From her small town American upbringing to her days spent at the New York School of Performing Arts (and her nights spent at Studio 54) Miss Kimberley has worked hard to establish herself as undisputable drag royalty.
And now, fresh from her success at the Edinburgh Fringe, she prepares to take to the stage once again with a mix of stories, gossip, songs, costumes and drama. We caught up with the lady herself for a quick chat.
Tell us about A Tranny is Born. Where did the performance come from and what made you decide to do a one woman show?
I just thought it would be something fun to do. And as I have SO many stories to tell, I thought I would share a few. Also there is a new me coming out and I do feel that I'm being re-born. I hope that does not make me sound like some Bible bashing mental head. (Laughs)
Can you give us a quick teaser of what you get up to on stage – what kind of stories?
I could never kiss and tell! Are you crazy?? I'm a good Christian woman! (Laughs) However I will tell you there is a juicy story between myself, a hot lesbian and Andy Warhol. I think it’s on one of his films somewhere... But as for what stories I tell on stage – you’ll just have to come along and see for yourself.
Oh, we will. As it’s a bit of an autobiographical look back at your journey over the years, can you single out a couple of your most career defining moments?
Oh dear I always find this question hard to answer. I’ve had many a high moment, but that’s a different story and it’s all in my past. I think the most career defining moment was the day I slipped into my mother’s heels and realised I could walk in them. The rest came so easily that you wouldn’t believe it.
And have there been low points when you’ve wanted to give it all up?
Yes, of course there have been low points – I’m a performer and I’d never have any material if life was a bed of roses. I had ten years of low points which I'm happy to say are finally over.
How did you deal with them at the time?
Finding out who you really are and what you really want - before just going for it - has saved me from destruction. But I’m here and I’m fabulous so ain’t nothing going to stop me now!
When one door closes then another will open. Always remember to believe in yourself and whatever you want to do. Never let anyone bring you down or stop you from pursuing your dreams because what you put into the Universe will always come back to you.
And if all else fails and you still feel bad about life, then just make sure you LOOK fabulous so that everyone THINKS you have a life that they could only wish for.
What top tips can you offer anyone hoping to achieve your ultimate level of tranny glamour?
Always shave twice before you start putting on your make up. And put Vaseline on your teeth to make them shine.
Aside from those two gems, what’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned over the years?
The most important thing that I’ve learned is all about being comfortable in my own skin and to smile through the pain and never complain. I also think it’s very important to be nice to everyone because nobody wants to work with a bitch, however good you are on stage. If you’re a bitch then they’ll hire you once but never again – be nice to people and you’ll work for years to come.
My friend Matthew’s mother told me once that no matter how bad life gets and how desperate things become, just make sure that you make it through until daybreak because that might be the day that everything changes and life gets a little bit better. We shared the same birthday and she’s no longer with us, but it was one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard and I always try to pass her words on.
Do you take inspiration from other performers as well?
There are so, so many. From Josephine Baker to Shirley Bassey, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday. The list goes on and on.
What would you consider to be your own personal best and worst attributes?
I know I’m one for thinking positive, but all I do lately is moan, moan and moan. I'm a moaner and I'm starting to get on my own nerves.
And if you could only sing one more song, what would it be?
Last Dance. This is the first song I learned to sing when I was very young. It was always played at the end of the night in 'Powder Room' and that has such fond memories for me. It will also be played at my funeral. This song is a part of my show A Tranny is Born. As you can see, this song is important to me.
So what’s next for Miss Kimberley? Where should we be watching out for you?
I’ll be hosting the Mr. and Mrs. Ladyboy Contest at the Mango Tree in Victoria on Sunday 26 September along with Julian Bennett from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy UK. Dusty O will be one of the judges so it should be a really exciting evening. We’re still looking for contestants so want hunky boys or pretty ladyboys to call the Mango Tree!
And what one goal would you most like to set yourself for the next year? What do you still hope to achieve?
People seem to think that I’m crazy but I have a dream that I’ll sing for The Queen – or at least one of the Royal Family. I’m sure Prince Harry would enjoy what I could do for him, so you never know.
Finally, in 10 words or less, what makes your show stand out and why should we go and see it?
It's a family show with sadness but most of all lots of love and laughter.
I know that’s 15 words but I’ve always been greedy.
A Tranny is Born, Thursday 16 September at 8pm
Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London
www.theroyalvauxhalltavern.co.uk / www.mangotree.org.uk
Words: Stu Hurford