The queen of London’s queer scene on why life is anything but a drag.
Iconic drag queen Jodie Harsh has been ruling the London club scene for years. Her game-changing nights such as Room Service, Dollar Baby and Circus have become weekly hubs for the queer community. Her nights regularly attract a diversity of characters that utilise her events as a queer safe space; a place where judgement is shunned and individuality is encouraged. Over the course of her career, she’s established herself as a queen worth watching; she’s performed internationally in clubs and at festivals, has appeared in the Absolutely Fabulous movie and most recently, baed herself a YouTube show named The Hotline!
In a rare moment of peace amongst the chaos, Jodie sits down with us to share her ingredients for a stellar night out, explains why she’s less political than her drag counterparts and offers her opinion on the closing of queer spaces…
So, firstly, you’re doing a new show with WOW! Tell us the concept for the show.
It’s so fun! It’s called The Hotline, and it’s a new weekly web series on WOWPresents YouTube channel in which I basically FaceTime popstars and musicians and chat to them about what they’re doing. These days it’s extreme access that people love, take Carpool Karaoke for example - you’re in a really private place, in a celebrity’s car while they drive to work, and it’s relatable. So we thought we’d go inside their phones [Laughs] I want to chat to people while they’re getting ready, cooking dinner, in the studio - nothing too over produced. We just did Demi Lovato and she was getting her nails done. I want to talk about the mundane stuff - what they’re listening to, what they had for dinner…I wanna meet their dog and see what their living room looks like. I don’t really want to know what they think of Brexit or whatever that’s for a different show.
How did this show come about?
I’ve made some other online content with the guys there - I did a show called Drag Queen Problems. They’re like an extended family now - everyone there is so cool and so good at what they do. I mean, they make RuPaul’s Drag Race, that’s without doubt one of the best television shows of the last decade. People can pick that show apart as much as they like and discuss its ultra commercialisation of drag or normalisation of queerness or whatever, but you cannot deny how fucking well made it is and its positive effect on so many young people - especially young gay kids. It’s got such an immense cultural importance which cannot be overlooked. I really wish that show was around when I was a kid, it has so many positive role models and the constant thread of positivity, encouragement to work hard and nourishing, but tough love that Ru weaves through each episode is a life lesson in itself.
Tell us about some other celebs you’ve got lined up to appear on the show?
I have Charli XCX, Gwen Stefani and Fergie lined up, and a bunch more to come. I want to aim for the top - Madonna would be great, Gaga of course. My dream would be Eminem - I’d love to FaceTime him! He’s such an unklikely choice - that would be such a weird call I’m sure. ’Sup Marshall! LOL. I’m going to try to make that happen. I want to talk to loads of queer artists too, and some more underground names and up-and-coming singers, not just the mega hitters.
Tell us about the best night out you’ve ever had.
That’s hard - there are so many to choose from. I’m out and about at clubs and parties about five nights a week now, mainly for DJ sets and throwing parties, but I’ll occasionally hit the town for a non-work thing if there’s an event on I should show face at to support a friend or something. I really appreciate nights in these days. I get so hooked on a TV series that I duck out of parties an hour or so before the party finishes so I can finish an episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or something. My favourite night out ever…I really can’t choose one. I love Halloween and Jonathan Ross always throws this mad annual house party which is super fun - there’s always someone REALLY famous there and then all sorts of familiar faces. He decorates the grounds of his mega pad, they build a horror maze in the garden with so many sets and actors - it really is quite a production. But there are loads of kids and families there, it’s really chill and lovely.
What are ingredients of an amazing club night?
A good mixture of people first and foremost — that is so important. It takes a lot of ingredients to make a perfect crowd, you want a bit of this and a bit of that. Some cuties, some intelligent people, some dancers, some girls, some drag, some cool people who won’t spend a penny but make the party fun and some rich people who’ll buy loads of drinks and make the party financially viable so it can keep going. I hate when you go to a party and it’s all one thing — I dropped by a couple of those huge circuit parties this summer and I just don’t get it, it’s a room full of people who all look identical. I don’t understand how that is interesting. It’s like a cult! I need different flavours to be stimulated. Music is, of course, the thread that weaves the night together. The DJ should both educate and entertain, so play some new stuff people haven’t heard before and some popular tracks and maybe even some classics. A good DJ reads the crowd - you can tell when a DJ is really at one with their audience and there’s that perfect alchemy of music and dance.
Where are the best places to party outside of London, both in the UK and globally?
I’ve always loved the clubs in NYC, and they’ve inspired the things I’ve done. My nights Circus, Room Service, Dollar Baby - all inspired by New York party scenes. I’m lucky I get to travel so much, and honestly the UK has some of the best and most diverse clubs in the world, so we really should feel lucky and stop moaning. I love GBar in Liverpool, Kiki and Cruz in Manchester, Boombox in Belfast. There are some groups of kids throwing parties all around the UK, doing really exciting stuff.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen at one of your club nights?
I’ve seen absolutely EVERYTHING - but what happens at a Harsh party, stays at a Harsh party. I don’t kiss and tell.
You don’t seem to have as much of a political voice as some of your peers...
Agreed. I’m engaged but I’m not especially vocal. There are people out there who are amazing at this and so important to the community - my contribution to the world isn’t marching to Downing Street or handcuffing myself to someone in Moscow, or even being particularly political online. It’s just not what people are ever going to look to me for. We need more people fighting that fight for sure, but my platform provides a form of escape and entertainment via nightlight and music - things I believe are important. I might not bring much of a political voice to the party but I hope to bring some little bits of joy and some escapism in these dark times. When I think of the formative experience of going to gay clubs as a teenager and young adult, and the way music has helped me through dark times all through my life, it confirms that these are the vehicles I want to express myself and help others through.
Queer spaces are regularly being closed. What are you opinions on this?
It’s a huge fucking shame - most of the places I went to all through university are now gone. The Scala, Ghetto, The Black Cap, The End…all those amazing London clubs. If people don’t go to these places and spend their money, they don’t have too much of a right to complain when they are gone. You hear cries of the cultural importance of places and how it’s the end of an era and another nail in the coffin for the gay scene…but when did you last go and support this venue, when did you spend your money in there to help it stay put. I think it’s very important we try to save these places and that begins with being a patron, even just occasionally. The internet is a great place but it doesn’t offer physical contact and interaction which is essential development for a human. We have to step outside and away from our screens and go to queer spaces to meet people, dance, celebrate our queerness, be entertained, get laid. Basically, LET’S GO OUT!