Exclusive Fashion story and interview with drag queen Miss Disney Chanel, also known as Sidney Blackburn. In their story, Disney questions the fluidity, polish and permanence of gender identity amidst a visual construction theme.
Here Sidney opens up about her life and discuss masculinity and femininity amongst other topics.
By Sarah Karacs
My name is Sidney. Disney is the anagram. I decided on Disney Chanel when I was 18 years old. I had just moved to London from Norfolk and was working in retail, when a colleague accidentally called me Disney. I said; “oh, my God. That’s my drag name.”
The whole look is ‘strong woman’. Sort of a barbie doll look, with long blond hair, long legs, skinny white girl, with a little chihuahua and a little handbag under my arm. You know all these reality TV shows with strong women? Nowadays people say they’re not that strong. But I think that’s the image I wanted. Growing up, my mum was a strong role model. My mum and my dad split up in 2000, she raised four children, moved up to Norfolk in a Corsa with 500 pounds to her name. I grew up with three sisters, so there was always this thing of like, wanting to play around with style, and I’ve always had obsessions with strong female characters. And I remember when I was younger, I was practising with towels, my sisters and I would dress up together, create ball gowns with a side slit.
I started going to drag parties when I moved to London. The first one I went to I was intimidated at first. I was this little skinny ginger boy with glasses. So I was really nervous. But when I walked into the party, it was just not what I thought. Everyone and anyone dressed up. There was this one guy, in like a mesh laundry basket, another guy with just a toupee on, and another guy dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, holding a gnome. And sitting in the dressing room is just the best thing to see, like 20 other drag queens, and you really see the variation of drag queens. You’ve got the bearded black drag queens, an older rugby guy, someone painting their face in poster paints. It’s really cool to see what works, and there’s also that thing of ‘oh if I don’t have eyelash glue, someone is going to have it’. At that party, I straight away knew I wanted to do drag.
I think I wasn’t happy with my face until about eight months. I feel like it doesn’t normally take many people so long, especially now, with all the Youtube tutorials there are. You see some people look so polished. And I think… I could have avoided eight months of photos, but it’s all part of it. I taught myself. Just sat and played. I think everyone goes through different stages. Like; I want to wear all black and have like a hip chain. And you just have to work out what works for you.
Drag is a comfort for me in the sense that it allows me to dress up and do what I want. I like how you can’t really make a mistake, there’s a lot of freedom, and in venues that welcome us, we’re celebrated. It’s really nice to know that it is OK, and that has really opened my eyes up to see that if me dressing up in drag is OK, then people who want to sit at home and play chess, that’s OK too. I might be a freak doing this, but it’s OK, it’s my comfort. So I don’t judge other people now. I think ‘so they’re a freak in their little world and you’re a freak in your world, and I’m a freak in my world’.
Disney is very brash, Katie Price brash, although I try to make her, through drag, a bit more elegant, especially now I’m in Hong Kong. There’s no place for a messy queen here. You go to a club, walk through Central, you can’t with your arse hanging out… people will be like “who is that trainwreck.” Everyone in Hong Kong is so polished.
Disney is a bit sassy. She likes to take up space, she likes attention. That’s a big difference. Disney, she does want the attention, whereas Sidney is a scared little ginger boy. Sidney’s like her puppy dog running after her, funding her life, buying her heels, having to walk around Sham Shui Po for a bit of cardboard for a dress. And she just turns up and sits down with a cocktail or something. It’s like I’m living for her. But she’s made me more confident. I draw strength from her. She’s my defense mechanism. I’m not a fighter at all, but Disney would be.
I haven’t had too many instances where someone has attacked us because I was in drag, which is good.
My gender is like a mist, it can go in and out. Sometimes I feel so masculine when I’m in a heel. I have this strength. But then that’s femininity as well. I feel like masculinity in a way is made up. This idea of masculinity. “Be a man.” I don’t associate any strength with that. It seems fake, it doesn’t seem real to me, so maybe I don’t associate too much with masculinity. It’s hurting them and it’s hurting other people. I know some people think “masculinity is strong, femininity is soft.” but I don’t think that. Femininity can be both.
I never saw myself as masculine. I can’t think of any time in my life when I felt masculine, but I also wouldn’t choose to be a woman all the time. I like being me. Just going in and out. And what is female these days, and what is male these days?
Photography | Amanda Kho @akhokho Styling | Jocelyn Liipfert, LIIPSTIIK @jliiplam Production | Lan Pham, LIIPSTIIK @liipstiik Prop Styling | Kobo Sin @kobosinner Model + Subject | Sidney Blackburn / Disney Chanel @missdisneychanel Make-up | Jaime Smith @smudgemakeupartistry Words | Sarah Karacs @skkaracs