If you find Made in Chelsea a bit stiff, TOWIE too orange, and Geordie Shore overrun with ‘bromance’, Drag Queens of London could be the reality show for you. This ten-part series about to begin on new channel London Live (and online) follows the big characters and even bigger wigs at the heart of the capital’s glamorous drag scene – expect tears, tantrums and tequila shots. Episode one focuses on drag pop trio Buffalo Girls, so I caught up with one third of the group, the inimitable Lady Lloyd, to find out more.
Who are the Buffalo Girls?
“I guess I’m the creative force behind it – I orchestrate the songs and our image. Silver [Summers] tends to be quite good with the vocals, and she was quite good with the writing as well. Then Baga [Chipz] is like an afterthought. Baga’s the replaceable, interchangeable one. Just kidding, we love her really! It’s also kind of useful, because if you’ve got three people ganging up against each other and fighting for different things, it can get quite annoying, so it’s nice having one member who doesn’t care.”
How did the band come together?
“Being in a band is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I never really liked anyone else enough to do it with them. I didn’t want to do something on my own because if you do a solo show, it needs to be fucking amazing, otherwise what’s the point? No-one cares. When it’s a band, it’s more of an interesting thing to look at. You’ve got three people on stage and you can do choreography and harmonies. I think Silver got me drunk one time and suggested we do a band. She kind of forced me. The first time we did a gig I was shitting myself, because I didn’t really like being on stage very much.”
So how did Baga come into the equation?
“Baga is the only other one I like. She’s been a bit of a nightmare to work with and as I said, she’s easily replaceable, but I don’t really want to replace her because there’s no-one else I like. The other drag queens on the scene are not as fun, or they’ve got too big egos, or they think they’re Kylie Minogue. We know where we are. The Buffalo Girls don’t have the harmonies of Little Mix, but we’ve got our own thing going on and there’s nothing else on the drag scene like it.”
What is the Buffalo Girls sound?
“It’s current. Ish. For the songs we cover, we wanted to do stuff that people don’t normally hear on the drag scene. The other drag queens always do things like Shirley Bassey and Tina Turner, but nobody’s doing something a bit more contemporary. For our own original stuff, we’ve been working with producers who have done songs that have charted for more indie and urban acts. We love pop, so our songs have pop choruses, but it’s more cool than some of the things other drag queens do. When drag queens write records, they always write about putting their lipstick on and getting into their high heels. It’s all a bit naff, so we’ve purposefully tried to stay away from that and write something more universal.”
What made you get into drag in the first place?
“That was just natural. I gravitated towards the clubs when I was 15 or 16, which is how I met [London drag scene matriarch] Dusty O. I think I got a job at Heaven first, working the door of the Departure Lounge, and by that point I was kind of ‘in between’. I had eyeliner on, and not a wig but funky hair that looked like a helmet. One day Dusty said ‘wear these’ and handed me the biggest high heels you’ve ever seen in your life. We went out to Popstarz, up those dangerous china stairs and I hit the deck a hundred times. It was awful, I just couldn’t do it. She said though that once I wore those shoes, I’d never go back. It was so true. Every single person I know that’s ever done drag, they all say the same. It’s really, really addictive.”
What do you think makes a good drag queen?
“I think really what it comes down to is personality. Even though I think I look gorgeous in drag – before it hits midnight, anyway – I think it’s very easy to be pretty. Anyone can put on a pretty-coloured lipstick, pretty eye shadow or a pretty wig. I think it’s much more interesting to look powerful, or to look sexy, or important. A lot of the drag queens do look pretty but then there’s no personality to them. Baga can look as rough as old spanners, but that personality of hers just draws you in.”
So is it personality or more about confidence?
“No, it’s personality. There are some drag queens who think they’re amazing but they’ve got no personality. You’ve got to back it up with something. You don’t even have to have much talent. I don’t think I’m particularly talented as a performer but I do have a personality. Baga can’t sing like Mariah Carey but her show is one of the best ones to see in London. Meth does the avant-garde shows and they’re amazing. But then there are some queens out there – what even are their shows? They’re nothing. It’s standing on stage singing a pop song with nothing else going on. I don’t get it. Why would you watch that?”
You’ve now finished filming on the show. How did it all work out?
“When we started filming, I hadn’t spoken to Baga for about six months. The last time we had been together as Buffalo Girls, she made things difficult. She’s known a bit as Baga Lies, because she bends the truth on everything, even pointless things. When they asked us to do this show, we decided we would give the group another go. I wanted to because I enjoy doing it and as a three we are a really good act. I thought that if we were doing this show, it would be more of a reason for Baga to behave herself. Well that just didn’t happen, she got worse. The first few episodes deal with her not really showing up to anything. She’s got a terrible habit of saying she’s somewhere she’s not. So you’ll get a phone call saying she’s on her way to rehearsals, then two hours later she’ll tell you she’s in Manchester. Then you’ll have a huge row for half an hour full of lies, then five minutes later she’ll turn up because she was on the bus the whole time. She’s got issues, she’s absolutely bonkers.”
And you’ve recorded a single too?
“Yes, it’s called Don’t Rescue Me and the idea is to get the track on iTunes and then do an EP to see what happens. We shot a music video for it too, which you’ll see on the show. Baga turned up two hours late for that and she also hadn’t shaved, so she’s in this high definition music video with a moustache. I asked her why she hadn’t shaved and she was like ‘I haven’t had time’. It didn’t compute. She didn’t get it and laughed it off. Do you really want to be on YouTube in 1080p HD with a moustache?! There’s just no getting through to her.”
What do your family think of you doing drag?
“I know my dad’s really proud. I moved out when I was 16 and I’ve supported myself since then. I’ve never not paid my rent and it’s been ten years now – and for eight of those I’ve been DJing full time. He doesn’t mind the drag and he tells people about what I do. My mum’s been to [London drag night] Trannyshack with me and she had a great time. She got really drunk and danced to Heart of Glass. It was major. They’re both really alright with it, but on the other hand, I’m unsure whether to let them watch this show. It’s a bit full-on.”
Will you still be doing this in ten years’ time or will you have migrated to a residency at [old-school drag pub] Molly Moggs?
“No, are you insane? When I’m 50 maybe! I pretty much think I’ll be doing the same. Ten years has already flown by now. I look at people like Tasty Tim and Princess Julia – I mean, Princess Julia has been out every night since 1978. I don’t want to be one of those drag queens that suddenly adopts the persona of an old lady. As long as you keep young at heart nobody really notices. I love my DJing. I went to music college, the Brit School, so I feel like I’m where I should be career-wise.”
Drag Queens of London begins this Tuesday (April 22) at 10pm on London Live, which can be found on Freeview channel 8, Sky channel 117, Virgin channel 159 or online at londonlive.co.uk. Lady Lloyd launches her new club night ‘Bombshell’ at East London’s Tart Bar at the end of May.