Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - South Africa celebrates its new drag scene

South Africa celebrates its new drag scene

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People watching the performance of Brooke Lynn Hytes – aka Brock Hayhoe, - Canadian drag superstar and two-time finalist on RuPaul’s Drag Race at a n LGBTQ+ club in Johannesburg. AFP

South Africa celebrates its new drag scene

A leggy blonde sashays with the grace of a Hollywood star then drops into the splits, mesmerising an enthusiastic Johannesburg audience not used to watching major shows by international drag queens.

Brooke Lynn Hytes, AKA Brock Hayhoe, two-time finalist on “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, headlined the sold-out event on Saturday night.

“The drag scene in South Africa is very new, when I lived here about 15 years ago there was no drag,” the Canadian told AFP, sitting elegantly in a leopard print dress and a perfectly-coiffed Marilyn Monroe wig.

South Africa has some of the most progressive laws in the world when it comes to LGBTQ rights. It was the first country in Africa to legalise gay marriage. But in practice, stigmas still persist.

“Due to the way society still views the ideas of gender and the binary of gender, drag queens still face a lot of discrimination,” Theo de Jager, founder of DragCon South Africa said.

“For a lot of people that’s scary – this change in the idea of what gender is – that fear often translates into discrimination,” he added.

Drag is not consent

Excited audience members, many decked out in colourful wigs and figure-hugging bodysuits, overflowed onto the stage in the trendy Johannesburg LGBTQ venue decorated floor-to-ceiling with artificial plants.

The host for the evening, Adam Benefeld – or Adammahh – is clad in a shapely white leotard with long curved horns for shoulder pads.

Benefeld told AFP that drag in South Africa is an expression of people taking what they have been marginalised and oppressed for and turning it into an art form.

“It’s about showing everyone that you don’t just need to be who you are, you can be so much more,” said Benefeld.

A typical show includes lip-sync performances, voguing, some comedy, and a whole lot of fierceness.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Canadian drag queen Brooke Lynn Hytes - two-time finalist on RuPaul’s Drag Race - poses during a photo session on Saturday before performing in a show at a LGBTQI+ club in Johannesburg, South Africa. AFP/MARCO LONGARI

But the number one rule is: “drag does not mean consent”, and according to Benefeld some of the most hands-on guests are straight women.

Benefeld says he doesn’t always feel safe in drag in South Africa, so these shows are more than just performances.

“I’ve been stopped by the cops in drag, it’s tough,” he said.

‘Celebration of queerness’

In between Hytes’ multiple outfit changes, some of Johannesburg’s local talent rocked the long stage, including acts such as Nicki Supreme and Lust Vegas.

Nicki Supreme said the drag industry has become more inclusive for anyone who wants to try it, even women.

For Hytes, it’s much more than just a hobby.

“When you’re dressing up as a woman for a living, it’s hard to have people take you seriously as a boy,” said Hytes, who danced with Cape Town City Ballet for two years.

“They don’t realise it’s my job, you’re a banker, I put on wigs and I make more money than you,” she said, describing drag as “a gender-bending irreverent celebration of queerness”.

Hytes’ career highlight to date is producing “1 Queen, 5 Queers”, a reboot of a popular Canadian TV show that she started as a way to use her platform to get more queer voices onto TV.

She would love to see more drag queens in major beauty or fashion campaigns since, she said, much of their inspiration comes from the community.


  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro