IMAGE BY BRUCE WANG
They’re two sides of the same coin. Beau Jangles is super strong, a bit of a dick and hails from the 1940s. Madi Gianfrancesco, however, is the brains of the operation and has a lot to say about inequality in drag. Let’s get to know them…
When did you start drag and what made you take the leap to start performing?
Madi: I’ve been performing for as long as I can remember in some capacity – my parents encouraged it but I was never allowed to think of it as a potential career. I only started drag about a year and a half ago. The drag king collective Pecs were holding a series of workshops and when I heard about it I had never been so sure of anything in my life. I met my collective – The Family Jewels – there and made an amazing group of close friends and collaborators.
Beau: I don’t know what you mean – I’m a cis man. I’ve been performing forever, though. It’s in my blood. My Mama and Papa were these high society types in New Orleans and they used to hold these big ol’ parties. Mama would sit me on top of the piano from the age of five and we’d do li’l duets together. Even then the ladies couldn’t get enough of me.
Talk to us about the drag nights you’re involved in
Madi: I perform all over the place! I always love performing with Lese Majeste, the night hosted by Prinx Silver that raises money for Friends of the Joiner’s Arms. And having spaces like the KOC Initiative is incredibly important. The Cocoa Butter Club isn’t specifically a space just for drag, but they’re great at booking kings and granting their performers some wonderful opportunities.
Beau: Again, what is this drag you speak of? I’ll perform at whatever juke joint pays me though.
What makes you proud of our community?
Madi: The drag king community (and a wider community of people who identify as drag things/drag in-betweens/genderfuck artists) are ridiculously, incredibly supportive. I guess we’re marginalised in drag so we have to support each other. I think sometimes cis male drag queens are surprised by the lack of ‘reading’ and competitiveness in our community, but that’s the way I like it. We’re also inherently more political, because we have to be.
Beau: I happen to roll around with a bunch of crazy cats. We jam together and go out on the town causing trouble. And the ladies can’t get enough of us.
Did you ever struggle to feel a sense of self pride?
Madi: No. And this is despite things like the drag pay gap (white cis male drag queens get paid ludicrously high sums compared to the rest of us), and spaces that are hostile to performers of colour and AFAB performers trying to bring me down. I just trust in my craft and my community.
Beau: No – I’m a cis man.
Do you think there’s anything we should all be doing to improve things for one another?
Madi: Absolutely! White drag artists NEED to uplift, platform and support performers of colour in a way that doesn’t feel tokenistic. Drag queens need to uplift other forms of drag, and cis performers (myself included) need to uplift our trans and nonbinary siblings. We need to actively challenge prejudice in drag (and in the wider world, of course) and help make those more marginalised than us feel loved.
Beau: Share the love… speaking of – hey, girl.
What would you say is the most important role of pride in general?
Madi: To be honest, pride’s a flimsy thing if it isn’t backed up by action and positive change. I can feel proud to be a queer PoC inside, but if spaces exclude me because of these facets of my identity, that’s going to chip away at me. And it’s harder to feel proud if you don’t feel safe. Having said that, when we as fellow queers/PoC form communities where we can feel safe and proud, we can ride that energy to take up space, support each other, and demand positive social change.
Beau: When we feel proud of our work it imbues us with that confidence that enables us to take risks and elevate what we do. And when we feel pride in ourselves it shows all those racist motherfuckers that they ain’t winning.
What’s your proudest moment?
Madi: My photo (as Beau), along with photos of other Man Up 2019 finalists, appeared in Vogue Italia. That was pretty damn cool. I also just launched my very own drag king night in South London – it went really well and felt amazing.
Beau: My daddy once almost told me that he loved me, I think.
Anything to plug?
Madi: My drag night! It’s called ‘Royal Roost’ and it happens at The Chateau in Camberwell (South East London). It’s got a vintage feel but showcases exactly the kind of performers we should be seeing everywhere in 2019.
Beau: There’s a juke joint called The Chateau where I get together a bunch of hip cats and we show what we got. The night’s called ‘Royal Roost’ and the next one’s on Friday 13th December – if y’all are nervous about that inauspicious date, just shake off the bad juju and come anyway.