It’s not all beer and skittles, being a drag queen in Sydney today. Competition for work is fierce and, wherever you turn, there’s a thief of the limelight turning heads with a new look, gimmick or piece of schtick.

This sense of rivalry is now being milked for all it’s worth at the Imperial Hotel’s midweek dragapalooza, Celebrity Drag Survivor. Hurtling into its fourth big week next Wednesday, Survivor pits eight Sydney performers against each other in the ultimate test of wits, stamina and overall showgirlship.

The Survivor concept has had two previous outings, designed to flush out and skill up Sydney’s next generation of drag talent. But this series of Survivor has a new twist: the contestants are (mainly) already established performers, and each of them is representing a charity organisation.

The line-up sees industry stayers mixing it with new players, new millennium gals and drag debutantes. Claire de Lune, Vanity Faire, Courtney Act, Audrey Hep-B, Joyce Maynge, Daisy Fantaizee, Tia La Titsia and Little Nell are the contestants, while Portia Turbo returns in her role as mistress of proceedings.

Alliances have formed between the girls and their colours are certainly appearing, Portia told Sydney Star Observer this week. Vanity Faire and Claire de Lune had already shown significant levels of competitiveness, she added.

Like a game of musical chairs, the line-up for Celebrity Drag Survivor will shrink week by week. Each week, three contestants will be nominated for elimination, one of whom will get the boot at the start of the following week’s show. As this edition of the Star was on its way to the presses, Joyce Maynge, Tia La Titsia and Daisy Fantaizee were staring down the barrel of the elimination gun. Punters can vote at the pub for the contestant they most want to see booted off, and there’s even a website (www.dragsurvivor.com) where you can vote for your favourite competitor.

Portia said she and producer Kathryn Waples had conspired to make the weekly challenges much, much harder this time around. Next week’s show will see the contestants lining up for an obstacle race -“ in heels, natch -“ while the challenges for future weeks involve tasks as diverse as jewellery design and jelly wrestling.

The three showgirls facing elimination also face another diabolical challenge: they are required to perform an impromptu drag number to a song with which they may or may not be familiar. Each contestant has been provided with a CD of 14 tracks from which the song will be drawn, Portia said -“ but, she added, these aren’t songs in the standard drag repertoire. They’re not what you would necessarily choose.

Or as Kathryn Waples put it: These are tracks the girls wouldn’t choose to perform in a pink fit!

While the intention of the night is to provide the punter with a good laugh, there’s also a serious, worthy side to the Celebrity Drag Survivor concept. The $2,000 winner’s prize-money will be donated to the organisation they represent, while money will also be raised each week and split between the eight charity groups, which include ACON, BGF, Twenty10 and the Luncheon Club. Our showgirls are shaming themselves for a good cause.

Celebrity Drag Survivor is on Wednesday nights at the Imperial Hotel. The final will be held on 15 October.

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