Podcasts You Should Know: Drag Race UK’s Crystal’s The Things That Made Me Queer
Drag Race UK season one standout Crystal wowed us with her fierce looks and dazzling performances.
Since appearing on the show, she toured the UK and Canada, hosted a series accompanying the debut season of Canada’s Drag Race for BBC Three, performed for Digital Drag Fest and hosted the BRITs official afterparty. She’s taken her eye for fashion to the pages of revered fashion titles Hunger and KALTBLUT and is the co-producer of the diverse East London Drag Circus show, Mariah and Friendz. Her latest project is a new podcast from World of Wonder called “The Things That Made Me Queer.”
On the podcast, Crystal explores key moments in her guests’ lives that helped shape their queer identities and set them on a path to embracing their queerness. The guests for the debut 6-episode season run the gamut of queer artists, performers, authors and entertainment personalities, including Drag Race alums Detox and Shea Coulee as well as drag legend Peaches Christ and musician JD Samson.
From fantastic and flamboyant moments in mainstream media to underground soundtracks that rippled through gay subcultures, and TV soap characters that sparked sexual awakenings, Crystal and her guests pinpoint the people, places, anthems and experiences that had a profound impact on their queer development.
Crystal chatted with us about life in lockdown from her London home, discussed the new podcast, and answers the Socialite Seven in our exclusive interview. Get to know more about this gender-bending drag performer who has made it her mission to help awaken the world to see British drag in a whole new light.
What have you been up to since Drag Race UK?
Well, there has been a funny little global pandemic…I haven’t quite hit the highs I was hoping for but there’s been some really nice standout moments. I’ve done a fair bit of work for the BBC, doing recaps of Canada’s Drag Race, we had the docuseries God Shave the Queens, which followed us on tour last year. And, in that brief window, after the show and before the pandemic, I was performing my ass off doing shows all over the UK and across Canada as well. It was really fun, and I just can’t wait to get back out there.
What was the inspiration for “The Things That Made Me Queer”?
I love talking to gay people and queer people about their stories, I guess. And I think it’s a subject that gets discussed a lot, but it’s not always necessarily handled incredibly well. Often times you hear straight people interviewing queer people about queer issues and you don’t necessarily hear queer interviews about queer things by queer people and that’s kind of what I wanted to focus on. I’ve given [the show] kind of a hook to create a little bit more interest, so there’s kind of some rules to the podcast. My guests bring five items: a person, a place, music, film or TV show and a wild card. We have a bit of fun with the format as well in the sense that it’s giving the show some structure, so that you know what beats we’re going to hit. You get to hear what would be that song for that person and you can kind of think about that yourself as you’re listening, which I think makes [the podcast] quite fun to listen to.
What was your own “a-ha” moment?
I love thinking about this. The thing about this podcast, and what inspired me is that when I do drag, I’m constantly thinking about these things from my childhood that inspired me or gave me a window into another world, or helped me to feel better about myself. I have already channeled so many of these things into stage performance or into looks when I do drag, like Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman or Harley Quinn from the Batman animated series. Those two women are really cool and unapologetic and powerful and they own their sexuality, and those are things that were really kind of exciting for me and so I love channeling those kind of things on stage, and with his podcast, I’m interested in hearing about other people’s things.
Other things for me were video games. I love RPGs and fighting games and playing Mortal Kombat and choosing the female characters and fantasy novels. I would wander around the woods as a kid and break off branches and pretend I was a sorceress and cast spells, like very, very nerdy stuff. Those kinds of make-believe worlds basically saved me when I was a kid. They showed me this other world from the humdrum country life that I was in.
What’s been the best story you’ve heard so far on the show?
Oh God, it is all over the place. It goes from really sweet and touching, like Shea Colueé talking about their first kiss, which is the sweetest story, and then there’s wild stuff like Peaches Christ sharing anecdotes about Elvira and talking about the people that she met while on tour with her. It’s funny with Peaches Christ, everyone she said that made her queer she ended up meeting or working with later in life. She talks about John Waters and she talks about Elvira and “Now they’re my friends and I go over to their houses for dinner.”
That is such a gay storyline, where you’re like, I’m a kid, I see this thing I’m obsessed with and I’m going to make that my life! There are so many gay people I know who are like that. We have a way of manifesting our childhood fantasies, I think.
Who would you be most excited to meet?
I would have to say Madonna, but I think I would be terrified to meet her. That woman basically raised me. It’s one of those things. I have her on such a pedestal from my childhood that I don’t think I’d ever want to meet her, because she could never live up to it. It must be impossible when you’re that famous to know that so many people who revere you like that. So, I think I’d be more interested in meeting the people I’m actually talking to on this podcast.
For example, I’ve got JD Samson on one of the episodes who is in the band Le Tigre, and I was obsessed with Le Tigre when I was 18 or 19 when I was first coming out, going out, meeting gay people, and listening to their music. And now, they’re guests on my podcast, talking to me about their experiences like that is absolutely mind-blowing. That’s the level of fame I’m interested in, the level of fame I can handle meeting, I guess.
Who’s your dream “get” as a guest?
Ooh! That’s a good question! I would love to get Christine and the Queens on. I’m obsessed with them. I have a dream list…the Pet Shop Boys would be incredible, Beth Ditto from Gossip, a lot of musical heroes for me. Kim Petras. I’m in this nice position now where I can get in touch with a lot of the people I know would be interesting and I’m keen to make sure that the guests I get aren’t just famous and gay, they’re famous, gay and have something to say. I didn’t mean for that to rhyme (laughs.) They’ve got a little bit of substance and they’ve. Obviously thought about these things for themselves. That’s what I love about the series so far, that the guests are all really thoughtful, but they’re all really different. They’ve all got a different take or perspective on it.
What are you hoping to achieve with the podcast?
My goal is to tell queer stories and to give people a window into what makes queer people tick. I think if you’re a queer person listening to the podcast, you’re going to lots of touchpoints that are really familiar to you, which I think is really powerful. And, if you’re a straight person listening to it, I think you’ll understand a little more what’s going on in our brains; why some of us are so messed up, but also why we’re so creative or expressive and why we’re able to do the things we are able to do. I think it’s really exciting to share those stories.
What‘s in the future for you?
Oh God, I stopped making future plans! They’re too depressing! I had a show that I was taking to Edinburgh Fringe last year, which obviously didn’t happen, so I’m hoping we can do that this year – but I’m not sure the Fringe is going ahead yet. I have a little TV project in the works that I think will go ahead. I can’t really talk about it, but it’s something very exciting. I just at to get out in the world and meet the people I haven’t had a chance to meet yet who liked me on the show and do performances for people in different countries because I feel like I only began to scratch the surface of touring possibilities before we all got locked down. I’m real excited to just get out on the road.
Crystal Answers the Socialite Seven
What is your dream lip sync song?
Ooh! My dream lip sync song…that sounds like I wasn’t allowed to do it. My favorite lip sync song probably would be something by Bowie or maybe Gossip. I love a bit of high energy with a rocky edge.
What, if anything, have you been bingeing lately?
Oh my God, I feel like I’ve watched everything that exists. But I have been enjoying revisiting 80s action movies and 80s thrillers. I had never seen Basic Instinct (that’s a 90s one) to my horror because it’s the campest thing ever. I watched LA Confidential and then I’ve been rewatching the Terminator movies and the Alien movies, vintage blockbusters. It’s been really fun.
What three things can you not live without?
My cell phone, some decent lighting and carbohydrates.
What’s the weirdest question you’ve been asked?
I don’t know, can I say this question?
If you could wake up tomorrow with one new talent, skill or superpower, what would it be?
Oh my God, there are so many. The real answer is telekinesis. I’ve always wanted to be able to move things with my mind. I’m a very lazy person.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Right before you go on stage, just pretend the audience already loves you. Go on stage with that energy that they’re obsessed with you and you just have to give them what they want.
What are you most grateful for?
My supportive husband.
New episodes of “The Things That Made Me Queer” are available every Tuesday on Spotify and wherever you listen to podcasts. Keep up with Crystal on Twitter and Instagram and book her on Cameo.