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Adam All – leading personality of the British drag king scene finally in Prague

Some use glitter makeup and wigs. Some bind, pack and meticulously craft their own facial hair, yet there are plenty of those who don’t. And for many of them, performing in drag allows them to express a part of the gender identity that they don’t necessarily perform in real life and some others continue living it out after their performances. Some are queer, some are straight, some are trans, some are bi and some are lesbian.

Kings. Drag kings.

The official history of drag kings oscillates in between the lines of gender expression, male impersonation, and king performances.

Jack Halberstam, professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies, and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California, writes in his 1998 book Female Masculinity: Male impersonation has been a theatrical genre for at least two hundred years, but the drag king is a recent phenomenon. Whereas the male impersonator attempts to produce a plausible performance of maleness as the whole of her act, the drag king performs masculinity (often parodically) and makes the exposure of the theatricality of masculinity into the mainstay of her act. Both the male impersonator and the drag king are different from the drag butch, a masculine woman who wears male attire as part of her quotidian gender expression.

From male impersonators of the late 19th century like Annie Hindle, the contemporary performances of Brooklyn drag kings like Lee VaLone, and the characters of comedians like SNL’s Kate McKinnon, or Italian Julius Kaiser and the Kings of Rome, the history of drag king performance is long. Still, even though kings have been refining their craft for decades, they continue fighting for cultural visibility.

One of the most known British drag kings is Adam All. Adam has the look of a modern. hipster Beatle, with the mannerisms of the typical American geeks in the early 2000s music videos, plus a voice that croons in - completes the picture.

Adam is a creation of a performance artist Jen Powell.

adam all 7740 web

How did you become a drag artist?

I have a lot of musical training, right up to degree level, but I never enjoyed performing. When I came out I very quickly found support and safety in the gay community which, of course, celebrated many drag queens. I absolutely loved the drag queen shows and would go to see queens 2 or 3 times a week when I could, especially for karaoke nights that I became almost addicted to in my early 20’s. I’ve always looked ‘boyish’ and enjoyed dressing up as male characters, particularly in suits, though many people found that very odd. It was a local queen who eventually convinced me to put the two together and develop a show. That was 10 years ago.

How did you choose your name?

Actually my mother came up with my name - some comment about my behaviour at college and university o think - but it’s been so much about forging a path, helping and supporting the scene and giving back to the community that the names connections to beginnings and fatherhood has become really coincidentally appropriate.

How long does it take to get into “full Adam All” mode. What does the process involve?

It takes me about an hour and a half to get ready for a show, that’s not too long really. Face and body contouring, hair styling, binding, packing and of course the suit needs to be crisp. I’ll be warming up my voice, stretching out my body, double checking lyrics and walking through the set, all building towards focus and energy for an upbeat performance.

What inspires you when you create your shows?

I’m really Inspired by compassion and kindness. Im also very outspoken about the limitations of social gender expectations always hoping to inspire people to be themselves and move beyond what they’ve been told they can or can’t do simply because of their perceived gender. I also love good old cheesy 80’s and 90’s pop and rock music, it’s very easy to parody and manipulate.

What’s your ultimate goal as a drag king? Do you simply want to have fun and express yourself? Or is there a larger picture here?

I really believe there are very few routes to the stage as an androgynous human, very few roles and very little representation. I think there are some terrible pressures on men and women to conform to stereotypes, particularly in this social media age, Drag for me has become a campaign as much as a form of entertainment, and kings are right in the front line fighting for freedom and recognition.

What is a drag king, and how does it differ from a drag queen? What is drag generally, and why do we still see it in such binary terms? And why do drag queens get all the recognition?

I think we are on the verge of a king revolution. We are gaining momentum as a community as we parallel the changes in laws and rights for lgbtqia across the globe though of course we still have so far to go. For me drag is a performance of gender both queens and kings parody and celebrate gender roles and expressions, both to liberate themselves and to challenge our audiences to reconsider their expectations. So queens work with (but not exclusively) femaleness and femininity and Kings work with and around maleness and masculinity as these binary options are the limitations we face in society and also often the roles we are forced to play.

What kind of relationship do you have with your alter ego persona?

Adam is a sweet and gentle man, I’m fond of him and very protective, he is the development and expression of the confident parts of me as well as being a lot of fun to play.

What does your family think about your shows and your drag persona? Do they support it? Did your alter ego enrich your family connection in any way? Did the drag king performing affect your family relations in any way? Did you draw from family or family values in any of your performances?

My family are very supportive of me and my Drag. I’m so proud to say they do come to my shows and completely understand why I love it and why it’s so important to me. They’ve always been protective of me entering a profession that can be very unstable and high pressured but I’ve pushed through and I know they are proud of me. I think through Adam people around me have been able to better understand my day to day struggles and also see me for who I really am.

Drag queens tend to form troupes and families, how does it work in the environment of lesser known drag kings?

We have quite strong bonds in the King community and I like to say we are all brothers one way or another as we are all fighting for recognition equal to that of queens. I have a lot of ‘sons’ I’m very proud of, kings who either started at my night BOiBOX or for some other reason I have tried to help or support on their journey. For the most part my experience has been one of a loving supportive community and I strive everyday to keep it that way.

Are the gender roles represented by kings binary and traditional or do you see any movement towards gender fluid representations by drag artists?

I have found the current King scene to be very gender fluid and expressive of a huge range of ideas of maleness and masculinity that could in no way be described as simple binary or stereotypical depictions. It’s one of the things that makes this scene so exciting and progressive. These performers are truly owning themselves and expressing their experiences.

What question would you like to answer but no one have ever asked you?

No one really asks about Apple a lot – I convinced my partner to join me on stage a couple of years into our relationship. She performs as Adams Long suffering girlfriend Apple and through their dynamic they have been able to sell the concept of a Drag kings to audiences that in some cases have never even heard of one before. We have such an amazing life together travelling round covered in glitter and singing together, it’s been a real blast, with no signs of slowing down yet.

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