Drag King Johnny Gash Claims The Naarm altimate.SHOWDOWN Crown

Drag King Johnny Gash Claims The Naarm altimate.SHOWDOWN Crown
Image: Image: E.F.P Photography

In a night of unparalleled talent and vibrant celebration, the Grand Final of altimate.SHOWDOWN Naarm Season 2 at Stay Gold Melbourne witnessed the crowning of a new champion—singer and Drag King Johnny Gash.

Johnny delivered a powerful performance in a testament to the artistry of drag kings, a niche within drag culture that has long fought for recognition and representation.

“Drag has become wonderfully celebrated in the mainstream thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race, but in comparison to drag queens, drag kings are woefully underrepresented,” Johnny Gash remarked.

“Kings are fighting to be seen and recognised in an increasingly commercial industry, and we are often dismissed as a lesser art form compared to our drag sisters.”

“Drag is for everyone.”

For many in the audience, Johnny’s performance was an eye-opening introduction to the world of drag kings. “One of my favorite things about performing as Johnny is when I get to be someone’s first experience of a drag king,” Johnny shared, “and the sheer excitement they have when they realise there’s so much more to drag culture that exists for them to explore—and maybe that it aligns with something within themselves.”

Upon accepting the crown, Johnny delivered a heartfelt speech, quoting Themme Fatale: “As queer people, we are sometimes all we have, but we are all we need.”

Johnny Gash and Tilly Capulet altimate.SHOWDOWN Naarm Season 2 Photo Credit EFP Photography
Image: E.F.P Photography

altimate.SHOWDOWN, presented by alt. and burlesque sensation Mara Maraschino, is more than just a competition.

It is a genre-spanning celebration of diversity and local talent, with performers from drag, burlesque, sideshow, comedy, music, performance art, and dance competing for the grand prize in different competitions across Australia.

The event has quickly become a staple in the queer performance circuit, known for its fierce celebration of individuality and artistic excellence.

“We are running out of artistic spaces that feel truly challenging, experimental, and underground, which I think is such an important part of queer culture. This is exactly the kind of space that alt. provides,” Johnny said of the unique and important competition.

“Words like ‘diversity’ and ‘representation’ feel like such box-ticking buzzwords at this point in discourse surrounding spaces, but it really is at the very core of what alt. strives for in its events,” they said.

“They don’t care whether you’ve ever been on a stage before, they don’t care what you look like, and they don’t care whether what you do is ‘marketable.’ They care about originality and authenticity.”

The excitement at the altimate.SHOWDOWN shows is palpable. “You look around and realise you’re in a room full of people who are connecting with it the same way you are,” Johnny reflected.

“As a performer, there is nowhere more safe and loving than an alt. stage with an alt. audience.”

Winning altimate.SHOWDOWN means more to Johnny than just a title. “To me, holding this title means encouraging my community to continue to be louder and prouder than ever, and to hold each other tight,” Johnny emphasised.

“All our struggles are interconnected, and it is more important than ever that we support and turn up for each other. That we find delight and strength in our collective defiance.”

In a time of growing political division and extremism, Johnny’s words resonated deeply.

“Queer people, especially trans people (and especially trans people of colour), have become the scapegoat for so much fear and hatred. In an age of increasing isolation, we need the power of community more than ever.”

Reflecting on queer resilience, Johnny said, “Queer people are so immensely talented at finding light, joy, and humour in our darkest hours. We turn hatred and tragedy into art, over and over.”

“If queer history has taught us anything, it’s that we’ve always been here, and we always will be here.”

Johnny Gash and Judges, Host and Producers altimate.SHOWDOWN Naarm Season 2 Photo Credit EFP Photography
Image: E.F.P Photography

Johnny Gash joins the ranks of previous altimate.SHOWDOWN champions, including Micah Rusticelli, Ira Luxuria, and Iman Inawig. Each winner has brought their unique flavour to the competition, enriching the vibrant tapestry of queer performance art.

Iman Inawig, a South Asian drag queen and champion of altimate.SHOWDOWN Meanjin Season 2, reflected on the significance of alt. in their career: “Since I first started drag, alt. has always been one of the very few queer spaces I felt comfortable and accepted enough to showcase a blend of queer and cultural performance.”

As alt. gears up to expand altimate.SHOWDOWN to more cities across Australia and potentially further afield, the impact of this inclusive, vibrant competition continues to grow.

For those eager to experience the magic of altimate.SHOWDOWN, keep an eye on alt.’s website for updates on future events.

For more information, visit www.altevents.au.

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