Hobo Does Drag for Mardi Gras
When I first came out to my mum, the conversation went something like this:
Mum: Oh, so… you don’t like girls?
Mum: Not at all? I mean have you tried to…?
Me: Yep, and nope – not into it, hey Mum.
The conversation ended abruptly and awkwardly. Moments later, she called me back to tell me she was totally okay with everything and that she loves me no matter what (so cute). But before hanging up, she felt the need to add one last piece of advice.
“Just don’t end up like one of those gay gays who dance around on top of the floats at Mardi Gras, alright?”
Ha! I laughed on the inside. I felt it best to reassure her I hadn’t completely converted into one of those “gay” gays, cos, ya know, coming out as gay AND “gay” gay is way too much for a mother to handle in one day.
Fast forward a few years and I’m in Daiso with my gal pals five-fingering assorted lipsticks in preparation for my big time to shine, shine, shine in the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Before doing drag, I had no idea how much effort really goes into making your face look like a woman. I had this expectation that I’d just slap some makeup on, put on a dress, a wig and some heels and I’d be ready to go. Once I started shopping for all the materials I needed to transform from hobo to goddess though, I slowly started to realise that maybe this whole thing wasn’t for the type of person who pays in silver coins at Woolies. Had I not had that conversation with my mum all those years ago, I probably would have just given up and spent my hard-earned coin on beers or something instead. But I was determined to click-clack down the bitumen of Oxford Street in March with my bedazzled head held high – and that’s exactly what I did.
A hobo doesn’t usually dip into their sock drawer travel fund, but in the weeks leading up to the parade, I do admit I had to do the unforgivable several times. I spent excessively unhealthy amounts of time scouring the pages of eBay for cheap Chinese wigs and cat suits, popping into thrift stores to check back for any remotely glam heels that came in man size, and of course five-fingering from Daiso for makeup (oh and hip pads! Yep, I got me a $2.80 girl booty).
To get myself from Melbourne to Sydney was the next step in my Mardi Gras funding dilemma. Originally I was to travel with one of my mates in her car. The week before the event though, she realised she was too povo to take the risk of her way-overdue-for-a-service Yaris breaking down on the Hume highway. I considered the $129 Tiger Airways’ flight, but instead opted for the $60 bus ride, which took approximately 12 hours longer. With my wig, costume and makeup secured safely in my duffle bag, I headed for the bus. Upon embarking I realised I was the only Australian that chose to bus it over flying – a defining moment in my hobo life.
That night in Sydney, my Sex in the City gal pal Caitlin, my nomadic Chilean homo pal Pio and myself sipped on stupidly cheap spirits, danced and raved on for hours about how FUCKING AMAZING click-clacking down Oxford Street the next day was going to be.
We arose early with serious throbbing head syndrome, yet a determination to push through so that we could spend at least four hours making ourselves look stunning.
As we caked layer upon layer onto our filthy mugs, a realisation slowly came over us that perhaps we should have invested our five-fingering skills into a line of makeup more upmarket than that of the Daiso range. The situation was becoming extremely serious. With only two hours until our ETA at Oxford Street, the tacky glue that was holding down the man-bush above my eyes had started to crumble. The contour I had so pointedly and perfectly applied to my nose was dripping. The blush on my cheeks began meshing together into big peachy pastel clumps. We hadn’t even begun to attempt applying our fake lashes yet. Caitlin, the only real woman in the room, obviously had an easier time making her self look fem-fresh, but Pio and I were in the midst of a serious she-mergency.
I started to panic, imagining how totally embarrassment it would be debuting myself to a world of elite queens looking like a eight year old who had just raided their mum’s makeup bag. Caitlin had had enough of my sweaty panic attack; she swiped the liner and lippy out of my hands and grabbed my head.
“Calm down babe. You’re going to look fucking fabulous. Turn away from the mirror, chill your bolt-ons, and just trust me.”
Five glasses of bubbly down the hatch, and I had long forgotten about my streaky-faced hissy fit. Caitlin (Sex and the Sity Sydneysider gal pal), Pio (nomadic Chilean homo pal) and I were out on the balcony yelling at Caitlin’s roommate to take “LONGWAYS!” photos so that she would capture every lump and hump we had so perfectly moulded onto ourselves. We were looking fucking fantastic, and were more than ready to hit the bitumen.
In the months leading up to Mardi Gras, we had been assured by a friend that we would be allowed onto his float for the parade. Two days before the event though, we found out that evidently he didn’t even have a float, nor did he ever – he had just been talking out of his bum. But that didn’t matter. We WERE getting into that parade. Could you just imagine? Three dolled up glamazons wasting their potential by blending into the hoards of tragic plebs on the sideline… how embarrassment.
We left the house and click-clacked our way through Redfern towards the train station, stopped by the bottle-o to pick up some gin and tell the bottle-o lady how beautiful she was and how much we loved her, made a scene whilst trying to purchase tickets from the automatic vending machine at the station, waved and blew kisses to all the commuters on the trains as they flew past, freaked out a few of those commuters when we got on one of the trains and started pole dancing on the entrance landing, then finally emerged out of Museum Station to the gates of the glory itself – the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. It was beautiful – everything and more than I had ever imagined. The streets were full of rainbows, glitter and smiles.
Click-clacking towards the paradees’ entrance, we noticed that everyone was wearing yellow wristbands. Awkward, cos, we weren’t. We couldn’t slow down to assess the situation of whether we would get in or not either, as we were caught in a sea of drag queens, slaves and masters marching determinedly forward.
The sea parted into two separate entrances: one for the non-wristbanded viewers, and one for the wristbanded paradees. I felt like Pocahontas when she came to the fork in the riverbend: do we choose the smoothest course, steady as the beating drum – do we marry Kokoum? Or do you still wait for us, dream giver (paradees’ waiting bay)? A swift decision landed us in the VIP line and, without a bag or wrist check, we were through. How unadventurously silly, I thought, were those who went on to marry Kokoum.
For the next three hours, we mingled with hundreds of bedazzled beauties whilst waiting for our time to shine, shine, shine. My glittery golden beard, for which unknown reasons I haven’t yet mentioned, was a shining star of the pre-parade mingle. Almost every queen wanted a slice of what I had, and selfies with yours truly and the fans were abundant, including some z-list celebs such as Big Brother star Tully the crying biatch.
Before the parade had even started, the three of us had finished that much gin and rubbed up against that many sweaty bods that our flawless features were starting to come undone. One of Pio’s eyebrows had gone AWOL and his Hispanic black hair had revealed itself from underneath his fiery red lady locks. The glitter in my beard was almost all gone (note to self: apply more paw paw to beard next time) and one of the straps holding Caitlin’s cat suit together had snapped. But none of it mattered, because as soon as the parade started we slipped right on in and began our waltz. Our heels hit the ground as we waved, blew kisses and posed for the paparazzi all the way through central Sydney.
Towards the end of the parade, as the crowds grew to mere dribbles of onlookers, our 50 minutes of fame was devastatingly over. The ecstatic rush of chemicals pouring out of my brain came to a dead end when one of the dribblers yelled, “Hey mate! Well done for walking the whole parade in heels!” Shit. I’d totally forgotten that my feet weren’t used to those things at all. An instant pang shot up through the balls of my feet and I stumble-ran for the edge of a nearby lake. The three of us collapsed into a heap and left the paradees to party on at The Party (yeah that’s what the official after party was called… whoever is heading the marketing department of Mardi Gras needs the sack).
Caitlin retired home after realising she needed to do lots of vommy voms, whilst Pio and I attempted to battle Oxford Street, assuming we would just give cheeky kisses to a door bitch who would let us in somewhere. But nothing worked. We were left out on the street looking somewhat like Lindsay and Brit Brit doing a duo walk of shame. An hour of stumble-walking around, desperately heckling every door bitch on Oxford Street and begrudgingly agreeing to take swift photos with hundreds of fans along the way, had passed. We weren’t getting in anywhere, so agreed to jump in a cab, with tears in our eyes from the sting in our balls… (foot balls).
As we jumped out of the cab and began to walk across the street into Caitlin’s apartment, I could think of nothing better than kicking off my heels and passing the fuck out.
A voice called out: “Hey ladies!” We turned our heads.
“Want to come up and join my party?” Pio and I turned to each other.
In unison our plumped-up lips spread across our face to reveal our lipstick-stained smiles. The night was not yet over.