Spurred on by the cult success of RuPaul's Drag Race and dance drama Pose, drag queens have broken into the mainstream in a big way, influencing pop culture, celebrity style and even beauty trends.
While not new, men wearing women's clothing and make-up has never been so accepted or popular as it is now – yet when I'm asked to undergo a gender-bending makeover for Kiwi reality show House of Drag, my initial reaction is, "Hell no!"
Though I donned the odd skirt from the kindergarten dress-up box and I've belatedly become a big fan of RuPaul's series, I'm happiest in jandals and T-shirts, and I struggle to apply anything more than moisturiser to my mug.
However, after some peer pressure from the Woman's Day team and the realisation I'll be out of the country when the show airs – I'm now editing our sister mag NW in Sydney – I finally agree to be one of six drag virgins for the TVNZ 2 show's stars to transform. You have to try everything once, right?
On the big day, the brave volunteers are lined up by House of Drag's hilarious hosts Kita Mean and Anita Wigl'it, and then matched with our new "drag mothers".
I'm honoured to be the first choice of fierce queen Spankie Jackzon, the alter ego of Palmerston North performer Blair Macbeth, 34, who looks wild in an OTT zebra-print dress and headpiece, which I take as a positive sign as zebras are my favourite animals.
My high cheekbones are a factor in Spankie's choice of "drag daughter" (laughable considering I'm a year older than her), but she later confesses, "The main reason I chose you was your big feet, so you'll fit my heels, and blond eyebrows, which I can draw over."
Inside the house, the firststep of my two-hour makeover is completely shaving off my facial fuzz, something I haven't done in years, then it's on to the make-up, which takes ages. I couldn't name even a quarter of the potions plastered on my face, but I do recall the eyeliner pencil being rather painful.
Next step is the outfit. Spankie's horrified by my hairy chest, which we don't have time to shave. It means I'll have to wear a high-necked frock and not the low-cut number she'd handpicked earlier for me.
"It's not ideal, but we'll make it work," Spankie sighs as she hoists up my pantyhose, straps me into a corset and wraps duct tape around my waist to create the illusion of hips. There's no time for the usual padding – and because Spankie's wearing her only silicone breastplate, I have to wear a bra stuffed with singlets for boobs. "This is how the baby drag queens start out," she reassures me.
Fortunately, because I'm in a loose-ish dress, I don't need to "tuck", a painful-sounding process where one's genitalia are taped between one's legs, but with everything else going on under my frock, I'm still far from comfy and sitting down proves difficult.
Finally, it's time to slap on some earrings and a long, blonde wig – both attached with skin-friendly glue – along with some false eyelashes that heavily restrict my field of vision.
And then there's the Perspex stripper's heels, which I find surprisingly easy to walk in. Has hiking made my ankles so strong or is it the years spent standing on my tippy toes to get served at bars?
Throughout the painstaking process, Spankie ensures I'm comfortable with what's going on and thanks me for being such a good sport.
When I finally look in a mirror, I'm neither horrified nor delighted – I'm amused at how much I look like a Real Housewife. While many first-time queens say they've never felt more like themselves, I just can't see myself in the blonde bombshell in my reflection, who we've christened Skanki Jackzon.
I won't spoil the result of the challenge, which screened on March 14, but I can reveal the politics between the contestants play a big part. And despite guzzling a couple of glasses of bubbles, I struggled to channel the big personality of a drag queen – it was a Monday morning, after all!
And though it's declared I'm "serving fishy realness" (believably feminine) and Spankie insists every man she's ever transformed has gone on to pursue a career in drag, I have to confess this was a first and a last.
While today was fun and I'm in awe of her talent, I just don't have the skill or patience to pull the transformation off myself. When I finally wriggle out of my corset and swap those heels for my flip-flops, I can't help crying out, "Yaaas, queen!"
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