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Mark Jackson, of Lincoln, bought his first pair of heels seven years ago - and has never looked back. Having been inspired to become a drag queen by the musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert, today the 32-year-old supermarket worker talks to reporter Susan Sandys about his life as Lady Bubbles.
I was born and raised in Lincoln. I’m quite a creative person, like a big kid at heart. As well as doing the whole drag thing, I work full-time and I run the largest bouncy castle hire company in Christchurch. I think it was maybe 2007 when I came across Priscilla Queen of the Desert, went to the musical up in Auckland, with friends, and we loved it so much we flew to Sydney to see it again the next year. I started drag in 2014 when I bought my first pair of heels. I’ve always been able to walk in a pair of heels without any kind of practice, just like an absolute natural. I sort of started off from there, collecting a few things, trying it out and everything, and then professionally doing it from about three years ago. I started really getting out there and putting the money into it, because it costs so much money. It’s like a transformation for me in the art form, it’s something that I look at now and I regret not doing drama and stuff like that when I was at school, like it could have helped me a lot now. When you put on the wig and the eyelashes and stuff like that, it’s like you become just a completely different person. When you are so far through your makeup, something all of a sudden just clicks, for me it is the art form and the performance, you are just making people happy.
Like on a Friday or Saturday night I can not walk anywhere near the Strip, you know Oxford Tce, or anything like that, unless I have a spare like hour . . . just the amount of people that come running up to you, somebody gets a photo then somebody else wants a photo. It just takes up so much time.
What do you spend the money on?
A decent wig will cost you anywhere between $300 to $900, and that’s cheap. Otherwise you can go right up to like $2500. Just a simple pair of shoes and everything like that, because I buy my shoes locally, and I buy a special brand of shoes called Pleaser. They are a lot stronger, they are performing shoes. I buy those locally from a lady in West Melton. She brings them in, they can be anything from $100 to $300 a pair. Basically by the time I’m completely ready, when I’ve got everything on, I could be wearing an outfit that’s $1000-plus dollars.
Definitely lots of sequins and feathers. Ninety per cent of what I wear is made by myself or my mother, because I am a little bit bigger it is easier to make it, than it is to buy it.
Is it solely a performance identity, or are you transgender yourself?
No, I identify as gay male, I go with the pronouns “his, him, he.” As Lady Bubbles I am “her, she” and I can’t remember what the other one is, I go by the female pronouns. There’s a difference between transgender and drag. Drag is performance, it’s male dressing up as female, which is cross dressing and stuff like that, but it is performance. Like I don’t go home and dress up or anything like that for fun, because it takes three hours to get ready, so I don’t have anything that I want to be female or anything like that. It is purely the art of drag and the art of performance.
What do you like about it so much?
It’s like an escape from reality, as I say, I put on the wig, put on the eyelashes and the lipstick. I generally have my nails done all the time, I always have acrylic nails. You put on an outfit, it’s the wow factor for me, you go out and people say: ‘Oh my god, it’s a drag queen.’
Yes, that’s what I like, is being able to make people happy. Christchurch is not like Wellington and Auckland, we don’t have a drag scene, there is no drag scene in Christchurch. So I work with another friend of mine, he’s just recently come back from Sydney, and I own a business called Drag It Out Entertainment. So between him and I, we are actually trying to bring drag to the mainstream here in Christchurch. So we run a lot of bingo nights and stuff like that, where people can come along and win cash prizes and things like that, we call it Balls N Bingo. And we also have a show coming up, like a massive big show that we are actually pulling queens down from Auckland for, on the second of April called Retro Glam, and we expect to run drag competitions here.
You have the event, Drag Queen Storytime, coming up at Lincoln Library in March, to celebrate Pride Week (for children pre-school age and older, featuring books about diversity, acceptance, inclusion and kindness). Did Selwyn Libraries approach you for that?
(Selwyn Libraries) put a post out on the local (Facebook) community page, looking for artistic people for some Pride events and stuff like, I just put a picture of me up there and said: ‘If you ever need a drag queen for anything, let me know,’ and that’s how I got that. You’ve got to put yourself out there, the harder you work the more work you will get. Rainbow storytime comes with its pros and cons, you are always going to get that one person who doesn’t agree with it and doesn’t see that it’s okay.
Do you think acceptance and diversity is an important message to get across to children?
I think it is, like – you be who you want to be. You know, like it is not up to somebody else to mould that for you. I feel like in this day and age if somebody is trans or something like that, people should be accepting of everyone whoever and however they want to express themselves, it is super important.
So basically the bingo, yes it is very, very . . . not filthy, but it’s pretty out there. It is for an adult audience, they are not general everyday calls, they are raunchy . . . really it’s like smut, but that’s what people want when they come and see a drag queen. But for a kid (at children’s events) it’s completely visual for them, because they don’t understand. And that’s where you can teach them acceptance and everything like that, because you can’t judge from what I look like on the outside as to who I am on the inside. When I do rainbow storytime, I’m going to have a humungous wig on, a massive big pink dress, like not polygraphic, but the shiny latex pink dress, with the big organza frill all around it, and everything like that, it’s going to be a great day. There’s a quiz night that Selwyn Libraries has as well (Drag King and Queen Quiz Night, March 4, Lincoln Event Centre), that I am running with a friend of mine called Tony Chestnut. He’s a drag king, so that’s a female who basically tapes down her boobs and dresses up as a male.
Was it specifically seeing Priscilla Queen of the Desert that motivated you to dress in drag?
Yes, because when I saw it on stage it was the art of the queen coming on and wearing all the different outfits, and the glam and the glitter. And Lady Bubbles loves to be glamorous, and you know, also loves to be fun and out there and really bubbly, but very loud.
So that show completely changed your life?
Yes, how I describe myself as a drag queen, is very feminine, very loud and super campy. Camp is basically really colourful. I like the old style of drag, you know the big eyes, the glitter, I’m not into the mainstream drag that you see now coming off RuPaul’s Drag Race.
No, I know that my friend Tony Chestnut does, so he’s divorced and he has a whole storyline. I haven’t with Lady Bubbles.
Your name in real life and your day job is?
Mark Jackson, I’m 32, I work in retail, at Prebbleton Fresh Choice. I got made redundant because of the Covid thing (last year, from my former job, at) Craddocks Car Storage at the airport. I also operate Around a Bounce bouncy castle hire, Inflated Balloon Decorating and Drag It Out entertainment.
In being a drag queen, do you have to be a bit of a stand-up comic, you must be a naturally funny person are you?
I am to a point, but you know, you have to be quick off the cuff, like real quick. One of my favourite sayings right now and when I’m out in town is “All noodles are straight until they get wet.”
You have that natural performance ability, where do you think that comes from?
I don’t really know, because everyone in my family, no-one’s really creative.
What high school did you go to?
Lincoln High School.
And as you say you didn’t do performance or drama?
No, my main interest at high school was horticulture. No, nothing that I did at school relates to anything that I do now.