Cancelled gigs, shuttered venues, life in iso has hit Melbourne’s vibrant drag artist community hard. Live stream performances have helped some to remain connected to their supporters, but the financial rewards have been meagre and many are left with zero income.
Now, one young drag artist has decided it’s time to buckle up and prepare for the ride ahead to get the queens back on the stage. Bae L’amour has set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds and provide financial support to local drag artists.
“I can’t wait for the lockdown to end. Live streaming under soft-box lights doesn’t quite compare to the stage!,” Bae, the winner of Drag Junior 2018 and Dragnation Victoria 2019 finalist, tells Star Observer. In two days since Bae set up the ‘Melbourne Drag Fund’ with a target of raising $10,000, she has already raised around $1,702 from 33 supporters.
“A lot of us have suffered financially from the loss of drag-related events. Performers have had gigs, commissions, events and venue bookings cancelled,” says Bae, about the motivation for the crowdfunding campaign. With the easing of lockdown restrictions in some parts of the country, drag artists are hoping that they can get back on stage soon. Bae says the campaign hopes to put some money into the pockets of the artists so that when the lockdown lifts they are ready for “one of the biggest returning seasons of drag Melbourne has seen”.
The financial and emotional toll of the lockdown has been difficult for drag artists for whom the stage was one of their safe spaces. Bae, not a full-time drag performer herself (but adds, that is her goal), says it was “heartbreaking” to see friends and colleagues struggle and “losing everything in one swoop”.
“There are performers who have been doing drag full-time for years who have lost all of their income. With the assistance of government funding some have been able to pay bills and amenities, but there’s not much left over to invest in drag. Full-time workers and students have to spend all of their leftover money on bills and rent instead of the preservation of their craft…. Then there are the people I know who were already unemployed and struggling to get by, it’s just been so difficult for so many people,” says Bae.
With the curtains drawn at many of the places she loved performing at, including, Sircuit, The 86, Poof Doof, and Vau d’vile Drag Cabaret Restaurant, Bae like other drag artists have had to turn to crowded online spaces. She has had to learn the basics of live streaming, teaching herself editing software, and finding ways to preserve the integrity of her performances in digital spaces. For her and the other queens, however, the stage beckons.
“There’s such a huge desire to not only be performing but just being around our chosen families again. Filling up our venues and celebrating life and all things good. Drag has always been an escape from reality, for both the performer and the audience. But now I feel like it’s time we get out and truly live in the moment,” says Bae.
Bel has a message for patrons: “You have been with us from the beginning. Without you, there is no us. We have done our best in these trying times. Learning new technology and adapting to a digital world. While venues are still shut, we promise you that when it is safe and when we can all see each other again we’ll be back, bigger and better than ever. But for now, if you could spare any change, any donation helps.”
Do your bit to support Melbourne’s drag artists. The fundraising link is here: https://rebrand.ly/MDFDonate
If you are a Melbourne artist looking for support, apply here: https://rebrand.ly/artists