Being a drag queen takes guts, talent, creativity in spades… and brains. After all, you don’t come up with catty one-liners without having a razor-sharp mind.
Put to her alter ego, creator Lawrence Bolton, the idea that having a drag queen on the radio is a bit weird what with not being able to see the hair and make-up and all, and he is back at you without missing a beat.
‘It makes total sense!’ he says. ‘Drag is not just about how you look. It’s also about performance and having a connection so a drag queen on the radio makes total sense to me.’
Surprised how mainstream drag has become? Bolton explains that the reason it has ‘seeped out’ of after-hours bars and on to prime-time TV is as a result of hard-fought-for acceptance. But if there’s acceptance, why do we need Pride Radio?
‘We’re lucky to live in a world where there is general acceptance for us but rights can be taken away,’ he says.
‘Progress still needs to be made. If you come across as a typical blokey white man, I’m sure you feel very comfortable with all of your rights, but we are a whole community. There are many letters to our alphabet [LGBTQI+] and the rights don’t apply across the board.’
He also makes the point that while the LGBTQI+ community in countries such as the UK may be largely accepted, there are places such as Nigeria – Bolton is half-Nigerian – where to be anything other than straight is perilous.
‘I received a lovely message from a young person in Nigeria who heard me talking about my Nigerian heritage and it took me aback because that was such a profound thing for them, to see themselves reflected in a country where we’re accepted,’ he says. ‘I’d say to them they’re valid, they’re worthy – but they must remain safe.’
At Virgin, Tia joins a Pride presenting roster that includes the likes of Vicki Blight, Phil Clifton, Stephen Sullivan, Debbie Ryan and Emma Goswell – a pleasing mix of veteran names and rising stars.
On her Friday night show, she’ll ‘play absolute bangers to get your weekend started’ and her own records, along with those of friends such as The Vivienne.
There will be no guests – ‘it’s all about me!’ – which means no shade, drag-queen specific bitchiness, which must be ripe for being cancelled in this ‘woke’ age.
‘I disagree,’ says Bolton. ‘The tradition in drag to poke fun at each other and yourself is to remind people we’re not taking things seriously. That “shade” is fun between a close-knit group of people, which may have translated to the younger generation as, “Oh, isn’t it fun when we make fun of people that we think are beneath us?” But that’s a bad interpretation. Hashtag be kind!’
Virgin Radio Pride UK is live on DAB in London, online or via the Virgin Radio app until the end of September.
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