was in the lighting box that was like, but how is this lighting change, creating such a mood difference? Does anyone else notice this? Does anyone else find this fascinating, you could just adjust this and this and this, and the frequency changes the mood and the atmosphere.
And I always remember, you know, as a kid, I would be so overexposed to performance, I would watch other people watching things for the first time. Because I would be vicariously enjoying the experience through them. And that's one of the things I recognised through Kings of Joy was like people were going through this experience for the first time, and quite magnificent transformations within themselves from a confidence level, from a, just wherever they were on the journey.
And so I think the bravery of the people within the community was something that really struck me and engaged me ongoing would be like, Wow, that was brave. And they did this. And then I'd hear this person's story and that person's story. And I think that that really gave me the bravery. I found myself asking the questions that you know, you do when you're not quite sure. But you're like, so how do you identify? I'm asking for a friend like, what's your...? What's Okay... And did you have surgery? And did you decide to have full top surgery? And what are you thinking about keeping a little bit of boob? Or where were you? And what do you think about this and that? And then I just really kind of needed to grab the bull by the horns and be like, fucking hell, just get with the program. You know now.
I think having met some beautiful people along the way, who have taken the time and the grace and the patience to help me process and navigate. Because it did crop up in the past. My past partner and I were in a biracial relationship. And there were other layers of things that were difficult to navigate. So I'd always kind of thought, oh god, I don't want to put this into the mix as well.
And I think the freedom of being on my own for the past couple of years, on a very intentional healing journey so I'm the most beautiful version of me for my next chapter, by the way. Spread that around! So that I can really be solid in who I am, what I can do, and how I show up for my next chapter with health and authenticity.
So the journey for me has been around observation, listening, challenging myself, and my own ignorance and pre-existing biases, and lack of understanding to a place of open-minded curiosity and pride with regards to who I am and the community that I’m now very proud to be part of. So I'd say that's been the biggest... It's been probably one of the most transformative journeys in the last year and a half in my life, I'd say.
Danica Lani 19:30
Amazing. Thank you so much. Ragnor the Ravishing everybody! I have loved having you being part of the experience and the way that you've definitely been an uplifter in this community. So thank you.
Ragnor the Ravishing 19:50
Thank you, Danica. Thank you to you for everything you do. You know, I will literally keep talking until someone tells me to shut up by the way. You should have better cues...
Danica Lani 20:00
Ragnor the Ravishing 20:00
Yeah, yeah. So I just want to say it's very rare to find really safe spaces that are creatively free. And integral integrity. Which is really about showing up exactly the way you say you are in all of the ways you say you're going to for the community, and constantly thinking about the safeguarding and the well-being, and the ways in which you can continue to support this space.
I would say, in all of the spaces I've worked within, this is one of the most remarkable and unique communities I might have ever come across, actually. Right? Yeah. Yeah. So I just want to say thank you, to you and to Chris, because it's quite remarkable. And I would have never thought I would have been onstage with my ass cheeks out a year ago. So I'm so grateful for what you do. And I'm so grateful for your friendship and support through this chapter. I'll never forget it. And I'll always be an ambassador and support the work you do.
Danica Lani 21:19
Thank you so much. Ragnor the Ravishing!
If you’d like to see the Kings of Joy Cream performance among many others, come to Drag Kingdom 16 Nov. With 30+ Drag Kings on show, you won’t want to miss it. Grab your tickets now.
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Hello handsome, 🌈 I'm Danica Lani, also known as The King Coach, here to empower you in your exploration of gender, sexuality, and performance. I have proudly mentored, choreographed, and produced 89 first-time Drag Kings since December 2020. Welcome to the joyous community of Kings of Joy, where we uplift and celebrate each other every step of the way! 🎉🤩 Let's embark on this Drag King journey together, embracing our true selves and cheering each other on! 🤗💖 #KingsOfJoy
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