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Paul O’Grady criticises today’s drag queens, says he ‘can’t bear’ RuPaul’s Drag Race

By Ross Semple

Paul O'Grady as Lily Savage
Paul O'Grady as Lily Savage (Image: Yui Mok/PA)

Paul O’Grady, TV personality and creator of Britain’s most famous drag queen in the form of Lily Savage, has revealed that he isn’t a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. 

Talking with journalist Ben Hunte as part of BBC Radio Four Extra’s Gay Britannia season, Paul made the somewhat surprising admission that he has “no interest” in the show, or the drag queens of today.

When Hunte asked Paul if he watched Drag Race, Paul didn’t mince words. “No, I can’t bear it,” he said. “Because that’s not drag.

“It’s all about shading and contouring the face now and being like supermodels.” In his day, drag queens were “great comedians in drag.” Paul argued that the queens of today “just parade around going ‘sashay shantay’,” which isn’t drag to him.

Drag queens belong in the pub, according to Paul, and he takes issue with queens who take their drag out of that sphere. “I’ve got no interest in it whatsoever.”

The two also discussed the lost gay slang polari. Paul said that the use of polari flourished during the time before decriminalisation because you had to be “very careful” about what you said in order to avoid being ‘exposed’ as a gay man.

O’Grady expressed dismay that polari is now out of fashion. “It’s such a shame because it’s so funny,” Paul said. “Bring it back, I say.”

Earlier this year Paul was a guest on the Attitude Heroes podcast, where he spoke about exploring his sexuality on the gay scene in 1970s Liverpool, his experience of the Aids epidemic of the 1980s, and the anger that continues to drive him today in his most revealing interview ever.

Listen to Paul’s interview for the BBC’s Gay Britannia season below: