Courtney Act and Andrew Brady talk friendship, Drag Race and masculinity in their first ever interview together

© Jack Alexander for Gay Times

A former Apprentice candidate becoming unlikely besties with one of our all-time favourite Drag Race queens in the Celebrity Big Brother house sounds like a recipe for TV gold – and that’s exactly what it was.

Courtney Act and Andrew Brady’s friendship captured viewers’ hearts up and down the country back in January as they caused mischief, supported each other, and generally became a new kind of reality TV power couple right before our eyes.

Courtney emerged from the house victorious, having won the public vote over Ann Widdecombe and her anti-LGBTQ beliefs. Andrew, on the other hand, left the house as an ally embraced by the LGBTQ community.

It’s been just under two months since they left the house, and because of their busy schedules, they’ve had very little time to properly catch up in person.

You can imagine, then, just how much fun they had when Gay Times got them to the May Fair Hotel in London for their very first photoshoot and interview together.

They sat down with Gay Times to discuss their friendship, their experience in the Celebrity Big Brother house, whether Andrew is ready to compete in Drag Race, and why Courtney loves the UK’s attitudes towards masculinity.

Courtney wears jacket by River Island

© Jack Alexander for Gay Times

Andrew: How did your drag sisters respond to our friendship?

Courtney: It was funny because, obviously there was a lot of support and excitement, but people so often want to reduce things to sex. I’m like, ‘It’s not about [sex], it’s about a friendship.’ Everyone was like, ‘Oh my god, so…?’ I’m just like, ‘Ah, no, we just have fun as friends and are having a good time.’ The biggest thing people wanted to know were like sexual questions.

Andrew: Did they want to meet me, though?

Courtney: No! I think they wouldn’t be that foolish as to. I’d tell them to back off! So I know you’ve started watching Drag Race season six. What episode are you up to?

Andrew: I’m up to episode five now. I’m finding it hard to find time to actually watch it.

Courtney: Is that Snatch Game?

Andrew: Ah no, I’ve just finished episode four, and it is the most addictive, hilarious, over-the-top, camp programme I’ve ever seen – and it’s brilliant.

Courtney: The thing about Drag Race is, when you’re there and you’re used to watching it, the seriousness when RuPaul is like, ‘The time has come for you to lip sync for your life,’ obviously it’s funny, but when you’re there it’s deathly serious. You’re desensitised to the ridiculousness of lip syncing for your life. Leah Remini was a guest judge one week and she just started laughing hysterically. None of us could work out what was funny. We were like, ‘What’s funny about lip syncing for your life? This is very serious, Leah.’ Ru was even like, ‘Everybody, this is a serious moment.’ What was your favourite part?

Andrew wears shirt by Scotch & Soda, trousers and jacket by Chester Barrie, sneakers by River Island, necklace by ChloBo // Courtney wears shirt by and shorts by River Island

© Jack Alexander for Gay Times

Andrew: When you walk in and say, ‘Is this America’s Next Top Model?’ I was like, ‘That is Shane all over!’

Courtney: When I walked into the Celebrity Big Brother house, as a tip to Drag Race I was going to say, ‘Is this Britain’s Next Top Model?’ But then my skirt fell off and I forgot.

Andrew: Yeah, sure…

Courtney: My skirt fell off!

Andrew: But yeah, I love RuPaul’s Drag Race. I don’t think I’d watch the other series because I don’t have an alliance with anyone in there. I like the show and Adore and Bianca are amazing as well.

Courtney: Andrew’s early favourites are my favourites.

Andrew: Bianca is my favourite. Adore, I don’t like her in the show, but I like her as an annoying, always got this screwed up face, and I’m sure the person behind the mask is unbelievable and really nice.

Gay Times: Andrew if you had to lip sync for your life, which song would you want to do it to?

Andrew: I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor [bursts into song]. That’s also what I want to be buried to as well. Ironically.

Courtney: But you didn’t survive – you died!

Andrew: But that’s the irony of it! Speaking of Drag Race, do you think they’ll ever let a straight man compete?

Courtney: Yeah. Well, ironically… oh here we go… I think that Drag Race would certainly let a straight guy compete in drag. But there’s a controversy going on at the moment because RuPaul has drawn a line in the sand saying that a trans woman at a certain point of her transition is not welcome to compete in Drag Race.

Andrew: Oh wow. So what point is that then?

Courtney: This is the thing: on the last season there was a girl called Peppermint and she identifies as trans and lives as a woman. But being trans means different things to different people. Some people don’t take hormones, some people don’t have surgery, some people are just happy living in the clothes of their chosen gender. So Peppermint at this stage hadn’t had any surgery, but was living as a woman and taking hormones. RuPaul just said recently that because she didn’t have breast implants yet, that somehow that was okay [to compete].

Andrew: A bit controversial that is, right?

Courtney: Yeah, Ru as a cis man having conversations about, and rule over, women’s bodies is alarmingly in line with the current swing of conservative politics. Also the public erasure of trans women from the history of drag and then the irony of Ru, a male, telling women, cis and trans, they can’t do drag because it’s not as big of a fuck you to a male dominated world. Very controversial…

Courtney wears jacket by River Island

© Jack Alexander for Gay Times

Andrew: But would they let a straight guy compete?

Courtney: Yeah, for sure.

Andrew: So do you think I’ve got what it takes to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11?

Courtney: No.

Andrew: Did you just say no?! I mean, say what you really think!

Courtney: You at G-A-Y in that dress, it was the most manly I’d ever seen you!

Andrew: And I looked sick!

Courtney: You did.

Andrew: I took my thongs off and threw them at the crowd.

Courtney: It was very cute. Your Primark thongs. What that did show was a certain drag sensibility, the fact that you thought to wear three thongs and throw them at the crowd. That is a drag queen trick – like having a gimmick, so I did admire that.

Andrew: Giving out used panties… It’s kind of what I do anyway, to be fair.

Andrew wears shirt, jacket and pocket square by Chester Barrie, trousers by River Island

© Jack Alexander for Gay Times

Courtney: What do you do with those panties?

Andrew: Oooh gurl, you don’t want to know!

Courtney: Are there any slang words you’ve encountered on social media that you need help with?

Andrew: Yes! T. So like, ‘giving out T.’

Courtney: T is truth. So like, ‘What’s the T?’ is ‘What’s the truth?’

Andrew: Okay, so dishing the T. I’m from Yorkshire so tea is slightly different for me. It’s a drink.

Courtney: It’s dinner?

Andrew: Well, it’s also dinner yeah.

Courtney: So spilling the T is like you’re spilling the cup of tea, but it’s also spilling the truth of the situation.

Andrew: Then there’s ‘shade’. I know about shade. I get called ‘king’ a lot. And ‘daddy’.

Courtney: I don’t know what ‘king’ means, but ‘daddy’ is like… it’s not your sugar daddy, but like the sexy man, and they’re all like, ‘Ooooh daddy.’ They are complimenting you. But I don’t know what ‘king’ is.

Gay Times: Is it just the male version of ‘queen’?

Andrew: It might be for the queen and the king. And that means Brady Bear is a prince. Or princess, because we’ve not chosen a gender for Brady Bear yet.

Courtney: We’ve decided to let Brady Bear choose their gender as their life evolves.

Andrew: Have you ever had a relationship with a straight man like this before?

Courtney: No, not really. You’re the first straight guy who has seen eye-to-eye with both Shane and Courtney that hasn’t turned and ran in the opposite direction or reduced it to a sex act. That is what I like about you. I haven’t really been friends with a straight guy. I have a couple of straight friends. One of them is a trans man and one of them is, even though he’s attracted to women, he’s not like a ‘lad’. You’re like down the pub drinking with Dave. You saw in the house when all of the boys were cheering for me when I was performing.

Andrew wears shirt by Scotch & Soda, jacket and trousers by Chester Barrie // Courtney wears shirt and shorts by River Island

© Jack Alexander for Gay Times

Andrew: Lads, lads, lads.

Courtney: Yeah, the women were like, ‘Oh this is fun’. And I was like, ‘Oh wow, there’s a group of straight men cheering for me.’ That was kind of fun. I think honestly it’s a UK thing.

Andrew: Do you think that’s just acceptance with men… I think, on the whole, the average guy who was in Big Brother was a good nice-hearted, warm person. I think a lot of them in that situation, more people would be like that. That was a poignant thing in that scene.

Courtney: The interesting thing is, I know there were cameras and they have a certain level of accountability, and in 2018, I think the world is at a certain place where it would be detrimental for anybody to not be accepting. But I don’t think it would’ve made a difference if the cameras were there or not.

Andrew: We did it sincerely.

Courtney: Back to you though, it’s a different experience having a lad-ish friend.

Andrew: Good I hope?

Courtney: Very good!

Gay Times: Has it changed any preconceived ideas on that type of person you might have had beforehand since coming out of the house?

Courtney: Yeah, you know what, I think one of the biggest things I’ve come to realise is I love the UK’s relationship with masculinity, sexuality and femininity. If you look at pop culture here throughout history, whether it is someone like Russell Brand, or Harry Styles, or John Lennon, or intellects like Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins, these are not men who in other Western societies would be primarily held up as ‘men’. Nobody questions these men’s masculinity or their sexuality, these are just different types of men. Whereas in Australia and in the US, it’s a lot more about ‘being a man’.

Andrew: Throwing axes and going fishing…

Andrew wears jacket by Scotch & Soda, shirt by River Island // Courtney wears jacket and shorts by River Island

© Jack Alexander for Gay Times

Courtney: Like football, and blokes out drinking. Lads go out drinking and I think I would have previously felt threatened… I mean, I’m not going to pop into your local straight bar in Leeds and go ‘G’day boys.’ But with Andrew, Jonny and Dapper, it was a nice feeling being friends with a group of straight boys and feeling supported, loved, and accepted. What’s the main thing you’ve learned from our friendship and the reaction towards it?

Andrew: The main thing I’ve learned is that, even as a 27-year-old, heterosexual guy from Yorkshire who’s quite set in his ways, I can still be educated on things I didn’t have an opinion on, or had a different opinion on before. That was one of the reasons why me and you grew so close together early on in my eyes, because I saw underneath Courtney Act and saw the real Shane J quite early. We discussed sexuality and experiences, and if I shut my eyes and just listened – and forgot the Aussie accent – it was like I was talking to a mate of mine down the pub. The actual bones of the conversation were exactly the same as what I have. I loved your honesty.

Courtney: Straight men often have this idea that their gay friend is going to want to try and sleep with them. Which might be true, and it’s interesting because when you look at women in general, that’s literally the feeling they have to deal with every single day walking through life. That men are sexualising them and wanting to sleep with them. It’s funny how women deal with it a certain way, but then when a straight man is sexualised by a gay man, they all of a sudden become [does a macho man impression].

Andrew: Okay so I’ve got a few almost yes/no questions for you.

Courtney: Okay…

Andrew: Would you ever consider doing a tutorial on YouTube on how to tuck with full visuals?

Courtney: Would you be my demonstration model?

Andrew: This isn’t about me, this is about you…

Courtney: I’ve thought about this, because if it’s educational on YouTube, it’s okay. I’ve seen that English guy with all the tattoos do the penis pump tutorial, and you get to see his full junk on a YouTube video because it’s educational.

Andrew: So would you do it?

Courtney: Yeah, but I might not use my penis. I’ll have to find a penis model.

Andrew: Okay, so say if someone was going to make a film about your life, who would play you?

Courtney: I guess Charlize Theron is older than me now, so that wouldn’t work…

Courtney wears top, shorts and shoes by River Island

© Jack Alexander for Gay Times

Andrew: She’s always older than you! Not just now, she was always older than you. I’m thinking Margot Robbie.

Courtney: She’s Aussie too, so she could do the accent.

Andrew: She could be Courtney Act, but you’d have to have someone play Shane Jenek. That would be a really cool film, having two people play you. One as Courtney, and one as Shane.

Courtney: Well there’s this idea, that trans women should be playing trans roles in film, because it’s insulting when someone like Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club or Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Woman, people are like, ‘Well a trans woman should play that role.’ So in some way a boy dressed as a girl should play me in a movie. Obviously I’d want to fantasise about the most beautiful woman in the world playing me, but realistically it should just be some boy.

Andrew: Do you ever see a drag queen Prime Minister running this country?

Courtney: I mean, you’ve already had Margaret Thatcher…

Andrew: Has Paris Hilton been in touch?

Courtney: No comment, you bellend.

Andrew: [laughs]

Courtney: You should be happy with that answer because it means I respect people’s privacy…

Andrew: Who is your LGBTQ icon?

Courtney: I’ve found the whole recent trans movement really inspiring for myself and my own gender identity. People like Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and Munroe Bergdorf I’ve found really inspiring, because they’re strong women who, against the grain of the status quo, stood up and said, ‘This is who I am.’ They’ve really changed people’s understanding of not only trans, but gender, which is really cool. So, one for you: have you had any negative backlash over our friendship?

Andrew: Yes. People trying to say it was an act. People trying to say we were doing it for TV. I just don’t even humour them… dickheads. Oh and a few homophobic people… dickheads.

Andrew wears shirt by Scotch & Soda, jacket and trousers by Chester Barrie // Courtney wears shirt and shorts by River Island

© Jack Alexander for Gay Times

Courtney: People saying it was an act and that we were just doing it for television, I mean realistically we had no idea what was being shown. Or what people’s reaction was in the outside world. It was a dice roll if you were going to do something for it to be an act, because it could just as easily been ill-received and been a detriment. I’ve thought about this a few times when I’ve been watching the show back – I’m only up to Day 18 – but I just keep thinking, ‘I’m so grateful you were there.’ We obviously had fun together, but you’re the instigator. You’re the fun one. I was just the one who…

Andrew: You had some fun with it. You pulled my pants down. You put cushions on me. You waxed my arse!

Gay Times: Having watched it back, were you happy with the edit you received?

Andrew: I personally haven’t watched it back. I’ve only seen clips. I’m not bothered about watching it back because ultimately it has already happened and I can’t change it.

Courtney: I’ve been watching it and I feel like my experience is akin to my experience. There are times when Andrew came across differently, but we were also up late at night drinking. I want to ask one last question: coming out of the house you’ve found yourself becoming an ally to the LGBTQ community and it’s really cool, because our relationship and you specifically have taken this conversation beyond the echo chamber of just our own LGBTQ community. How have you found it? What does it mean to you?

Andrew: I’ve got mainly lesbian friends. I know gay guys and I consider them friends, but some of the best friends I have, and my sister, are lesbians. For me, it’s not even a thought when I wake up out of bed. It’s not like, ‘Oh my god I’m an ally – this is what I have to do to do this.’ I just do me, and by doing that it speaks volumes because we should all have these feelings. We should always wake up and want everyone to love each other. To be nice, and to be kind. You should just wake up in the morning and treat everyone as equal and with respect. It doesn’t matter what colour you are, what gender you are, your orientation, it doesn’t matter. Just be a nice person to other people. I appreciate the support I’ve had from the LGBTQ community, I really do. They’re the best public appearances I’ve had. The gay clubs are more appealing to me because people are so much nicer and open. They’ve got conversation, whereas at straight clubs they tend to talk at you. People have their own battles and they respect and appreciate me more because of the sort of conversations I’ve had with you. I love that, and long may that continue. It shouldn’t be coming down to me to be doing this for the straight community, because I’m not very good at it! There needs to be a heterosexual Shane Jenek doing this, and I’m not him. But if I can just open that door a tiny bit and change the perception of a few people, then I’ve done a good job.

Courtney: I think your willingness and your acceptance is more important than your words. You do a great job, and I’m just glad we got to spend January together.

Andrew: And long may it continue!

Courtney Act will be bring her Under The Covers show to the UK between 29 May to 10 June. For full dates and to purchase tickets, click here.

Styling // Darkwah Kyei-Darkwah
Photographer // Jack Alexander
Grooming // Shamirah Sairally
Special thanks // Wigs by Vanity & The May Fair Hotel

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