Tina Turn-on

Dubbo Photo News - - Contents. -

How ex­actly does a boy from the bush end up as the star at­trac­tion on a Mardi Gras float spon­sored by one of the big­gest cor­po­rate en­ti­ties in the world? JEN COW­LEY asked Tim Mill­gate and his al­ter-ego, drag queen Tina Turn-on, to ex­plain.

AS far as on­line turn-ons go, they don’t come much big­ger than Face­book. With more than 1.5 bil­lion users world­wide – nine mil­lion in Aus­tralia alone – the global so­cial net­work knows how to pull a crowd.

Which is per­haps why the com­pany has asked Dubbo ex-pat Tim Mill­gate and his drag-queen al­ter ego Tina Turn-on to be the star at­trac­tion on its in­au­gu­ral float at this year’s Syd­ney Gay and Les­bian Mardi Gras.

Face­book will this year for the first time come aboard as a spon­sor of the phe­nom­e­nally pop­u­lar pa­rade, which draws some 10,000 par­tic­i­pants and hun­dreds of thou­sands of vis­i­tors from all over Aus­tralia and the world, mak­ing it, like Face­book, a force to be reck­oned with.

So how does a boy from the bush wind up as the flag bearer for the cor­po­rate gi­ant’s first of­fi­cial foray into the glitzily sym­bolic show­case of gay and les­bian pride?

“Well,” says the 32 year old who has gath­ered a solid fol­low­ing for his drag act as Tina Turn-on. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

This year will mark a neat decade since he first marched in the pa­rade, with which he’s been var­i­ously in­volved as both or­gan­iser and par­tic­i­pant.

Mill­gate – as Tina – hosted his own float in 2014 as part of his 30th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions – no small feat given the strictly con­trolled and hugely com­pet­i­tive process of en­ter­ing the pa­rade.

But he was look­ing for­ward to sim­ply en­joy­ing the spec­ta­cle this year.

“I wasn’t go­ing to ac­tu­ally march – I wanted to just en­joy watch­ing the pa­rade go past, which I’ve never re­ally done be­fore.” Serendip­ity changed his mind. “As chance would have it, a girl­friend of mine now works at Face­book and they were hav­ing their meet­ings about what cos­tumes they’d have for the float, what mu­sic and so forth and some­one said, “Hey – let’s have a drag queen on the back of the float! Does any­one know any?”

“My friend piped up and said, “Well, I know one…” And that was that – Tina’s their girl!”

It’s the gig of a life­time and a mas­sive feather in Tina’s over­sized wig. Mill­gate didn’t hes­i­tate.

“For this to hap­pen on the ten year an­niver­sary of my first march, it sort of feels like the plan­ets have aligned – it’s come full cir­cle.

“Go­ing from be­ing a par­tic­i­pant to hav­ing my own float to then be­ing the star on a cor­po­rate float – it’s hum­bling and very ex­cit­ing. But it’s also very daunting, given Face­book isn’t ex­actly a lit­tle back­yard com­pany. Mill­gate is still pinch­ing him­self. “To be a quasi-am­bas­sador for a global brand on the mas­sive stage that is the Syd­ney Mardi Gras is an hon­our I re­ally can’t get over – I feel so blessed to have been asked.”

Blessed, but daunted, he ad­mits, say­ing he ini­tially re­acted with trep­i­da­tion.

“Last year, one of the big cor­po­rate floats was Qan­tas – and their star was drag queen, Court­ney Act of Aus­tralian Idol and Rupaul’s Drag Race fame. “She’s an icon in terms of drag, and so when Face­book called me two weeks ago and told me they wanted to have an iconic drag queen as part of their float, I was a bit taken aback.

“I’m an oc­ca­sional drag queen, but I cer­tainly wouldn’t call my­self iconic. I’m just a hum­ble lit­tle boy from Dubbo.” Still, he’s keen to step up – on Tina’s tow­er­ing heels – and “give it a go”.

Hav­ing been hon­oured with a place in Mill­gate/ Tina’s 2014 fab­u­lously flam­boy­ant 2014 float, I have some small idea of ex­actly how much plan­ning – and how much glit­ter – goes into pre­par­ing for this night of nights.

I’m keen to know how the Face­book float is shap­ing up, and what fab­u­lous­ness Tina will be of­fer­ing this year’s au­di­ence.

But Mill­gate is keep­ing his cards un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally close to his chest.

“I had my first meet­ing this week and while I can’t tell you too much, I can say that around 50 staff from the Face­book of­fice are go­ing to be a part of the float.”

He’s also been in­vited to have 20 of his “near­est and dear­est” march­ing boys join Tina for her big night.

That’s go­ing to cause some bitch­ing in the ranks, I ven­ture, and Mill­gate gives his trade­mark chuckle.

“I’ve al­ready had some com­ments about who will make the cut, so to speak! Let’s just say there’ll be a bunch of Mardi Gras-ap­pro­pri­ate gen­tle­men help­ing me out on the float, and I – well, Tina – will be af­fixed to the back of the float.”

Mill­gate has seen the de­signs but won’t share – they’re very much un­der wraps, he says.

“I can tell you there’ll be more glit­ter than you can poke a stick at!”

Not sur­pris­ingly, there’ll be lots of colour and fun, but Mill­gate says it will all be in tune with Face­book’s val­ues as a good cor­po­rate ci­ti­zen.

“They re­ally want to fo­cus on get­ting that across: sim­ple, but in­cred­i­bly fab­u­lous and ef­fec­tive.”

Face­book’s de­ci­sion to part­ner with Syd­ney Mardi Gras is a state­ment in it­self.

The cor­po­rate gi­ant lends sig­nif­i­cant gravitas to the al­ready pow­er­ful so­cial and political move­ment that is this glob­ally renowned event.

“I met with the head of pol­icy for Face­book and In­sta­gram in Aus­tralia and New Zealand, and she’s a huge sup­porter not just of be­ing part of Mardi Gras, but of the move­ment.

“Many of your read­ers will re­mem­ber that, in the re­cent push for mar­riage equal­ity and gay rights in Aus­tralia, a lot of peo­ple changed their Face­book pro­file pic­tures to have a rain­bow screen – and the num­bers be­hind that are stag­ger­ing. Mil­lions and mil­lions of peo­ple did that glob­ally.”

Face­book – as much as it’s a so­cial plat­form, and is a part of ev­ery day life now – as a com­pany sup­ports many hu­man rights cam­paigns, he says.

“As a busi­ness, they have the power to make change and to ex­ert political force on a range of is­sues, not just gay rights.

“It’s quite heart-warm­ing to see a com­pany the size of Face­book do­ing some­thing that’s not just for the bot­tom line, or for the me­dia ku­dos, but ac­tu­ally fight­ing the good fight.”

Mill­gate ac­knowl­edges that amid all the glitz and glam­our and feath­ers and frills, lies a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“I’m a hum­ble coun­try lad who’s about to rep­re­sent a huge global brand in their in­au­gu­ral Mardi Gras float – that’s a mas­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity for a whole raft of rea­sons.

“Part of the rea­son I said yes is that Face­book aligns with my ethics and phi­los­o­phy – it’s all about in­clu­sion and friend­ship and bring­ing peo­ple to­gether. Face­book is all about let­ting you be your­self, and also about giv-

“I’m an oc­ca­sional drag queen, but I cer­tainly wouldn’t call my­self iconic. I’m just a hum­ble lit­tle boy from Dubbo.”

ing or­di­nary peo­ple a fo­rum and a plat­form.

“That’s also what Mardi Gras is about – and it’s what I’m about.” If Mill­gate is thrilled, Tina is be­side her­self – lit­er­ally. “She’s not been out and about for a while, so she’s pretty ex­cited. We’ve set up some pre­lim­i­nary meet­ings to dis­cuss out­fits and she’s thrilled with the way things are look­ing.

“We can’t say too much, but it will be Face­book-ap­pro­pri­ate with a lot of sparkle. And the hair is a very big fac­tor – do we up-do, down-do, go blonde or colour…? There’ll be lots of op­por­tu­nity to be cre­ative, and Tina’s look­ing for­ward to that!”

Mardi Gras will be held over the first week­end in March, with the pa­rade on Satur­day, March 6 – and Mill­gate is thrilled that he’ll again have a large con­tin­gent of Dubbo friends and fam­ily lin­ing Ox­ford Street to cheer Tina on.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence will be fab­u­lous for any­one who wants to come down to Syd­ney for the week­end to have a great night and sup­port a great cause.”

A Dubbo boy rep­re­sent­ing a global com­pany at a huge in­ter­na­tional event – dressed in span­gles and feath­ers and glit­ter and sparkle? Ev­ery­one press “like”.

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