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Drag Race UK’s Joe Black thinks the judges should probably brush up on their David Bowie after controversial elimination

Reiss Smith January 15, 2021
Joe Black as David Bowie

Drag Race UK's Joe Black served David Bowie glamour. (BBC)

Drag Race UK welcomed 12 brand new contenders in its season two premiere and, in quick succession, waved goodbye to one. PinkNews caught up with the eliminated racer the morning after the night before.

Warning – spoilers follow.

After a whistlestop tour of the werk room, a glimpse of the main stage and some quality time with the Brit Crew, mighty Joe Black got the Shangela treatment, and was asked to sashay away in the very first episode of season two.

Going into Drag Race UK, Joe Black was one of the favourites. With more than a decade’s experience, the Brighton star had made a name for himself on cabaret stages the world over and seemed a sure bet to impress the judges.

But then, in a denouement that can only be described as “the Drag Race UK judges forgot who David Bowie is and what Brighton Pavilion looks like”, Joe was asked to sashay away before she’d even had chance to show us what he’s truly made of. Did he think the judges made the right call? Have they in fact ever been to Brighton? We picked up the phone to ask Joe all these questions and more.

Joe Black in a gold ruffed dress and Brighton Pavillion-inspired ornate gold headpiece
Joe Black’s Brighton Pavillion look. (BBC)

PinkNews: Joe Black, how are you doing?

Joe Black: I’m alright, I am mainlining the coffee today!

Was it a late one?

I stayed up ’til three o’clock in the morning. I was taking in all of the love online because you know, only once do you get eliminated from Drag Race so you want to indulge and bathe in the love and support.

You’ve been getting a lot of love – people aren’t happy that you left!

No, they’re not!

What did you make of the judges’ comments?

Obviously it’s not ideal to leave first, but it’s an iconic placement. Everybody remembers the first out, as I said, I put the goth into Gothy Kendoll! But the support has been incredible. Part of me is like, wow, with the kind of messages I’m getting I’m glad I left first. It’s much better to not overstay your welcome, I tell you that.

Let’s break down what we saw last night. You put on what we thought were two very, very strong looks but the judges didn’t seem to think your David Bowie look read as Bowie.

Well, I think they should probably watch the “Life on Mars” video! When I think of David Bowie I think of that blue suit with the orange hair, and what I love about that look is that it gets referenced by other media. So you know, in American Horror Story, Elsa Mars [Jessica Lange] in the Freak Show season wears that look. American Gods, legend, icon, star Gillian Anderson appears as David Bowie in that suit to represent the God of Media; Gaga’s done a look inspired by that. It’s the one that gets referenced – as well as the lightning bolt – and there’s something about that suit that speaks to me.

I think it’s because he’s so important to queer people and he’s also very important for people who aren’t queer in their perception of queerness. Throughout the years, I’ve had people that you wouldn’t necessarily imagine come to my show, and the reason they are open to people like me is because of David Bowie, so that’s why I thought it was an important one to do.

And the Pavilion – I live in Brighton, those pointed onion-shaped tops on the Palace haunt me wherever I go, and they’re gonna haunt me even more now!

Joe Black
Joe Black. (BBC)

Have you had the chance to ask Ru and Michelle if they’ve ever actually been to Brighton Pavilion?

I know Michelle’s been to Brighton, because I’ve seen Michelle in Brighton! I’m going to text RuPaul now and say: ‘Oi babes, just wondering, have you ever actually been to East Sussex?”

Now, obviously that landed you in the bottom with Bimini – and there’s been a lot of love between the two of you on social media. Should she have been there in the bottom with you, or did the judges get it completely wrong?

Maybe its naivety speaking, but in my head I’m like, isn’t everybody wonderful, nobody should go home! But if I was going to lip-sync against anyone I’m glad it was Bimini, because we couldn’t be any more different. Someone pointed out online, it was like one person that basically only had their face showing and one person that had nothing not showing.

I would say it’s probably the best lip-sync we’ve seen on Drag Race UK so far. So well done for that.

Thank you. Hopefully I go down in history as the only person to ever pretend to be in a lift on the Drag Race main stage.

What was that?

The dress was falling and I was like hmmm, if I lower my knees will it look like I’m thinking? Do that, do that.

Looking back now, is there anything that you would have done differently?

I don’t think there’s any point of going on a platform like this, and not being 100 per cent authentically yourself. I stand by my decisions. I didn’t do anything that I wouldn’t do.

For some, there is a formula for what does well on Drag Race. I could have pandered to what Drag Race is typically seen as, but what would be the point?

I think it was quite bold having me there because I don’t even consider myself a drag queen. I consider what I do drag, capital letters D-R-A-G, but I wouldn’t consider myself a drag queen. So to even get on the show… I would do a disservice to myself by not being myself. So no, I wouldn’t change anything.

Let’s talk about that, not considering yourself a drag queen. How would you describe what you do?

Female illusion is not what drag is. Obviously it’s a huge element for people, but I think it’s the other, it’s the fantasy, the transformation, it’s transportive, it can be so many things.

And I think it’s important for people to know that drag isn’t just one single thing and that, you know, there are drag kings, drag princes, drag clowns, just drag! Pop stars, a lot of that is drag, Mae West was drag, Marlene Dietrich was drag. Ginny Lemon referenced it with Vetsa Tilly, a drag king, these things have been going on for so long. Ginny doing the tribute was really, really important.

Drag Race UK season 2 queens, each dressed in one of the colours of the Progress Pride flag
The Drag Race UK season two queens each dressed in a colour of the Progress Pride flag for their big unveiling. (BBC)

I wanted to jump back a couple of months to when you were all unveiled for the first time, the main promo picture was you all dressed in the colours of the Progress Pride flag which went down an absolute treat. What message do you hope that sent?

The Progress Pride flag is just another step forward, isn’t it, and the fact that that was referenced. It’s a gesture, but it is a move forward, so to have that acknowledged on a platform as big as Drag Race... Stupidly, there were people that were saying, “Why do we need a new flag?” Well, because times are changing and that flag should have always been the case. It’s taken too long for it to happen but it’s happened, and Pride comes in many, many colours.

We have Ginny Lemon and Bimini Bon Boulash bringing non-binary representation this season. I say that I’m not traditionally a drag queen, but then look at someone like Ginny Lemon who, I think, breaks every every Drag Race tradition you can think of – hairy chest, no heels, no lashes, sometimes no wigs. Some people might think there’s a rigid blueprint for drag and there are people breaking that, and I’m glad they’re being given the platform.

Last question – what would we have seen from you had you stayed in? Who were you going to do for Snatch Game?

I auditioned with Mystic Meg, and in the video I get possessed, my table starts floating and my eyes go white. I might put it online at some point. Edith Piaf was my other audition – who Rita Baga did on Canada.

But I brought Tallulah Bankhead, that was my main one. She was an actress from the ’30s who was maybe a little bit too wild for films, so she was in the world of theatre, she did a film, and then her last onscreen appearance was in the 60s Batman as Black Widow. And, you know, I’m always partial to a husky voiced women, with her chronic bronchitis and wild endeavours and infamously bisexual illicit affairs with women in Hollywood. I think she was an unsung queer icon.

More: Drag Race UK, Joe Black

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