The queen of Lon­don’s queer scene on why life is any­thing but a drag.

Gay Times Magazine - - Jodie Harsh - Pho­tog­ra­phy Ar­ron Dun­worth Fash­ion Cal­lum Vin­cent Words Ryan Cahill

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, ba„ed 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!

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