If you’ve ever been on a night out in, or to the wonderful pride events of Birmingham, you’ll more than likely have seen the girl who likes to party, Miss Marty Smith.
The wonderful and funny resident drag queen of The Nightingale club on Kent Street. For nearly 20 years Marty has created a mix of comedy and games and a huge variety of songs from all genres in her shows. She also plays a massive part in the organisation of Birmingham Pride, to help make it the wonderful event that it is. I was lucky enough to sit down with her and ask her about the scene and her life as an award winning drag queen.
What started you off doing drag?
It was all a little accidental to be honest. I used to go to the Wellington hotel on a weekend and sing on the karaoke. I was, believe it or not quite shy and would sing with my head down and be quite embarrassed. I met a few drag queens along the way and helped backstage getting them in and out of their outfits. The resident drag queen at the time left and I had spoken for a while saying I’d like to have a bash myself and they offered. I was terrified and not at all the queen you see nowadays, but I began hosting the karaoke and the acts on a Saturday night and I guess the rest as they say is history.
Do you think the gay scene has changed over the years?
I think the scene has changed immensely over the years, Birmingham especially has got younger (or maybe I just got old). We are much more accepting nowadays and integrate much more, allowing the straight population into our venues which I think is a good thing although I’m sure some would disagree. Over the years we have strived for more rights and I think if we want equality, integration is the way to go to be accepted as equals. Sadly this isn’t always the case in reverse and many straight venues can still be a minefield for the gay community but I guess time will tell.
Have drag queens become more mainstream?
Drag queens are much more mainstream nowadays which I think has a lot to do with media. Back in the day people like Danny La Rue paved the way but it was more of a novelty. But in the bars and clubs the likes of Mrs Mills, Tony Page and The Baroness were doing what I do way before it was cool when in fact the Gay scene was practically under ground for fear of retribution from the straight community. I have a huge amount of respect for these older artists because without them we wouldn’t be able to do what we do now as regards to drag. Then came Lily Savage and eventually RuPaul and the drag scene is suddenly cool.
What advice would you give any aspiring drag queens?
I think since the RuPaul phenomenon there is a huge influx of youngsters that want to become drag queens or as Mama Ru would say Drag Superstars. I have a lot of time for new faces, as I think the drag circuit has changed a lot over the years. It is however very easy to think it’s as easy as throwing on a dress and I think too many people see it as a good excuse to bitch at people and be rude. I think Drag is an art form and the best advice I could give would be to learn your craft… find a niche that is yours.
Why do you think Birmingham Pride has become so popular?
As the years have gone by we’ve gone from strength to strength. It helps I think that the gay community is more accepted nowadays but we try very hard to deliver a very positive weekend that involves all walks of life, as in gay lesbian bisexual trans straight etc. We have been able to offer better and better quality acts as the years have gone by and strive to make the event very community and family based.
To use Facebook’s social plug-ins, you must switch from using Facebook as The Gay UK to using Facebook as Jake Hook.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
The people, I love the people I meet. I never started doing this to be well known I just love what I do. It’s so nice to make people smile and laugh. I always think if I leave a stage and have made one persons night then I’ve done my job.
Is Miss Marty just a character? Or is there an aspect of yourself in her?
She’s predominantly me but with a lot more confidence. I’d never dream of saying even half the stuff I do on stage if I wasn’t in drag.
Where’s your favourite place to perform outside of Birmingham?
My home is of course the Nightingale followed by The Village in Birmingham and I love my Monday nights at C:21 in Shrewsbury. I don’t travel so much nowadays but London was always a favourite as is Cardiff and Leicester and I have a lovely club in Acocks Green The Langley, that it’s always a pleasure to perform in.
Would you ever consider doing the UK version of RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Can’t say I would. I think Drag Race is all about the future of drag. I’d like to think I’ve left my mark on the scene, and I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished and where I am now.
How do you think UK drag queens differ from the queens around the world?
I’ve learned over the years that drag differs all round the country before we start with around the world. I think it reflects the individual’s ideals and surroundings. It is just like life, a learning curve constantly updating and moving with trends etc
How do you feel to be an awarding winning drag queen?
Very humbled. It’s nice to be voted for, although I never expect it. I’ve had an amazing run when it comes to awards and I’m hugely grateful for peoples love and devotion.
Do you think Drag Race has changed the art of drag? And if so how?
I think it has made it more acceptable and mainstream, but don’t think its changed it as such. it’s a constantly evolving form and drag race is just another string in the bow in the wonderful world that is drag queens.
Interview by @AndyEG1982