Beige Interview: Holestar

Holestar, image by Marc Abe

Self-styled ‘Tranny With a Fanny’ Holestar will be celebrating 10 years of drag and troublemaking in her solo show ‘Sorry I’m A Lady’ this May. She caught up with Alex Hopkins to talk drag, depression, dominatrixes and what’s wrong with queers in the mainstream.

Where does the title for the show, ‘Sorry I’m A Lady’, come from?
I like it because it means numerous things and comes from the Baccara song of the same name, which I’ll be covering and releasing as a download before the run starts. A friend suggested I record it and I then thought it would be a great title for the show. It raises all sorts of questions – am I a lady in the feminine sense of the word or a lady because I’m a woman dressed up as a man dressed up as a woman, confusing people?

When did you first have the idea for the show and what are the motivations behind it?
Two years ago I worked out I’d been in the business for eight years and I wondered how I would mark the 10 year milestone. I’m not a big one for anniversaries, but wanted to do a roundup of where I am right now in my life, put a full stop behind it and move forward.

You’ve undergone many different transformations – soldier in the army to dominatrix to performer. How are you going to merge these and look at them in the show?
It comes in sections and isn’t necessarily in chronological order, but I’ll be looking at all the different aspects of my biography, including the time spent in the army and the most popular story from my days as a dominatrix.
In the second half I’m looking at what it is to be queer today and how I identify with gay men and envy their cruising. I’m also interested in questioning who our queer role models are now.

What motivated you to join the army and what was the experience like?
I left school without any qualifications because I was too busy discovering drugs, sex and rave music and then, after a few years off my tits, realised I had no job or security. Someone suggested I join the army, which I thought was a ridiculous idea because I was a pacifist and had also been an army child which had been a very painful experience, moving from place to place all the time. But the next thing I knew I was in khaki and running up hills; I signed up when I was on a come down and just thought it would be a laugh. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically and mentally, but it taught me a lot about myself and toughened me up. I was ‘Private Hole’ for two years.

And it was after this that you moved in to being a dominatrix…?
No, at first I went to college to study photography and while I was doing my degree became interested in the S & M scene. At the time I was very heterosexual and was fighting my demons. There were lots of lesbians in the army, but I kept away from them out of sex hatred. I started going to sex parties and thought it was like one-to-one theatre, which I really got into. I went on to be a dominatrix in Vienna and loved it and miss it in a way.

You’ve said that you suffer from depression, which remains a great unspoken in society. Will you be talking about this in the show?
Yes, I’ll be coming out about my depression. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember and have had breakdowns over the years and taken pills. It can be very debilitating, but this is the way it is and I live with it and don’t allow it to consume me. There are a lot of gay people out there with depression, but it doesn’t get talked about. It’s not glamorous and there’s this cliched idea of what it is to be gay, where everything is fabulous. The attitude seems to be let’s take more drugs and get fucked in a sauna rather than talk about why some of us are feeling sad. Pure escapism. Actually it’s ok to to be fierce and witty and intelligent, but to also have a vulnerable side. Unfortunately, we don’t have a culture that supports that.

You describe yourself as a feminist. There are many schools of thought on feminism. How do you fit in?
Initially I thought feminists were all man hating bra burners and, unfortunately, I think some of that stigma remains today. I educated myself and learnt about the different schools of feminism and decided I didn’t like the man hating anti-porn feminism. I like the Camille Paglia school of feminism, the type of street feminism that says ‘I’m getting on with it and exerting my female power through other channels, rather than moaning.’

There’s misogyny everywhere and we have to fight it. A lot of these girls now, who wear more makeup than even me, and are desperate for a boyfriend, just need a bloody hug. They are so insecure and they’ve been conditoned to be that way – to hate on one another – by other women and gay men, who are constantly saying ‘unless you look like this, and have huge tits then you’re no good.’ As a society we love to build people up just to knock them down. I thought that would all end with the death of Princess Diana, but instead Big Brother took over and the Heat magazine type of celebrity. Hopefully all of this will come to an end soon.

What do you think will replace it?
It would be nice to have some respect and admiration for people who have a talent. We’ve just had the Olympics. Women did so well and it was great to see women who had really worked hard and not just got their tits out to obtain that level of celebrity. There’s substance there. It would be fantastic to see women with some real power – women today are so passive, just being photographed falling out of taxis, with no knickers. They’re not adding anything to society – they’re actually taking away from it.

Would you say this is a similar situation in terms of queer role models?
Yes, definitely. In the show I’m doing a piece on queers in the mainstream and the whole issue is that there aren’t any. They’re all cut from the same cloth – Graham Nortons and Alan Carrs – that safe, very self-effacing, asexual figure, and the occasional lesbian presenter. There’s nothing for gay kids to look up to. In my day there was Divine on Top Of The Pops, who was so out there.

On the subject of gay representation in the mainsteam media, what did you think of the new ITV sitcom Vicious?
ITV keep trying, don’t they! I thought it was awful, not just because of the stereotypes, but because it wasn’t even funny. There was even a rape joke in it and they were really scraping the barrell. It’s good that they are showing older gay men on television, as they are so invisible, and I was hoping it would go somewhere, but it just didn’t.

You’re a big advocate for the trans community and have spoken out about the way they, and other groups, are excluded by some gay organisations.
Yes. In the past I was a huge supporter of Stonewall, but I now have no identification with them what so ever. They represent a corporate type of sexuality – one colour, educated and middle class. The fact that they have excluded trans people is abhorent. The name Stonewall itself comes from a place where it was the trannies who kicked off the revolution, but now Stonewall have kicked them out into the rain. When something awful happens to trans people they have no one to speak out on their behalf as there’s no trans organisation with the power of Stonewall.

In terms of big gay organisations, I also believe there are issues with THT and questions should be asked about how effective their campaigns are. In east London I see no advertising campaigns and yet one in seven gay men in this city have HIV. We lived through the iceberg adverts of the 80s for God’s sake and now people think they can take a pill and live forever. It’s almost like THT just keep the money rolling in, but what are they doing with it?

Holestar’s Sorry I’m A Lady is at Vogue Fabrics 14 – 18 May

Words: Alex Hopkins

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