Victoria Pride 2017 was kicked off this year with the annual Memorial Drag Ball; a baseball game that sees drag queens pitted against drag kings in Victoria West Park. The players were fabulous and the rules were flexible, and the game was complete with water balloons and a rendition of the Pride national anthem (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”). The afternoon served as an excellent example of the creative expression of drag, which is what first attracted Persi Flage to the medium.
Flage, otherwise known as Kelly Legge, has become a big name in Victoria’s drag community despite debuting only two years ago in July 2015.
“It was a bit of an ‘a-ha’ moment,” says Legge.
Prior to performing, she says, her life was very work-focused and she was in need of a creative outlet. She had no history of dance or costuming: not that you would know by watching Persi Flage run the bases while wearing an immaculate replica of David Bowie’s King Jareth the Goblin King costume from Labyrinth.
Before Persi Flage was King of the Goblins, though, she was an undead girl, starting her performing career with a show at the 2015 Pride Parade that Flage calls “an homage to every zombie movie or TV [show she] had ever seen.” It was after that first performance that Legge was invited to perform at the AIDS March, and it was at the AIDS March where Flage became a he.
“I had long hair that I put into a man-bun, I had a chin strap that was in vogue maybe twenty years earlier,” jokes Legge. “It was a mish-mash of things . . . [I was] completely unenlightened as a performer.”
Legge says that she had always identified as femme, and that she viewed drag kings as being hyper-masculine. Her entry point was learning that she could be a different kind of drag king. “I could be a femme guy!” Legge realized. “I could wear make-up, I can dress as a fop . . . I can be David Bowie!”
Legge’s initial unfamiliarity with the different styles of drag kings is not uncommon. While the hit TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race may have brought drag queens into mainstream pop culture in North America, drag kings and drag things (a gender-neutral term) have not received equal attention (in fact, drag kings are not even allowed to compete on the show at all).
Legge goes on to explain that the term “drag queen” has existed since 1870, but that “drag king” has only been around since approximately the 1970s. For one hundred years before the term was coined, anyone performing male genderplay had to call themselves “male illusionists.” As fluid and ever-changing as the terms we use to describe it, Legge explains that drag is all about inciting conversation through creative expression.
“Drag is the art of provocation through genderplay,” says Legge. “It is a gathering place of creative energy, a spectrum of expression.”
Legge, who works at the Indigenous Perspectives Society (IPS) by day, is no stranger to challenging the status quo. In her role at IPS she has been an active advocate for the two-spirit community, and it was through her initiative and coordination with five other Indigenous organizations that IPS first became involved in Victoria Pride in 2014. Talking to her, it is clear that the passion Legge feels for her work is the same passion that Flage brings to the stage.
To prospective drag performers, or to those who have not yet found their voice, Legge has advice.
“Be your most authentic self on the stage,” Legge says, “because that’s what they want to see.”