A 14-year-old has been banned from performing his drag act in a school talent show because it’s “not age-appropriate.”
Lewis Bailey was told the day before the contest at Castle High School and Visual Arts College in the west Midlands that he would not be allowed to go on stage as drag queen Athena Heart.
Despite the rising popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race – to the extent that kids can now enjoy Drag Tots, an adorable show starring RuPaul – the school blocked Lewis from taking to the stage.
Lewis, who came out as gay to his mum and stepdad last year and has performed his drag act for them at home, said he was devastated.
“They claim it’s because it is illegal – but I think the real reason is they don’t accept me for who I am,” the teenager told Dudley News.
He entered the talent show about three weeks ago, and has been practising his dance to a medley of songs mixed by his stepdad, Dale Griffiths – which includes Little Mix, Ariana Grande and his inspiration, RuPaul – ever since.
But the school, whose website states that “we strive to meet every individual’s needs,” cancelled his act at the last minute.
“I’m heartbroken and confused,” said Lewis, who has described himself as “just a 14-year-old Gender Bender.”
He added: “After all the effort I have put into it, it has knocked my confidence a lot.
“When I’m in drag I feel I’m truly being myself.”
Lewis’s mum, Natalie, 37, said drag had enabled Lewis to come out of his shell and condemned the school for its decision.
“One of the teachers told him he couldn’t do it any more because the law that says you can’t do competitions as a drag act if you are under 18,” she said.
“This would have been his first performance in front of people in public. His act for the talent show was dressing as a lady and dancing.
“There is no swearing, no raunchy behaviour, nothing over the top. It’s just him dressing as a female doing a dance.
“I can’t believe it. I spoke to the headteacher and she asked if I was removing him from the school because I wasn’t happy with the decision.
“I said no. Why should he miss out on his education because of their views.”
Natalie continued: “I think the school are being judgmental. There’s no law over impersonating a female and doing a dance.
“We can’t find anything anywhere that says that, and anyway it’s a school talent show, not a competition.
“The school is very multicultural and I think the school think some of the parents won’t like it. But people should be able to do what they want to do and be who they want to be.
“They have really knocked his confidence. They have knocked his confidence to zero,” she added.
Michelle King, the school’s principal at Castle Academy, said: “With regard to the performance of our student Lewis Bailey at the end-of-term talent show; we made the decision that it was not age-appropriate for either the learner and for the intended audience, his peer group, for Lewis to appear as a ‘drag act.’
“We understood Lewis wanted to appear in the style of Rau Paul [sic], whose style of performance is characterised by strong language and sexual innuendo.
“We invited Lewis to appear in the show as a singer and were happy for him to dress in any manner he wished,” she continued.
“We regret we did not communicate this earlier but stand by our belief that it is not appropriate for young people to perform drag acts. Rau Paul’s own TV show requires contestants to have a minimum age of 18 years old.
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“We respect the long tradition of female impersonation in theatre, however to appear as a drag queen, goes beyond this.
“Our decision was entirely made on the basis of age appropriateness, with sensitivity to both Lewis and to his fellow students.”
Lewis has since been invited to perform at DragWorld, which calls itself “Europe’s Largest Celebration of Drag,” and will take to the stage at the 10’s Across The Board in Birmingham, alongside Drag Race constestants including Aquaria.
— Crystal Lubrikunt (@CrystaLubrikunt) July 22, 2018
The number of children embracing drag culture is seemingly on the rise, with one star, American 10-year-old Desmond Napoles, taking the world by storm.
Known on social media as Desmond is Amazing, the drag kid has around 80,000 followers on Instagram and even created the first ever drag club for just for children, Haus of Amazing.
Drag kids do still face challenges though, with one nine-year-old star, Nemis Quinn Mélançon Golden – who performs as Lactatia – experiencing a horrific backlash after they modelled for a clothing company.