Indigenous drag performers Ana Diction (Harley Dunolly-Lee) and Zodiac (Zac Widders) were both crowned winners at the inaugural NAIDOC LGBTI pride event in Victoria last year.
Now, they’ll represent the community on the Indigenous float at Melbourne’s Pride March, and will be ambassadors at Midsumma Festival.
Matthew Wade caught up with the pair to talk drag, visibility, and the Indigenous queer community.
How did you first get involved in drag?
AD: My partner, who was formerly known as Dignity Subtly Stript, inspired me to do drag and I performed at the Outblack’s 20th anniversary. From then on I decided to continue doing drag and performing onstage.
Z: The first time I ever really did drag was in boarding school when my friend bought a cheap $8 wig from the Reject Shop and we dressed up and ran around the corridors dancing to Kesha. But the first time I ever really performed in drag was at the NAIDOC Pride event. Other than that, I was just everyone’s cross-dressing friend who would look hotter than the bio girls at every event.
What was NAIDOC Pride like?
AD: I really enjoyed it. It was great to show the community my craft.
Z: NAIDOC Pride was heaps of fun. Having a venue packed full of other blackfullas is always going to be fun and no-one parties better than the queers, so it was an absolute ball. But it was also really incredible that it was the first event of its kind and had such a good turnout.
Are you hoping to bring visibility to queer Indigenous communities through your performances?
AD: Yes, because I want to project meaning through my drag. The meaning being that you can take your drag to any art form possible.
Z: I think visibility is very important and I’m so honoured to be able to give visibility to both the Indigenous community as a queer person, but also to the queer community as an Indigenous person. I’m hoping I can make both communities proud.
What’s an issue in the queer Indigenous community you feel most passionate about?
AD: Suicide among queer people in the community. This has been going on for years. My cousins who are twice my age told me that many of their gay relatives committed suicide when they were young. This was the situation growing up in the country and in the mission.
Z: Mental health and suicide. Indigenous people already have alarmingly high suicide rates, well above the national average, and young queer people too. While there isn’t a lot of data, sitting at the intersection of these two communities, queer Indigenous people face these issues tenfold. This is why I feel very passionate about this role and giving visibility to queer Indigenous people.
How will you be involved in Midsumma this year?
AD: I have entered the Miss Gay Australia International Pageant. My advocacy for the pageant is violence against Aboriginal women. I will also be performing at a few events.
Z: I’ve got a few performances and a few appearances. I would highly recommend coming to watch. I don’t want to give too much away but there will be Madonna involved and maybe a backflip or two.
What message are you hoping to send to the broader community?
AD: My message is always the same. Take your drag to where you want it to go. Act, talk, and look the way you want to it to be. It is self expression. It is a working progress and nothing is wrong with trial and error. Always stick to your heart and dreams.
Z: I’m hoping to send a message of inspiration to the broader community. That queer blackfullas exist and we are strong, proud, and deadly.