The Platform and The Stage: Danny Beard

The outspoken drag performer talks about the art, trans allyship, and how to make it.

To anyone who follows drag, Danny Beard is a legend. This performer and singer has been a larger than life presence in the British drag scene for around a decade now, having graced the stages of Britain’s Got Talent, won Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, and more.

But they are also quite outspoken on the social issues of the day; in particular the backlash against queer people in their country and abroad, and are unapologetic about what they see as their fulfilling an obligation as a trans ally.

Danny will be attending Reykjavík Pride this year, so in anticipation of that, we were able to grab a few minutes to find out more about this extraordinary artist.

The humble beginnings

Danny’s interest in drag began while they were at university studying live art.

“I discovered these club kids of the 80s; Leigh Bowery, you know, and Boy George, Twiggy from Birmingham, and all of these drag creatures that were just doing drag in a different kind of way,” they recall. “And it just sparked my interest.”

Their performances began intermittently, going out now and again, which included DJing to make money for uni. It was in this scene that the persona of Danny Beard was born.

“I always wanted to be an actor and a performer,” they say. “And drag just brought everything that I loved and wanted to do together into one form. So I think it was when I entered Drag Idol, which was a national competition in the UK to find the next drag cabaret star. Now by this point, I’d started hosting a few things and being onstage in drag, not just DJing. And that was the first time I thought it could become an actual career, and I could actually make enough money to live on it. And that’s what I did. And I entered that competition, and I won it. And then that launched my career in the UK.”

I think it really puts you in good stead for the future having to actually, you know, get out there on the road yourself and make it happen.

Not that it was all champagne and roses from this point on; Danny describes working four or sometimes five nights a week, driving themselves from gig to gig, but they see this part of their lives as a formative experience.

“It was heavy, but I think it’s the legwork and, as we say in the UK, cutting your teeth that really helped shape the professionalism and what I’ve got now,” they say. “There’s a lot of girls, especially that come from things like Drag Race, that don’t have, you know, 10 years of struggling and driving themselves from gigs to gigs, and I think it really puts you in good stead for the future having to actually, you know, get out there on the road yourself and make it happen.”

You gotta fight for the rights of others

Danny is also an outspoken defender of trans rights, and while no country is perfect, the UK is presently a very hostile environment for allies of trans people, let alone trans people themselves. As a public figure who speaks up so often on the subject of trans rights, Danny also gets some backlash, but remains unflappable for a variety of reasons.

“I don’t engage with the backlash,” they say. “First of all, because I support my trans siblings through and through; there is no LGB without the T. I wouldn’t be here without the trans siblings and my queer brothers and sisters that have gone before me. I’ve got many different trans friends and it’s something that’s important to me. So I don’t engage with any kind of backlash.”

This is part and parcel with Danny’s belief in what being an ally means.

“One thing that’s important about being an ally is, you know, the trans journey isn’t my journey,” they say. “I don’t feel the need to explain myself. This is my opinion, here it is. I’m right. Because trans rights are human rights. And I know, for a fact, I’m on the right side of history. And I know for a fact that I am blessed enough to have a platform. So if I’m going to use that platform for anything, it should be something that I believe in. At the end of the day, the people who are not gonna like what I say, they’re not my audience, I don’t want them to buy tickets to my show. That’s not the type of people I’m creating my art for, and delivering my job and singing my songs for so I just sort of roll with the punches.”

I support my trans siblings through and through; there is no LGB without the T.

I tell them I find this attitude admirable, as any kind of backlash can be wounding for trans people.

“In a sense, it’s almost easier for me to say it, like; you live it, my friends live it, and I want them to have to live it,” they say. “So we need allies, and we need voices within our community that will speak up for the injustice. Because at the end of the day, everyone I know who’s trans wants to live their lives and be left alone. So it’s important to me, and I think it should be important to all queer people.”

We don’t want your kids

When I asked about some of the biggest misconceptions people have about drag, in characteristic style, Danny does not hold back.

“I think you’ve already got a look at the disgusting right wing media,” they say. “So certainly here in the UK, and even more so in America. You know, it’s the same old rhetoric of using drag as harmful to children. Or queer people or trans people or just anyone who’s a minority and seeming doubly queer, as some kind of threat to children. And at the end of the day, we don’t care about your kids. I don’t want kids at my show.”

This naturally leads to the subject of drag story hours, which can have kids in the audience.

“People want to start saying let’s ban drag for children because drag is adult entertainment, then you could say, well, let’s start banning films because some films are pornographic,” they point out. “It just doesn’t make sense. And it won’t make sense to anyone with a logical brain because it’s a scapegoat and it’s a way of distracting people from the actual politics that are going on. If you look over here in the UK, people’s debts are the highest they’ve ever been, people eat in our food banks, and we pretend that we are some kind of amazing country above all. And the reality is we’re not. So while people in power–and when I say people in power I also mean the media because they’re an extension of the right wing Tory cunts–they can use us as their scapegoat but the reality is it’s damaging to real people’s lives. And while I’m still doing this, I’m going to fight tooth and nail till I die.”

People want to start saying let’s ban drag for children because drag is adult entertainment, then you could say, well, let’s start banning films because some films are pornographic.

It’s just drag

For those considering their own foray into drag, Danny offers advice that revolves around knowing who you are and owning that.

“Do it for you first and foremost, because at the end of the day, drag is the decoration,” they explain. “The drag is the canvas, but really what matters is what you put on the canvas and by that I mean your personality, what do you bring to it? Because right now you can throw a pound coin down the road and hit 20 drag queens. What can you bring to this art form? And what makes it special to you, or what makes it unique to you?

“I know amazing and very successful drag queens that don’t leave their bedroom, you know, they exist online and in a social space like that, and that’s what’s comfortable to them. And that’s how they bring their art to it. So there’s 100 million different ways you can do drag, and I think the first thing you need to think of is what do you bring to it, and what excites you about it? It should be exciting, and it should be fun. It shouldn’t be stressful. It’s just drag.”

Danny will be co-headlining Drag Djók at Reykjavík Pride on August 11th. After that, you’ll be able to catch them at Edinburgh Fringe, and they also have an upcoming television show that they won’t disclose too much about for right now, but in the meantime, you can check out the weekly podcast Gossip Gays, which they co-host with DJ Billy Andrew.

Photos: Courtesy of Danny Beard

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