“‘Faux Queen’ as a label can fuck off – there’s nothing fake about what we do!”
Chatting to Alpha Bites over a glass of wine and some particularly nice olives, I soon came to realise just how diverse the art of drag is. If you’ve not come across Alpha Bites before, she characterises the extremes of femininity, mixing known tales with an edgy twist to create seriously unique and scintillating shows. As a female drag queen, I wonder how she’s created her alter ego without stepping on the toes of her everyday self – Alex. Thoughtfully sipping her Pinot Grigio with a smile, I’m told, “doing drag has changed my life in terms of my confidence as a person. I’m much more able to express myself, I know who I am. To do drag you’re creating someone else. It’s an extension of yourself and you’ve got to get the base right to grow from there.” It’s always fascinating to hear what inspires people to explore another side of themselves, and more often than not it helps a person evolve and find out more about themselves. To extend one’s self in such a way involves knowing exactly who you are, and what you’re capable of.
For women becoming drag queens, it can be harder than other drag artists to break through into the limelight. Alpha recalls her debut into the scene, explaining: “I learnt about Revenge’s Lip Sync for Your Life, entered, and got to the final. After that I put an act together which I still do now. It’s based around Cinderella and her dream will come true – but it’s her sexy side.” Her ability to twist a story most of us grew up hearing, taking the underlying themes to a new level, it’s no surprise she’s able to broaden mins and get a crowd going. But let’s take this back a minute. How do you go from a RuPaul fan to one of the biggest drag acts in the south east? According to Alpha, the best thing is to just bite the bullet:
“Drag allows you to play with perceptions of gender. The more people that are doing it, the more mainstream it becomes, the better world we live in.”
Brighton’s first femme drag queen night, Female Trouble, has helped her career skyrocket too. Creating her own space to perform and experiment, she says there is a growing movement away from the traditional male-dominated drag scene at the moment, spearheaded by local legends Hans Euff, Felix Le Freak, Bitter Sour, the Kingdom team and more. “We need those big queer dance places that are legitimately queer inclusive, like Traumfrau. That’s one big reason Stella Pint and I set up Female Trouble. For me particularly, I know Brighton has so many great venues – and really wants these kinds of nights.” These places are redressing the lack of queer spaces on the scene. It’s an age-old problem these artists are smashing through, the patriarchy being thoroughly ignored by these inspiring people.
Confidence is becoming more and more of an issue for younger people, especially with the domination of social media platforms demanding people to conform. It’s a double edged sword as it allows young people to connect in a way we never could before. “I used to not be able to leave the house wearing any makeup, mascara, foundation… now I don’t wear any makeup, you realise as you put it on the performativity of it. You’re performing a feminine thing. When I’m not Alpha, I want (and need) to be Alex.” While drag is certainly an exploration of one’s self, it’s crucial performers do take time to nurture their day-to-day selves. She continues, “the way I do that is not putting on makeup. It’s the mask I wear to be confident. When you wear so much of it you realise you don’t need it at all.”
When you’ve created such a unique character such as Alpha Bites, you’d be forgiven for assuming that would be quite enough for one performer. Not Alex though, as she tells me, “Alpha brought out a certain power in me, and allows me to own what I already have.” Introducing the second persona in her armoury, Jonny Don, she explains: “With Jonny I sometimes think ‘this could get out of control!’ because I’ve never explored him before.” He’s the cheeky ‘lad’, if you will, of Alex’s personality. A huge contrast to Alpha Bites, it’s an interesting dichotomy to see unfold. She’s adamant that Alpha and Jonny would not be friends!
To present two completely different sides of herself while out and about in town, I wonder aloud if it’s difficult for Alex to understand the two opposing personalities, that are both her own. “It’s jarring when people ask about your gender because they feel they need to put you in a box and bring in all their assumptions and understandings of the world. The key is who you are.”