Scott Chalmers

“I’m so competitive. It’s like the Olympics.”

Self-described “Glamonster” Gingzilla made a massive impression (she’s seven foot tall) on UK audiences last year with her stunning rendition of Seven Nation Army on the X Factor.

Even though she didn’t reach the live finals, the bearded queen made her mark as one of the competition’s most memorable contestants, well, ever? Yeah, we said it. Deal with it.

The London-based performer tells us: “I’ve had lots of people reach out from around the world and say how excited they are to see what I do because they’ve never seen anything like it. I think I got what I needed from it.”

We caught up with Gingzilla over a lovely cup of hot water (she didn’t want tea, coffee or vodka) and discussed her time on the series, why the UK isn’t ready for a drag queen to win X Factor, and the challenges she’d excel in on the upcoming British spin-off of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Who are your drag inspirations?
Obviously, RuPaul’s Drag Race has had a massive influence on me, but I don’t get my inspiration from those queens. I get my inspiration from Le Gateau Chocolat and from this amazing Australian artist called iOTA. I find more inspiration from gender fuckery rather than pure drag because coming from Australia, my first influences in drag were club drag, so it’s very much Kylie Minogue impersonators or your dame characters. Coming here, I’ve seen the in your face East London, hairy stuff, so it’s all over really.

Have you been a bearded queen from the start?
Yes. I did Meth’s drag competition at Her Upstairs, and she was like, ‘You can be in the competition, but you have to keep the beard.’ And I have no intention of shaving it off because I’m too lazy. Also, I look like a sperm without the beard.

Have you received any negative feedback for having a beard?
When I started doing queer competitions in London, everyone thought it was so radical that I had a beard. I was like, ‘There’s been bearded drag queens since the dawn of drag.’ Conchita has obviously brought it to the forefront, and I think people don’t read me for it because I match my hair so perfectly! The people at Pak Cosmetics hate me [laughs]. I show them my beard hair and I’m like, ‘I need this colour.’ They bring me all the red hair and I’m just like, ‘No.’ I have about 15 wigs now, all different ombrés of ginge.

You recently appeared on X Factor UK in drag. What kind of responses have you had?
Very positive. Obviously, my profile’s lifted, but I’ve had lots of people reach out from around the world and say how excited they are to see what I do because they’ve never seen anything like it. I think I got what I needed from it.

Do you think the UK is ready for a drag queen to win a music competition?
Not yet. I was very trepidatious before I went there because they sought me out. The depictions of drag queens on competitions like this are always the butt of the joke. It’s always novelty reasons, but there was a bearded drag queen on America’s Got Talent and she went far. I think it’s time that the variety of drag is seen in the mainstream. With X Factor, it’s all about the general population of who’s gonna buy an album, and it’s also the Cinderella story. They want someone, a random person from ASDA, to become a star. That’s what the storyline is, so if you already have a polished performer who knows who they are, there’s nowhere for you to go. There’s nothing for the audience back home to go, ‘Ooh, I could be that person.’ It’s not that.

Drag Race UK has just been announced. Would you go for it?
Yes! Why would I not? The reason why I am on board is because I’m so competitive. My family stopped playing games with me because I’m that competitive. Plus, it’s like the Olympics. I only wanna do it for the challenges, because I love creating stuff out of nothing and to have a CD contract… But I would just love to do the challenges.

What else do you think you would excel in?
Obviously singing challenges, even though they don’t do them anymore. They need to bring it back. That’s the thing, it’s about how much money you have, they all come with their designer clothing. That’s why it was devastating about Monique Heart, that this girl didn’t have any money like everyone else who had billions of dollars, she just had creativity. Why isn’t creativity at the forefront rather than, ‘Oh your designer made all these dresses and you have the budget for it.’ That makes me angry because what that’s doing is making it not accessible for the younger generation, because they want to look like Aquaria. I would like to see more creativity and accessibility.

You host a party called Late Night Lip Service. What can fans expect if they attend?
It’s an amazing collaboration with Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh and it’s a queer variety night. It’s a collection of all my favourite artists, and a celebration of queerness in your own identity – whatever that means for yourself. It’s inclusive and everyone is involved, to give a sense of community and connection. At the end of every show, I run around and hug every single person!

And what can we expect from you over the next year?
I’m doing a three month tour in Australia and I’m doing the festival season. I have this show called Little Death Club, and it was a big success in Edinburgh and here, and I’m going to do that in Australia. When I get back, I will be creating a show with Sean Miley Moore called Squad Goals. Everyone’s a Beyonce, nobody’s a Michelle, and that will be playing at Underbelly Festival in Pride season. The hope is to then tour Late Night Lip Service around everywhere, around the globe!

Photography Scott Chalmers