From Kinky Boots to Priscilla, life has been one big drag for our straight mate, Blake Ap­pelqvist. Matt My­ers meets the man be­hind the make-up.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT #221 -

For a straight boy, he’s done a lot of drag! First Kinky Boots and now Priscilla.

DNA: As a straight man play­ing a drag queen do you ever feel like a fish out of wa­ter?

Blake Ap­pelqvist: I feel very priv­i­leged to have had the roles I’ve had. I’ve al­ways felt in­cluded and ev­ery­one in this show knows what it’s like to be an out­sider and what it’s like to bring some­one into the fold. It’s al­ways like a fam­ily here.

You re­ally are a bril­liant drag queen. What do your fam­ily and friends think?

Why, thank you! My brother saw Kinky Boots about six times and brought his girl­friend and all his work­mates and all of their mates. My par­ents are to­tally for it, too. In fact, my aunty was mis­taken for one of the show’s drag queens when she was walk­ing to her car! [Laughs.] But she loved it. They had a ball. You can’t not have a fun time at Priscilla – or Kinky Boots. There’s just no way!

From an An­gel in Kinky Boots to Priscilla’s Miss Un­der­stood – has it been a smooth tran­si­tion from one queen to an­other?

I’d say the char­ac­ter I played in Kinky Boots was very dif­fer­ent to the one in Priscilla. They’re ob­vi­ously both camp and bub­bly, but I like how Miss Un­der­stand­ing re­ally owns the stage. She feels more like an au­then­tic Australian drag queen. She gives the au­di­ence sass and doesn’t take any non­sense. What about with the drag queen make-up? You must be an ex­pert by now!

I cer­tainly learned a lot on Kinky Boots do­ing eight shows a week, but what’s in­ter­est­ing is that by the end, our make-up artist/de­signer Con­nie, was very com­fort­able with my abil­ity in chang­ing the process from Kinky Boots to match the aes­thet­ics of Priscilla. It’s more ’90s – thin, high brows – and closer to the style in the film.

The stage show of Priscilla is now 10 years old and the movie is over 20; why do you think the story still res­onates, even with those out­side the LGBTIQ world?

Well, all three of the queens feel like out­siders, and I think any­one in or out of the LGBTIQ com­mu­nity can un­der­stand what that feels like. That also in­cludes some of the show’s other char­ac­ters, such as Shirl the burly bar­tender who doesn’t think she’s good enough, and the queens in­spire and give her con­fi­dence. A lot of peo­ple can re­late to feel­ing alone or out­side the norm.

Ev­ery­one imag­ines that back stage at Priscilla it would be a lot of camped-up fri­vol­ity. Is it?

It’s ev­ery­thing you imag­ine and more! It’s ridicu­lous. We’re dressed as cup­cakes and paint bushes and there’s make-up and glit­ter fly­ing around ev­ery­where.

So, like foot­ball’s Mad Mon­days, mi­nus the show­ers!

[Laughs.] We do have “muck-up mati­nee”. Once through a con­tract there’s al­ways a muck-up mati­nee where some­thing goes wrong – not by our own fault, of course! One time we tried to paint our nails dur­ing in­ter­val, and we didn’t wait for them to dry. When you touch any­thing with wet nails… well, long story short, I looked like a ze­bra! My stock­ings were cov­ered with lovely stripes.

While in Kinky Boots, you and the cast re­ally got be­hind the Yes same-sex mar­riage cam­paign. What was your ex­pe­ri­ence of that?

Be­ing 190cm I didn’t get bullied, but my gen­er­a­tion coined the phrase, ‘that’s so gay’ which is aw­ful – it’s aw­ful!

Apart from it be­ing a dark point in our his­tory, it was re­ally com­fort­ing to see so much sup­port from friends and strangers for the Yes cam­paign. You don’t re­alise just how much sup­port is out there un­til it’s con­stantly in your so­cial me­dia feed. It was a weirdly sad yet up­lift­ing time.

Grow­ing up, did you wit­ness ho­mo­pho­bia? I grew up in Can­berra. When you grow up in a cer­tain place you learn that, un­for­tu­nately, that can be the nor­mal be­hav­ior. There was a lot of that. For me, be­ing a guy who is camp and who per­forms, it could have been an is­sue but be­ing 190cm [six-foot-three] I didn’t get bullied, but my gen­er­a­tion coined the phrase “that’s so gay,” which is aw­ful – it’s aw­ful! In 2018 peo­ple are more vo­cal about that phrase not be­ing right.

Who’s your diva?

Bey­once, es­pe­cially after her per­for­mance at Coachella. She’s been chang­ing the game since I was first in­tro­duced to mu­sic and I re­ally love the Lemon­ade al­bum. She’s the queen!

Be­ing a dancer, what do you do for fit­ness?

I do it all on stage! The show is a lot of car­dio and if we’re not on stage we’re back stage get­ting changed into some elab­o­rate cos­tume, which the whole show is full of. Other than that, for fit­ness I usu­ally run the dog around the Tan [Mel­bourne’s Botanic Gar­dens track].

Is there a dream stage role for you?

That would be the lead in Dear Even Hansen. The role is what I’m most drawn to, but the show it­self is sim­i­lar to Priscilla in that its core mes­sage is, “You are good enough and wor­thy.” I like shows that have a very strong mes­sage.

Who has been the big­gest in­flu­ence on your ca­reer so far?

There’s so many. I worked with Caro­line O’Con­nor in The Pro­duc­tion Com­pany’s Funny Girl and it felt like I was in the pres­ence of a truly great world per­former. I feel the same with Tony Shel­don in Priscilla. It’s such a priv­i­lege to work with them and to see them work. There must be slips and spills with your type of per­for­mance. Have you had any mem­o­rable wardrobe mal­func­tions?

There’s a cos­tume piece that I’m sup­posed to throw off-stage, and some­times it will hit some­thing in­stead, and just stay there. So, this one time, I pan­icked and death dropped [a back­ward the­atri­cal fall]. But I grabbed it, got pulled off stage, and re­ceived one of the big­gest ap­plauses I’ve ever had! It ended up be­ing one of the worst things and the best things to hap­pen. It was one of the most sat­is­fy­ing pieces of theatre.

Briefs, box­ers or free-ball?

Briefs, but box­ers when I want to chill.

And, like most per­form­ers, do you find wear­ing a dance belt an odd ex­pe­ri­ence?

Oh, yes, it’s some­thing you never get used to. No mat­ter how many times you wear it, but we have to wear them. All the boys wear them be­cause that’s where our mi­cro­phones sit as well. Tak­ing them off is a eu­phoric ex­pe­ri­ence!

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