She’s not like other girls. Courtney Act is part of the new guard of Sydney drag: gorgeous, glamorous and good with a mike. She can sing as well as mime -¦ and she’s only 21 years old.
From her first social outing on New Year’s Eve 2000-2001, Courtney (a.k.a. Shane Janek) has had a rapid rise on the drag circuit, but with new appearances at the Shift and on Australian Idol, it would appear Courtney’s star is still rising.
She’s also managed to create a truly diva moment -“ something as funny and legendary as Mogadonna’s attempt to swim out to a Darling Harbour pontoon on which Diana Ross was performing -“ by getting through the first round of Idol as both a girl andÂ a boy.
They had three days of auditions, he says. I went on the Saturday as Shane and got through. Some people said, -˜Don’t go back as Courtney, you’ve got a good chance, don’t ruin it by letting them know you’re a drag queen.’ I thought about it, but I disagreed. If I got to achieve success in IdolÂ I’m sure it would not be a watertight secret that I was an Oxford Street drag queen. I’ve come way too far to turn back now.
Shane is clearly excited about the potential exposure offered by Australian Idol.
I’ve put a lot of effort and time in. I want to have a fresh look for every day, he says. I plan to give them a lot to work with. I want to have a wind machine and a musical cue every time I enter a room.
Everyone else will be wearing their hair in a ponytail and their best Esprit top. I’ll walk in with an amazing styled wig and amazing make-up, like Posh Spice does Australian Idol, as a man -“ just to give it that really special element, he says.
Courtney’s other big gig at the moment is QueenÂ at the Midnight Shift, which opened last Saturday night. It’s a big-cast, big-budget production that fuses together the music of Kylie, Kiss, Queen, Gary Glitter and Dead or Alive. Courtney gets to sing some bits live -“ which, he says, will give the show a camp twist.
It’s been a rapid rise for Courtney -“ and a period of fast change for Shane, who came out only three years ago, after moving from Brisbane.
Believe it or not, I had no idea I was gay until my first night in Sydney, he says with a scarcely concealed laugh. Thankfully, my friends knew better. On my first night they said, -˜Let’s go to Stonewall.’ I was like, -˜What’s Stonewall? Is that a gay club?’ And they were like, -˜Yes,’ and I was, -˜Oh, I don’t know about that.’ But I kissed my first boy and it all fell into place quite quickly.
Shane’s next step was to come out to his parents -“ which he did in a quintessentially modern way, via SMS.
Well, it is the new millennium, he says. We touched on [the subject] at dinner the night before. We were at an all-you-can-drink wine bar at the hotel Mum and Dad were staying at. Mum asked if one of the people I was talking about was my -˜special friend’. I didn’t know if she meant retarded or gay. We dodged around the topic, but the next day, when I was very, very hungover, I was walking up Oxford Street to go to work, and I SMSed, -˜I am gay’, and they sent one back. I was expecting, -˜We know, you fool,’ but what they sent back was, -˜We love you.’
Since then, Shane’s parents have become definite Courtney fans, flying down from Brisbane to catch Courtney in action at the Stonewall, at the Shift for the DivastatedÂ show and, by special arrangement, at the RHI for the 4am show with Suzanne Palmer at this year’s Mardi Gras party.
They loved it, Shane says. They were escorted in, thankfully. My father has quite a large moustache and I dreaded him standing in the middle of the RHI.
Shane’s parents have encouraged him from the very early days, packing him off to drama classes at the age of six, and entering him in a Mr Tiny Tots competition when he was five -“ a title that, naturally enough, he won.
It was a fundraising competition. There was nothing JonBenet Ramsey about it at all, he says.
I always wanted to be famous. With Australian IdolÂ coming up, it’s given me a new vision. I always thought there was no reason why there couldn’t be a drag pop star. It seemed like a really sensible idea to me, because drag is one of those forefronts that hasn’t really been done properly yet.
If anybody’s going to do it properly -“ like, really nailÂ it -“ Courtney would seem to have the look and the talent to do it. Watch out: she’s hot!
Catch Courtney Act at the Midnight Shift’s fabulous new show, Queen, which also stars Bust Op, Joyce Maynge, Ashley Swift, Marcello, Alex and Marcus. The DJs for the night include Chip, Peter Fam and Shigeki.