Wanda Starr is a horrible, selfish, sometimes evil drag queen who has made quite a stir with venomous blog posts on the travel site Guide to Iceland.
Wanda is Richard Chapman’s alter ego and he has received hateful messages aimed at Wanda. Still he can’t imagine his life without her.
“Oh, she’s just horrible. A really nasty piece of work. I always try to temper the hate with a somewhat intelligent point, or to use it to make some sort of political commentary, as politics is one of my passions and what my degree is in. Sometimes, though, she just enjoys being evil,” says Guide To Iceland writer Richard Chapman about his alter ego, drag queen extraordinaire Wanda Starr.
Richard has been writing blog posts on Guide To Iceland’s website as Wanda Starr the last few weeks and they have made quite a stir. Wanda is outspoken and doesn’t seem to like Iceland very much. In fact, she wants to exploit the nature, thinks most of the main tourist attractions are overrated and basically hates Iceland – and Guide to Iceland. So, why on earth was Wanda asked to become a writer at one of the biggest travel websites in Iceland?
“My bosses asked me to, and I was very happy to accept. A few people from Guide to Iceland came to one of the Drag-Súgur shows I was doing stand-up at, and saw potential for a new direction and a way to appeal to queer people. What I’m writing is, in a way, clickbait, and designed to increase traffic on our site, but the company is very forward-thinking and definitely has a wider view of what the blogs can do,” says Richard, who hails from the UK and moved to Iceland in 2014, almost accidentally.
“Oh, she’s just horrible … I always try to temper the hate with a somewhat intelligent point, or to use it to make some sort of political commentary … Sometimes, though, she just enjoys being evil.”
“I had just qualified as a scuba instructor so was thinking I would be working in Australia or the Caribbean. When I saw the advert to work in Silfra, I literally laughed about who would be desperate enough to want to be a diving instructor in Iceland. Two weeks later, with no responses from anywhere sunny, I became the butt of my own joke and sent my application. Three years and four jobs later, and I’m still here,” says Richard with a laugh. He’s shared his life with Wanda since last year, having experimented with drag since he was eighteen.
“I’ve always found vile, selfish, evil women hilarious, like Jill from Nighty Night, Debbie from the Addams Family, and Sarah Silverman, so Wanda sort of formed naturally as an exaggerated form of them. I also wanted her to celebrate traits that most consider to be abhorrent, and for her rancid, unredeemable personality to contrast what society expects of women.”
Those who know Richard, also know that he is far from the persona of Wanda Starr. He says it’s a nice way to blow off some steam to put on Wanda’s clothes.
“Sometimes she just enjoys being evil. I try to be quite nice day-to-day, so it’s wonderful to have an outlet to let all that malevolence out. Besides, I don’t think anyone expects or really wants drag queens to be sweet,” says Richard.
But does he share Wanda’s views on Iceland?
“Not even a little. I have lived in Iceland for over three years now, and have had so many incredible things happen here. I love the country, the people, the culture and the city of Reykjavík. Can’t say I like the winters, but in summer there’s nowhere I’d rather be,” he says and adds that he 100 percent does not agree with Wanda when it comes to Guide to Iceland.
“It’s the best place I’ve ever worked. I would never have thought it possible to combine my passions for writing and drag, and get paid to do it, at least at this point in my career. I think it’s very telling of the company and its ethos that they are providing a platform for a drag queen; too many places use queer liberation and pride as a selling point to hook people in without paying dues, and it’s refreshing to receive such genuine, tangible support.”
Richard admits that Wanda is a lot of work, still he doesn’t want to part with her any time soon.
“She gets me into quite a lot of trouble quite regularly. I often wake up the morning after wishing she was a sweet maiden who would never even think of doing whatever she did the night before, but she isn’t, so I have to live with it.
I can’t ever see myself getting rid of her, but I’m constantly trying to shape and improve her character, at very least to save me from the hangovers.”
On the subject of trouble, we turn our eyes back to the infamous blog posts of Wanda Starr, who have been quite ill received by some.
“It’s been really quite hysterical, some people take it incredibly seriously. You would think that the picture of a rather ropey crossdresser would let the audience know to take the blogs with a pinch of salt, but some people are determined to be offended. I have received a couple of hateful messages, but Wanda loves them as they feed into her delusions of fame,” says Richard and adds that not everybody is offended by the drag queen’s rants.
“Most people seem to understand the satire and really enjoy it. Icelanders in particular tend to be able to see through the sarcasm and just have a laugh.”
“Most people seem to understand the satire and really enjoy it … but some people are determined to be offended. I have received a couple of hateful messages, but Wanda loves them as they feed into her delusions of fame.”
Richard is a busy man, hosting Drag-Súgur’s new show Drag Lab on June 29th at bar Gaukurinn and involved in projects for the next Reykjavík Pride and Fringe Festival. He also has a show around Wanda in the making, an online video series and a novel. He will continue to write blogs for Guide to Iceland as well, but is that platform big enough for Wanda Starr?
“Wanda is planning on international stardom and world domination, so she absolutely will take any platform that she is offered. I know what side my bread is buttered, however, so will be sticking with Guide to Iceland for as long as they’ll have me! I love what Wanda is doing with the company, and we are looking at furthering her role; hopefully, there will be more than just the blogs in the near future. In any regard, however, I am sure she will continue to find new ways to spread her vitriol and hate to a larger audience.”