Drag alien Juno Birch on sharing oysters with Jennifer Coolidge. And no, that’s not a euphemism
Juno Birch wants to know what I had for my tea last night.
It’s a disarmingly off-the-cuff question, the kind you’d ask your grandparents during a check-in phone call to make sure they’re eating properly. In case you were wondering, Birch had minted new potatoes and a chicken breast last night, an uncharacteristically “fancy” tea, she explains.
But we’re not here to talk about food. No! Juno – your favourite Sims-playing, alien femme, Jennifer Coolidge-loving sculptor-turned-drag superstar – is finally bringing her long-awaited Attack of the Stunning world tour to venues across the US, Europe and Australia.
If Juno Birch’s gloriously unhinged social media presence is anything to go by, the tour will be a riot. Expect deranged drag baby births, a sprinkling of Shirley Bassey and, of course, Birch’s trademark Jennifer Coolidge impression, worth the price of admission alone.
It’s a welcome return to stage for Juno Birch who, like drag queens worldwide, moved her unique brand of entertainment online throughout the pandemic.
The results were hilarious, yielding dramatic meltdowns over The Sims (especially The Sims 2, which Birch maintains is the superior game in the franchise) and chaotic make-up tutorials, which offer a glimpse into the making of Birch’s ethereal, lavender-painted drag character. (Sometimes she’s painted blue or pink, depending on what Birch has left in her drag kit).
When we speak via Zoom, Juno Birch’s endearing cackle and deadpan delivery are on point as she discusses her upcoming shows. In her instantly recognisable Liverpudlian lilt, she recalls sharing oysters with her icon Jennifer Coolidge, causing chaos online and having her naked, gold-painted Shirley Bassey moment ruined by her sweaty tits.
PinkNews: First of all, tell us about the tour! What can we expect?
Juno: Well, the tour is called Attack of the Stunning. I’m basically traveling around countries, attacking people with my stunning-ness. I’m going to be invading each city with a gorgeous show, lots of old-school drag. I love Shirley Bassey numbers, lip-syncs and I’m also going to be giving birth in the show! You will see the birth of Judith-Louise. Do you know Judith-Louise?
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I do indeed, I’ve seen her glamorous looks on Instagram.
Her head has been bashed on so many stages that it’s basically hanging off! I think I need to fix her up. Basically, the show is going to be absolute chaos. We’re going to have my sister Liquorice Black opening both parts of the show, it’s going to be gorgeous. If anyone comes dressed as Joy Despret, I’m going to drag them on stage and put a paper bag on their head.
Readers have been warned! Joy is obviously famous from your Sims YouTube series. How did that come about, was it intended to be a series or did it just grow that way?
When we first went into lockdown, I had nothing to do. I’m so used to being on stage – that’s what I love most about doing drag. I played The Sims in my own time anyway, so I thought playing it and filming it would entertain people, but it would also make me feel like I was being productive. I went so insane during lockdown. I lost the plot so much that I was having full-on arguments with Sims on-screen and inventing these pretend rivalries between people! It kind of evolved into this full-on soap opera over lockdown, and people were living for it.
There were alien births, restaurant fires, some truly unhinged moments. Do you have any stand-outs?
I think the videos I enjoyed the most were the ones where I completely lost control over what my Sims doing. It’s mainly on The Sims 2, things are a lot more unpredictable, so things get really out of hand! I’m there trying to get this couple married, but at the same time there’s a fire in the background and people are dying and I’m imprisoning people in the graveyard! It’s just basic chaos, but I really love doing it.
I read that you’ve been doing drag since 2018. Is that accurate?
I’ve been painting myself like this for a very long time, but I started performing on stage like this in 2018. At my first-ever gig, I was basically an Avon lady that came out of nowhere and did these Jennifer Coolidge quotes. It was very spoken word-heavy, very camp. I still do the same number to this day –– it’s a very Avon Lady meets Edward Scissorhands vibe!
Your success is testament to the fact that you don’t have to come up through Drag Race to be successful. Was there a moment where you thought, “Wow, I’m massive!”
When I ate like five goddamn McDonalds! No, I’m just kidding. I don’t really know, because I was doing shows here and there in America and the UK before lockdown, but I built this cult following online which is weird. YouTube just blew me up a bit more. People at home were bored and wanted something to watch, so we were all watching the Juno Show!
Before drag, you had been making sculptures, too. How you get into that?
I don’t really make sculptures any more, because delicate art and drag are two very different things. When I make art, I have to sit still and be very intricate. When I’m doing drag, I’m absolutely chaotic and cannot sit still, so I left that behind. When it came to sculptures though, I was really inspired by Tim Burton and claymation movies, as well as these drawings I’ve been doing for so many years. I just decided to make them 3D. I loved experimenting with sculptures. Wait, I actually have a name to drop…
Jennifer Coolidge actually owns one of my sculptures! She made this weird video on Instagram a few months ago in a kitchen. I can’t remember what she was doing, but she had sunglasses on and she’s holding a hot dog. The kitchen was absolutely spotless, but in the background is my sculpture. It’s of a green woman with long blonde hair and her tits out!
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You’ve become good friends, right? How does that feel?
I can’t really believe it. I had dinner with her and it was so surreal, she’s so like she is in the movies, just naturally hilarious. I remember she made me try oysters for the first time. We ordered two rounds, and she was like (in her famous Jennifer Coolidge voice): “Can we get more oysters? These are a little gamey.” She’s just in her own little world, which I relate to a lot. Also, I’ll be giving lessons on how to do a Jennifer Coolidge impression on the tour.
That’s worth the price of admission alone! In terms of drag, how did this kind of alien, hyper-femme character come about?
For me, being trans, I was always to pass as a, like, “normal,” straight woman for so many years. I thought that’s what I was supposed to be doing, so I was so insecure. I think I was about 21-years-old when I got to a point in my transition where I felt like I could just switch, like, “There is no passing, there is no trying to be feminine any more.” I just let it all hang out, so drag started to feel really natural to me at that point. Wait, what was the question again?
It was about using drag to subvert femininity, which definitely ties into what you were saying about the goal of transition not being to “pass”.
Yeah, I think it is all tied together. Expressing myself as a [drag] alien kind of ties into this idea of feeling like I have to “pass” and disguise myself in the human world. I don’t take myself too seriously, though. Even though my transition is series, drag is this completely stupid outlet for me.
There’s so much humour in your drag too, has that always been there?
I’ve always relied on humour. I’ve been through horrible things in life, so I learned to turn them into jokes. Like, I get described as an artist a lot. An artist! But I don’t see myself as that, I see myself as a performer, a bastard drag queen. The word “artist” is so overused nowadays. Some modern art is ridiculous. People pick up a bag of crisps off the floor and say, “Well, this represents my child.” It’s ridiculous!
About Drag Race, do you get asked a lot if you’d apply? If so, do you get bored of that question?
I don’t get bored of it, no. I love attention, so I like to keep people guessing! I don’t know whether I would ever go on the show, I’m not very good at competition. I feel like I’d clock out straight away. I’m still waiting for RuPaul to ask me to be a very, very special guest judge.
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A lot of people are gagging to see Manchester’s drag scene more thoroughly represented on there. How has that scene kind of nurtured and informed your drag?
When I moved to Manchester, I used to go to Cha Cha Boudoir, which is run by Cheddar Gorgeous, Anna Phylactic and the whole Family Gorgeous. They had themed nights every night and they were all so welcoming, so that really inspired me to go out, dress up and get on stage.
I did do one look which we’ll never speak of again. I painted myself head-to-toe in gold and performed Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger, of course. I stripped completely naked thinking I had these really perky boobs, that I would be this gorgeous, naked model painted in gold. But it was so hot in the venue, and my tits were so saggy that were hanging on my belly! I had marigolds on as well, and I was doing like a sexy reveal of my hands. My hands were so sweaty that when I pulled the gloves off the sweat just slapped the audience! There is a photo of me somewhere where my wig’s fallen off, I’ve got no sunglasses on and I’m completely naked, painted gold. Wherever it is, I hope it never shows up again!
I have to ask – how did it feel to be blocked by JK Rowling?
Oh, gorgeous. Love that! You know why? I just can’t stand her any more. People ask why I care what JK Rowling thinks of trans people, but it’s not about whether we care, it’s about what she does and what she’s spreading. She associates trans women with rapists and does all these horrible things, and she does it in front of like, 17 million people on Twitter. Her actions are very thought-out, she’s not stupid. She needs to be stopped.
Me dads a muggle, mams a witch, JK Rowlings a stupid bitch
— Juno Birch (@JunoBirch) June 7, 2020
Finally, since you so kindly asked me, what are you having for your tea?
Oh, I don’t know actually, I’ve not got much in. I need to go to the shops!
For more info, tickets and dates for Juno Birch’s Attack of the Stunning tour head to seetickets.com.
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