September 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm EDT | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Drag drama
Courtney Act, gay news, Washington Blade

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ season six runner-up Courtney Act says the show kicked her career into high gear. (Photo by Magnus Hastings; courtesy Project Publicity)

Courtney Act at Town

 

Meet & Greet & Seat tickets available for $20 gives you admission, access to a meet-and-greet at 9 p.m. and a chance to get seats for the show before the doors open to the general public. But to get seats, you must arrive before 10.

 

Regular cover is $8 from 10-11 p.m. and $12 after

 

Drag show starts at 10:30 p.m. downstairs

 

Music upstairs by CTRL

 

Town Danceboutique is always a prime spot for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alumni and the tradition continues.

Last week season six champion Bianca Del Rio started a new monthly comedy cabaret show there and on Saturday night, the regular Saturday night drag troupe welcomes guest star Courtney Act, who came in second this year. As Courtney, Aussie Shane Jenek, 32, delighted “Drag Race” fans with his obvious singing and stage talent and a female look that was eerily convincing. We caught up with him this week by phone from Los Angeles. His comments have been slightly edited for length.

WASHINGTON BLADE: Will you be doing the “Boys Like Me” show at Town or something else?

COURTNEY ACT: No. This is just going to be sort of the regular Saturday night at Town with special guest Courtney Act. I did “Boys Like Me” in New York and would definitely like to tour it, but not this time.

BLADE: Did you enjoy Capital Pride and Town when you were here in June?

ACT: I did. Capital Pride, can I say, was I think my favorite Pride I did in America this year. It was absolutely epic and then we performed after at Town and that was epic too. The crowd there was amazing.

BLADE: What was the big delay on the main stage at Pride? I know you were on pretty early but things seemed to be running hours behind and it was dark by the time Bianca went on. What was going on backstage?

ACT: Well, Darienne went on and then I went on and then I think Rita Ora came out. There was some confusion in the lineup because she had to leave early so she ended up going earlier in the day and that bumped everybody else later I believe. Adore and Bianca ended up going on at the end.

BLADE: Did you bring a strategy for “Drag Race” per se or were you just there to bring your A game overall?

ACT: I just brought my A game. I’m a huge fan of the show. I love watching it and I just thought, “How do I want the world to see me?” … When I found out I might be on the show, I called everybody around the world that I’d ever worked with where I’d had a good costume and tracked down, like the wings and, you know, all these difference pieces and also had some things made and put it all together with my friends and business partners. Vanity from Wigs by Vanity flew over from Australia — this is before I was even confirmed, while they were still doing the background check — I took a chance on a happy ending and Vanity flew over and we both styled wigs for a whole week. So I just got everything ready just in case so yeah, I definitely brought my A game.

BLADE: Were you exhausted by the end?

ACT: No, I had a great time. There was no television, no mobile phones, no internet, no social media … not every day to you get to wake up and do all of those things at such a high standard so it was actually kind of amazing. And every week was different. It wasn’t like we were doing some production show eight times a week. We were doing a musical one week, an interview challenge the next. Each week was different.

BLADE: Who was your favorite celebrity guest judge?

ACT: Well I did love Khloe Kardashian. I didn’t know much about her but she kind of won my heart. And then since the show, Chaz Bono and I have become very good friends and it was a great gift getting to meet him on the show and becoming friends.

BLADE: What was your take on the “Female or She-Male” segment controversy?

ACT: I thought it was probably a little ill thought out. I don’t think it was intentionally meant to be offensive but I guess the thing about transphobia, homophobia, any kind of phobia, is that it often stems from ignorance not from intentionally trying to put someone down. I think if they were to do it again, they probably wouldn’t include the word she-male. But it sort of came at a time where we’re seeing a new revolution with gender in society. We had the women’s liberation in the ‘60s and ‘70s and now it’s like the trans revolution where you have inspiring trans people like Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock … coming to light and it’s kind of the first time we’ve had inspirational trans people in pop culture. I think the she-male controversy kind of sparked a lot of conversation and I think a lot of changes and conversations began because of that so, you know, in some ways it was a good thing.

BLADE: But accusing RuPaul of being transphobic? Isn’t that a little ridiculous?

ACT: Well no, obviously that’s ridiculous. Sometimes people can get too caught up in the heresy, like, “Oh my God, this person said this,” and it’s like, well, yeah, there are some very loud people saying things that just don’t make any sense but I think you have to use your better judgement and say, “Yeah, you know what — even though she-male wasn’t the smartest thing, is RuPaul transphobic? No. Is World of Wonder out to, you know, put down trans people? No, of course not. So I think the controversy can get extremely unbalanced and I think when the issue arrives, it’s about doing things objectively and having a balance on both sides. I think RuPaul kind of got embroiled in the controversy because he addressed, you know, the right wing if you will, of trans activists rather than focusing on the solution. I can’t remember the statistic for sure off hand but something like one in six, one in eight, trans people will end up being murdered. That’s a statistic that’s dumbfounding. And you also see the state of homelessness and all sorts of other social issues that affect trans people much more than cisgender people and that’s the real conversation that needs to come out that whole debate. How can we improve the lives of trans people? How can we see them as equal and how can we move forward?

BLADE: You’ve said what ended up on the show was only about 10 percent of your overall persona and that things were taken out of context and such. I’m sure that’s true to an extent but you had to know they were going to take the bitchiest exchanges and play those up, right?

ACT: You know they’re going to sensationalize things. They’re making a reality TV show, not a documentary. I think that’s obvious but what I didn’t anticipate — I thought those things may be heightened, but I thought they would still be honest. There was obviously some creative license taken but I guess my expectation was that when it came to the outcome of my whole experience on the show, I am almost anti- a lot of the things that Courtney came to represent. So to see myself portrayed as the mean girl or someone who was mean to Joslyn, it kind of goes against everything I stand for as a person. That was challenging for me personally to watch. I love Joslyn and we’re friends and there was no real drama between us. That was maybe a 10-minute period where we discussed how she was feeling hurt by what the judges said and then it was compounded by what I said. But that all happened in one episode for like 10 minutes but then there were all these other occurrences built into the show where I was being depicted as being rude to Joslyn and it just wasn’t like that.

BLADE: Do you and Bianca, Adore and Darienne (the season six finalists) get to see each other often or do many shows together?

ACT: Not as often as we’d like but we maintain a very active iMessage thread and everyday we’re messaging one another. We’re always in different parts of the world, so there’s always somebody awake and participating and we’re always thinking, “When is our next gig together, we really need to hang out again.” We had the best afternoon hanging out at Capital Pride.

BLADE: How much of what you do now is tied in with the Logo juggernaut if any?

ACT: None of these are official Logo or World of Wonder gigs but they’re obviously all because we were on the show and people know who we are.

BLADE: What are your thoughts on the current Facebook controversy with the real names policy?

ACT: I’ve always had a fan page and a boy page so it didn’t affect me personally but I do understand the argument. But I think Justin Bond made a good argument on Huffington Post that there are people in places around the world who need to have a fake name to protect their identity because either their family, their society, their country, their religion doesn’t accept who they are. I think the thing that’s different about drag queens is we’re talking about the algorithm picking up fake names, not somebody in the Middle East who’s trying to maintain an online identity because that’s their only outreach to the outside world. For drag queens who have a public persona, I think a fan page makes more sense but I think for people who have a personal page in their name, I don’t see why that shouldn’t be possible too. I think there can be an opportunity for people to register with Facebook privately their real details and then have a profile in a performance name.

BLADE: You always have the hottest guys on your single covers and promo photos. Who are these people and where do you find them?

ACT: There’s a “Mean Gays” of West Hollywood. … The boys in my “Mean Gays” video are just go go boys and friends in West Hollywood.

BLADE: Do you sing differently as Shane versus as Courtney?

ACT: Yeah, she sings higher. I usually sing about one tone below a natural female sort of key. Then as a boy, it’s in a lower key. It’s fun on the Atlantis gay cruises I can do Courtney’s show “Boys Like Me” one night, then do a boy cabaret show on a different night in the smaller room.

BLADE: You were well established before “Drag Race.” Did that just kick everything into high gear for you? What has the effect been like?

ACT: It’s been epic since “Drag Race.” I was known in Australia and had a bit of a following around the world but yes, “Drag Race” just — I was just in Europe doing a two-week tour and in Berlin, this venue was packed with people all screaming and singing along to “Mean Gays” and it was amazing because not only were all these people there, “Drag Race” isn’t even shown on television there so they’d all had to commit a crime and illegally downloaded the show just to know who I am. In America, you know, we’re sort of accustomed to seeing the fandom of the “Drag Race” girls, but it’s really taking the world by storm. We’re in America, in Europe, in Australia, in Canada — drag queens are taking over the world.

Courtney Act, gay news, Washington Blade

Aussie native Courtney Act, 32, started doing drag in 2000 and came to the U.S. in 2010. (Photo by Mathu Andersen; courtesy Project Publicity)

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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