“Dating one person is hard… but dating two is harder, when someone dates me, they’re dating both of me.”
Krystal emerges from the thick red curtains, weave attached and face on. Her floor length, sequinned dress frames her body like a picture with one shoulder exposed, showing a small tattoo. Her waist emphasised by the tight corset she’s wearing over the dress. She’s here to entertain and will stop at nothing to get a reaction from her crowd.
Krystal Kleer (above) is a Sydney based drag queen who has worked with the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kesha, Kylie Minogue and Adam Lambert, just to name a few. Under the weave and painted face, Krystal spends her days as Jasper, a 24-year-old makeup artist from Glenhaven. Krystal has had a residence at Sydney’s popular gay bar, The Midnight Shift, for five years, where she performs both solo and in a group four nights a week.
The term drag queen was first used in 1870 to refer to men who would be forced to play the female parts in Shakespearean plays. Drag derives straight from the literal – dressing as girl – and queen comes from the old English word quean, which also literally means woman. The same branch of queen has since been adapted to label some gay men, who are the main consumers and participants of drag culture.
“I first did it because I needed a way to express my artistic vision. I would see drag queens performing and thought ‘I could do that’ and I didn’t really understand that it was a job. I asked around and said, ‘well, what do you do in the day?’ and the drag queens all said, ‘nothing – we sleep all day and drag all night,” said Jasper.
When you think of drag queens the first thing that may come to mind is Dame Edna Everage or the girls in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, but the art of drag is a much deeper and personal thing than the farce portrayed in such popular cultures. Jasper and his co-performers all take about four hours a night getting into drag, from putting their makeup on, to their clothes and then their personality. Each drag queen has their own style of personality, whether it is a celebrity impersonator or accent – just like people, no drag queen is the same. Some think a drag queen is simply a female impersonator, however, in some cases that is inaccurate, because not all drag queens are intending to act like a woman, just dramatic.
In the process of becoming Krystal, Jasper said the makeup is the most important part. “By me contouring my cheekbones and forehead, I am molding my face to become Krystal. My face is my canvas essentially and every night it starts blank before I turn it into something completely unusual and different from before.”
Drag queens have caused many a shockwave during their time in the spotlight; most notably the Facebook incident where hundreds of drag queens protested along the streets of the world’s capital cities because all their drag Facebook accounts were being shut down for violating Facebook’s original rule that your Facebook name must be the name given to you at birth.
“As a drag queen, my job is to be liked… simple as that,” said Jasper.
“I couldn’t care less about what I’m doing as long as people are enjoying it, and clapping and laughing. You have to be very careful what you say as a drag queen though, especially with all the hate going around about the Muslim community. Someone asked Krystal the other day, ‘what are your thoughts on ISIS’ and all she could say was, ‘what is ISIS? Krystal isn’t informed on such things.’”
When in reality, Jasper was fully aware of the whole debate, but as Jasper, and Krystal was asked the question.
If a drag queen is out on the streets entertaining crowds or performing on stage, they will not respond to their real name – only their drag name.
“Krystal is not Jasper, and Jasper is definitely not Krystal,” he said. “There are some similarities but most of the things that Krystal does, Jasper would never do. For example, Krystal would flop her dick out in public for a laugh, but Jasper could never do that.”
While drag queens like to be referred to as her and she when performing, Jasper said people should make no mistake, when he’s dressed as Jasper – he is Jasper. He doesn’t want to wear a wig or heels or talk about make-up, if he wanted all that he would get a sex change.
“People get confused, Krystal is merely a mask, a mask with a character… you could put a group of guys in a row, the first one being a fat, balding fifty-year-old office worker, the second being a masculine tradie, the third being a father with four kids and a mortgage… any one of those guys could be a drag queen, it’s what they do, not what they are.” – Written and photographed by Zachary Pittas