SKITTLES® GAY TIMES Honours delivered by Gorillas is back for a fifth year to celebrate queer culture and community at a huge event at Magazine London in the heart of the capital on 19 November.
For this year’s spectacle we have Kiss FM Breakfast Show host and MTV presenter Harriet Rose and author, performer and musician Tom Rasmussen on hosting duties, leading the evening through show-stopping performances, inspirational speeches and plenty of laughs.
Performers on the night include Poppy Ajudha, Kwaye, Baby Queen, RAYE and a headline set from Rina Sawayama. There will also be DJ sets from OUTHAUS, Jaguar, ABSOLUTE., and a headline DJ set from The Blessed Madonna.
Ahead of the event we caught up with our SKITTLES® GAY TIMES Honours delivered by Gorillas hosts to speak about their favourite award show moments, why the pomp and ceremony is so camp, and list some of the most iconic red carpet moments.
We also speak to Tom about their forthcoming show Farewell Crystal Rasmussen (their decade-old drag persona’s final act), and Harriet’s recent role at Kiss FM.
For each of you, what is your favourite thing about award shows?
Tom Rasmussen: Okay, I just have two quite specific memories. My favourite thing is being completely ignored on the red carpet because it’s really humbling. I’ve had it twice now; once because I won an award, I won a British Fashion award and I walked down their red carpet and the person who was managing the carpet was like, ‘get ready,’ and I walk down and I pose and then they looked up and everyone was like, ‘Who the fuck is she?’ And I was like ‘Okay…’ and carried on walking on. So that was really fun! I think it’s very humbling and very jokes. The other thing I love is the free food, obviously. Oh, and smelling Nicole Kidman, which once happened at an award show. She walked past me at the GQ Man of the Year awards and then, you know when someone who smells incredible walks past you, they leave a scent in their wake? It’s actually quite infrequent that that happens especially for people like us, normal stinky people. But she walked past and I was like. ‘Fuck, that’s the smell of Nicole Kidman.’ I was literally like -heavy inhale- so hopefully part of her is a part of me now. And that’s why I’m so chic. So yeah, those three things; the smell of Nicole Kidman, free food and being on the red carpet. Probably my favourite thing about award shows.
Harriet Rose: Well, just you wait until you smell me!
Tom: Yeah, feces.
Harriet: Yeah, it’s gonna be a smell that lingers in your brain for the rest of the day. I really enjoyed Tom’s answers, predominantly because I think you’re absolutely right. I mean, for me, I’m not famous or known so when I go on a red carpet, I want to barrel roll off it as soon as I possibly can. I hate having my picture taken. I literally do the most awkward poses.
Tom: I saw some Getty image reposts on your stories the other day, honey.
Harriet: Yeah, I know. But it takes a good two hours for you to get one good photo. It’s like, literally 1000 photos a session and then it’s like, ‘Oh, there’s one!’ It’s usually in the middle of a sneeze. I think there is a real interesting thing with award shows where it doesn’t matter if you are Nicole Kidman, or me, it is the most awkward, weird thing to do a red carpet and everyone, even the most famous people in the world, I think struggle with it. So it’s quite interesting to watch everybody having to deal with that moment. And it’s basically the bit where you hold your breath and you feel like you’re going to be sick. And once that’s done, it’s all about the food and drink.
Tom: That is why actually GAY TIMES Honours in 2019 was really lovely, because actually everyone walked the red carpet. And everyone was somebody that mattered. Just to bring it back to the brand!
Harriet: It’s all about inclusivity, I think. And also that moment of just actually whoever you are just being on the red carpet and getting your snap, whether it’s your friend taking it or some professional photographer. I think award shows for me are about everybody and I think GAY TIMES Honours is one of the best award shows I’ve ever been to, because the energy in the room is so full of love.
Tom: Totally agree.
Harriet: Everybody was just wanting to be amongst each other, meet each other, be in a queer safe space where you could be yourself completely and utterly without any concerns, any worries. The only thing I would say as advice to everyone out there is don’t do what I did, which is not eat and then potentially embarrass yourself in front of all those wonderful queer people in that queer space. But you know what? Queer parties are very forgiving. And a lot of people can forget very easily. I am so excited for this year to see how that post-lockdown energy is going to bring another element of how much people love being in the same room together.
Tom: Some award shows feel really sort of excessive and that can sometimes feel quite uncomfortable, actually. But one of the really nice things about GAY TIMES Honours is that it sort of recognises that and it’s a nice moment. It’s actually just a nice moment to not just celebrate the winners – even though it’s so important to celebrate the winners – but just celebrate everyone who’s collectively got us all here. It sort of feels collective, it doesn’t feel individualistic, which is a really nice thing about specifically queer-focused award shows. It always feels like a win for the community, which is really nice.
Harriet: Also, can I just quickly tell you a story that just really ignites what Tom has just said, because it was a real show of queer solidarity. I went to a small award show, it was a Vanity Fair thing, and I split the arse of my trousers open wide when I did a slut drop. But Harris Reed sewed them up for me. That was queers coming together to make sure that they’re not showing their anus to everybody at the party.
Tom: Love that. That’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be showing you my anus.
Harriet: I’ll be trying to sew it up and you’ll be like, ‘No.’
Tom: I’ll be like, ‘This was the intention, for God’s sake. This is an anus-less dress.’ Obviously that’s what I’m wearing.
Why do you think award shows are so camp?
Harriet: Because I think everybody wants to be camp! This is an opportunity to bring out their camp side. Why wouldn’t you? Being camp is being fun, and being open, and being free. So I think it’s an excuse for people who might not usually be that, because it’s a space where a lot of the time no one’s really judging your campness. They’re judging you if you’re not that. The more lowkey you are, the more judged you are. I think it’s just a realization that campness is freeness. And people do want that, irrelevant of their sexuality.
Tom: I also think camp is knowledge of what it is you’re engaging in. Like, self knowledge, if that makes sense? So, with an award show, everyone there is aware that it’s sort of excessive and ridiculous, but people meet the occasion to dress up and do it anyway. And that to me is a camp act. It’s a moment for people to just sort of actually be quite ridiculous because it is. The idea of an award show, the idea of a red carpet is ridiculous. It is absurd. It’s just literally about peacocking and I think that’s why it’s really fun.
Harriet: We’ve got two peacocks hosting this event as well. So it’s gonna be peacocks everywhere.
Tom: I’m more like a pigeon who’s been washed.
Why is it important, especially after the past few years we’ve had, that we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in this way?
Tom: This is the thing that I always think; people are always like, ‘There’s so much representation and visibility!’ And I think, ‘Is there?’ Like, actually is there if you actually think about it? Obviously we’re all in a world where we seek out queer content, so to us it feels like our world is populated with it. But then in the past I’ve been like, ‘There’s so many queer TV shows now!’ Then I’ll go to list them and I’ll be like, ‘Pose…’ and that’s it. Or a Queer As Folk remake, or The L Word.
Harriet: I think Tom said it earlier, but celebrating the people that aren’t necessarily quote-end-quote famous, but are doing incredible things in our community and that don’t get the recognition but actually are changing things for people like us who can live day-to-day lives in a comfortable way. It’s so important to give them their moment and say, it is going somewhere, it is doing something, it is affecting people, it is touching people in a way that is changing the world. And however small your impact is on the queer community, you are changing the world for the better.
What can audiences expect from you as hosts at SKITTLES® GAY TIMES Honours delivered by Gorillas?
Harriet: A couple of washed pigeons! No, I think everyone can expect us to be ourselves and to bring authentic queer energy with also a lot of sarcasm and passive aggressiveness.
Tom: I’ve known Harriet for years, obviously, and I think our dynamic is quite like siblings who’ve maybe kissed. You know what I mean?
Tom: It’s just gonna be, I think, joyous.
Harriet: Also, we’re gonna make you laugh your nipples off.
Tom: Yeah, I don’t have any so…
Harriet: Well, that’s because you’ve laughed so much.
Tom: Yeah, exactly. That’s because you’ve made me laugh so much, Harriet.
Tom, this one’s for you: Farewell Crystal Rasmussen is taking place in December. Why did you decide that now is the right time for Crystal to take her final bow?
Tom: Well, I’ve been doing drag in and under this character for a decade. It’s been unbelievable, like life changing. I have learned so much and given so much to her. She’s sort of done everything I think she could possibly do at this point, in the best way! That sounds so oooh! But you know, I’ve performed at the Royal Opera House, I have done everything I could have possibly dreamed I could do with drag. And really, the whole point of starting drag was to ask questions of myself and the world. I think I’ve run out of questions to ask with her and I kind of want to ask those questions of myself. It just feels like the right moment to focus all the energy I put into Crystal on myself and I’m releasing – it’s top secret, but you can put it in – I’m releasing a proper serious, under a new-ish character that is very much me, solo album early next year with a record label. I’m actually in the studio now but it sits somewhere different. I really wanted to give that a chance because I just put so much energy into drag and it’s lost a little bit of its potential for me. So I wanted to see where that potential lies elsewhere. I feel really emotional about it. It’s so cliché and platitudinous to say ‘Crystal’s saved my life’, but she has certainly done something like that. I don’t know what it is, but she certainly thrust me out of every situation of comfort I’ve ever been in and forced me to ask questions of my life to the point where now it’s Tuesday, and I’m sat in a recording studio on the phone to you guys. She might have taken me to hospital but she’s also taken me here! What a long answer!
I’m excited for the new music though – that sounds fun! Congratulations. It was either gonna be new music or a tea time chat show, a la Paul O’Grady… I thought that’s what drag queens do when they hang up the wigs. You and your pet dog Celine Dion on ITV1, 5pm every evening!
Tom: Bitch, I’ll still do that!
Harriet: Don’t be coming for my job now, Tom!
Tom: I’m gonna do a Kiss radio show.
And Harriet, you joined Kiss FM as the Breakfast Show host last year. How are you enjoying it? Are you coping with the early mornings?
Harriet: I was incredibly lucky to get a job in the times that we’ve been having. I’ve been working in this industry for a minute and it was such a relief. Kiss is an iconic station, I’ve listened to it since I was a kid. The music is exactly what I listened to and I just couldn’t really believe it. For me, genuinely, I’m one of those annoying people that if it’s a job that I love, I do not care what I have to do for it. Whether it’s sleeping an hour a night, it just doesn’t bother me. Obviously, there’s some days where literally I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I can barely breathe,’ because I’m so tired or hungover. But the team is incredible, so I get in there and I’m smiling. Jordan and Perri, who host the show, are such dreams to work with. Also, it means a lot to me and to them that I can talk about my queerness on air to 4 million people. Like, they actively encourage me. They are both straight cis men who really want me to share and be honest about my sexuality, and we talk about it. We also share the fun side of queerness, so it’s not all like a serious message that we’re giving. We’re just showing that being queer isn’t this serious thing like what seems to be portrayed in a lot of films and stuff – where someone always has to die. But it’s like actually just showing the life of the queer person and for that I’m so eternally grateful to them for embracing me and letting me talk about it. It was just like the dream job that I couldn’t believe I got.
As a part of Kiss FM and your work with MTV – especially at the EMAS and coverage that you do backstage – you get to interview some amazing people. Who are some of your favourite guests that you’ve spoken to over the years?
Harriet: I would say Dua Lipa is incredible. She’s just a powerhouse, a real representation of hard work and when we chat we have such a laugh. One of my my first ever big interviews at Kiss was with her and we recreated the ‘DESGUSTEN!’ meme. Because I asked her what she would be if she was to do Drag Race and if she did the Snatch Game. She was like, ‘I would be the mum in the meme.’ And so we recreated it and just showed a complete different side of her that I’d never seen. So she’s one of my faves. I’m trying to think. Oh, Laverne Cox! I literally nearly passed away when I interviewed her. It was not that long ago and it was for an MTV internal thing, just talking about LGBTQ+ rights and issues within the industry. I was just fangirling the whole time and it was moments like that where I really pinch myself because it’s someone that I am so enamored by. I’ve got so many, but I’m just listing the ones that come into my head first. The other one was Kristin Wigg. On that call I had just done a blood test, and I was really faint and I had actually fainted about an hour before I did the interview. So I was already really lightheaded, but it was one of the most magical interviews I’ve ever had even though it was on Zoom. She was everything that you’d expect her to be; funny, kind, sweet, lovely. And she called me her best friend! So at that point, I realized if I died now it would be-
Tom: You’d be fine. That’s so chic! Love Kristin Wigg!
Harriet: Same, babe, same.
What does meaningful LGBTQ+ representation look like to you both?
Tom: Meaningful means that it’s not important who’s the first, it’s important that there is a ladder constantly. Like, people don’t raise the ladder. The thing is we get so much visibility wrong because it’s growing in front of us, you know what I mean? So like [people say], ‘it’s amazing if someone’s the first to do this or the first to do that.’ But ironically, that rarely is the case because people before us have existed unrecorded. I think meaningful is: it’s not about the individual, it’s about the community, it’s about wider liberation for people who can’t be or don’t want to be visible. Or don’t have access to visibility. It’s not just about the amazing thing that like a queer actor got cast on a TV show. To me, there’s not a revolution in that. There’s a revolution in those people then going on to talk about really key things that actually affect people on the ground, which is trans healthcare, or LGBTQ+ education in schools, or LGBTQ+ immigration and things like that. That is liberation. There’s a jigsaw piece in the puzzle of liberation which is visibility, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the thing that will set queer people free ultimately. But I think it’s a really important piece to have spokespeople. Is that too savage, or is that good?
The reason I asked the question, Tom, is because I knew you could answer it perfectly.
Harriet: Should I say something? Because that was amazing. All I would say is, I completely agree with Tom. Also I would say, meaningful, from my perspective, is whatever you can do. When it’s not coming from a place of – what’s that word? – Like, when you’re just doing it for the wrong reasons. Whereas if you’re actually helping somebody out or doing something for a cause or saying something, signing up for something, giving some money because you feel that it’s gonna make a difference and you want to do that for the community. That’s what I think.
Tom: So what we both mean is that it’s about the community. It’s not about the individual. Or else you’re just a Tory!
What are some of your favourite, iconic red carpet looks from famous people across the years?
Harriet: Everything that Lil Nas X wears. Every single thing.
Tom: I think Sarah Jessica Parker has done a lot of good. I think Cate Blanchett can get it incredibly right or incredibly wrong. I think Solange, when she ever does a red carpet, it always looks flawless. I thought Olivia Coleman in Prada for the Oscars was inspired even though other people didn’t like it. Anyone wearing Prada, Prada is just it. I think Billie Eilish is an interesting proposition. I don’t know if I love it. But I think coverage is interesting. Covering yourself is interesting when the world demands your flesh.
Harriet: Yeah, I get that.
Tom: And also, I hate to say it but fucking Celine Dion’s backward Dior suit was genius. And the egg. Gaga’s egg! Did you watch the Vogue video? She was like, ‘I was in the egg for three days. They fed me through a tube.’ And then classic me, I turned to my boyfriend and said, ‘Well, how did she shit?’ I was like, ‘Where did she shit then?’ Like obviously the first thing I think looking at some amazing art is, ‘Where did she do a dump if she was in there for three days?’ And then we were both like, ‘Maybe she did it in a tube?’ Anyway, apparently she was in the egg for three days just to get into that character. And that’s camp.
It goes back to Prada again, but I always think Frank Ocean making a very understated fashion statement on the red carpet is always nice.
Tom: Beautiful stuff! I think I’ve not mentioned one queer and you finally did. Frank Ocean!
SKITTLES® GAY TIMES Honours delivered by Gorillas takes place at Magazine London on 19 November. To get your free tickets with a £10 donation to LGBTQ+ initiative Amplifund, click here.
Tom Rasmussen’s new show Farewell Crystal Rasmussen will take place on 8 December at Amazing Grace London. Tickets available here.
You can listen to Harriet Rose on weekday mornings on the Kiss FM Breakfast Show and follow her on Instagram here.