A drag performance is one which aims to bend gender norms. That is done by having a person impersonate their opposing gender in an exaggerated manner, usually with the help of makeup and costumes. Once getting into their drag persona, the performers would then lip-sync, dance or do stand-up comedy. While drag’s initial purpose was purely for entertainment, this art form is now used as a way for celebration and expression of the LGBTQ+ community.
Our screening Live, Laugh, Lesbian will feature a very special guest who will host the event. That is drag king Loose Willis from the collective Pecs Drag Kings. In this article, you will find our exclusive interview with the renowned character. This will allow you to get better acquainted with our host before the day of the screening. You will learn about Loose Willis’ journey in the world of drag and comedy, how he was created and will find information about any of his upcoming projects.
Maria: How do you feel about hosting the screening event Live, Laugh, Lesbian? How does that compare to things that you have done before?
Loose Willis: I’ve been a queer film fanatic ever since Rocky Horror and Velvet Goldmine blew my tiny mind in my fragile teen years, so any event where I get to watch movies, particularly ones with LGBTQIA+ themes in front of a rowdy audience makes me particularly excited. I usually host and perform at drag and cabaret nights, often extremely esoteric ones like Fist Club (a wrestling cabaret night) and Slaystation (a video game drag night) – wherever there’s drag and a niche pop culture crossover, I’ll be there! Earlier this year, I co-hosted a Queer Horror Nights kink-friendly screening of Nightbreed, organized by the glorious @TokenHomo, so really extremely happy to be adding ‘drag cinephile’ to my resumé.
What inspired you to become Loose Willis?
I used to perform comedy and improv as myself, rather than a drag character, but I found the environments of purely stand-up spaces made me overwhelmingly anxious. I had a few too many experiences of being the only AFAB person in the room and feeling anywhere from unwelcome to downright unsafe – I just didn’t have the mental stamina to continue with it. A while later, my friends founded the drag king collective Pecs and asked me if I wanted to perform some of my stand up but as a male character. I suddenly felt like I had this opportunity to become the toxic male comedian stereotype I had met at previous gigs. I originally found a lot of catharsis becoming this obnoxious man and doing parodies of the problematic routines I’d seen.
However, the longer I performed drag and made work with other queer performers in safe spaces, Loose Willis has blossomed into (hopefully) a much more complex, gentle character. The more you explore gender, the more you see the fluidity of it and the parts of yourself that are masculine as well as feminine. Neither are inherently negative or positive or owned by a particular sex – it’s a constant movement. As a character now, Loose tries to come from a place of understanding rather than toxicity or rage – he’s the himbo in your life who might say something stupid from time to time but his heart’s always in the right place.
On the website for your collective Pecs Drag Kings, it says that you are actually quite shy in real life. How does that affect your performance on stage?
I think it’s because there is quite a dramatic physical transformation between my drag self and non-drag self, as well as the fact that a lot of my acts revolve heavily around nudity or sexuality. People often have high expectations of the type of person I’m going to be that I find I can’t always live up to. I’m not saying I’m a total wallflower (I am a Leo after all), but maybe more like a hermit who emerges from his cave once a week to strip and drink wine.
I think as well when you talk so openly about your gender or sexuality on stage it does come with an element of pastoral care – audience members appreciate your openness and that makes them want to tell you their own experiences, so you sometimes have to be prepared to space-hold for someone else’s gender euphoria or trauma drenched in sweat wearing a jockstrap. I don’t mean this as a complaint – I think it’s a very important part of working in queer spaces.
Is there a particular topic that you are especially passionate about exploring in your performances?
I love depictions of heightened masculinity in pop culture, particularly portrayals where the masculinity is so extreme in its posturing that it almost swings back into femininity again. See: professional wrestling, heavy metal, queer-coded villains in video games and films.
Are there any other characters like or different from Loose Willis that you wish to develop and portray?
Loose has been with me for 8 years so he’ll always be there but in the last few years I’ve started to see him more as an ‘umbrella’ under which I can explore other character types that interest me. I’ve noticed recently he seems to be playing dress up as a lot of figures of male authority – the police, the monarchy, politicians, ‘alpha male’ dating coaches – which is definitely something I’m interested in exploring further.
– Are there any future projects that you are currently working on?
I’m extremely excited for Slaystation’s (@slaystationexp on Instagram) Pokémon-inspired event on January 21st at the Clapham Grand with Kim Chi and Dakota Schiffer from RuPaul’s Drag Race. The people aren’t ready for my sexy Pokémon couture. I’m also seeing in the New Year with my drag family Pecs at The Yard – can’t think of a better way to kick off 2023 than surrounded by sexy drag kings.
It’s taken me 8 years but I’m finally working on some merch that I think is going to be really special and I continue to do some of my best work daily on TikTok where you should definitely follow me – @kingloosewillis (as well as on Instagram and Twitter).