Teen drag queen banned from school talent show will perform at Brighton Pride

A 14-year-old boy, who was banned from debuting his RuPaul-inspired drag act Athena Heart in a school talent show, will now play at Brighton Pride.

Lewis Bailey was told the day before the contest at Castle High School and Visual Arts College in the west Midlands that he would not be allowed to go on stage as drag queen Athena Heart.

Bailey, who came out as gay to his mum and stepdad last year, said he was “heartbroken” by the school’s decision, adding that he believed the school stopped him from performing because “they don’t accept me for who I am.”

Publications, including PinkNews, were quick to cover the 14-year old’s upset, with Bailey receiving messages of support from the LGBT+ community.

The 14-year old drag queen was soon invited to perform DragWorld UK alongside stars from RuPaul’s Drag Race, which he told PinkNews he is “very excited about,” adding that he wants to “get my name out there so others just like me know that it’s ok to be different.”

And, on Wednesday,  This Morning host Rylan Clark-Neal praised Bailey for his story, telling the 14-year old: “I’ve got to say – I think you are amazing, I really, really do.”

Brighton & Hove Pride organisers said Bailey will perform at the event on Saturday August 4, after the idea to invite him was suggested by Tom Jenkins, who performs as drag queen Martha d’Arthur.

“Brighton & Hove Pride strongly disagree and feel any expression of a persons individuality is a thing to be cherished and celebrated,” the organisers said.

Martha d’Arthur said: “After seeing Lewis’ story on social media on Sunday, it upset and lit a fire under me that a school would imply that all drag is somehow sexual and shameful, so I reached out to Lewis and Natalie on Sunday to see if I could offer him the amazing and positive experience of performing at one of the most phenomenal Pride celebrations in the world, in Brighton.”

Bailey will join the ‘Colour My World’ themed Pride Community Parade and later perform on the cabaret stage with d’Arthur in Preston Park, where Britney Spears is headlining.

Lewis’ mum Natalie said: “The support Lewis has had has been amazing, he’s so glad the story is out there to let others Lewis’ age know it’s ok to be different and to be proud of who they are. Lewis is also feeling very loved by all that have supported him and the continued support he has for the future.

“I also think the support has been tremendous it’s boosted Lewis’ confidence in his quest to prove it’s ok for kids to be different and all kids should have the love and support of people around them.

“We are looking forward to attending Brighton & Hove Pride and can’t wait to meet every one that has made this possible for Lewis.”

Bailey said he was “very excited” to get the chance to perform at DragWorld UK. (Lewis Bailey)

Bailey, whose drag act was inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race, said after the school cancelled his act that he was left “heartbroken and confused.”

The teenager, who has described himself as “a 14-year-old Gender Bender,” added that “after all the effort I have put into it, it has knocked my confidence a lot.

“When I’m in drag I feel I’m truly being myself.”

Bailey was left “heartbroken” after his school wouldn’t let him perform his drag act at a talent show. (Lewis Bailey)


Lewis’s mum Natalie said drag had enabled Lewis to come out of his shell, before condemning the school for its decision.

“One of the teachers told him he couldn’t do it any more because the law that says you can’t do competitions as a drag act if you are under 18,” she said.

“This would have been his first performance in front of people in public. His act for the talent show was dressing as a lady and dancing.

“There is no swearing, no raunchy behaviour, nothing over the top. It’s just him dressing as a female doing a dance.

Bailey was told he couldn’t appear in the talent show the day before the event. (Lewis Bailey)

“I can’t believe it. I spoke to the headteacher and she asked if I was removing him from the school because I wasn’t happy with the decision.

“I said no. Why should he miss out on his education because of their views.”

Michelle King, the school’s principal at Castle Academy, said the decision was made because “it was not age-appropriate for either the learner and for the intended audience, his peer group, for Lewis to appear as a ‘drag act.’

Lewis was told his act was “not age-appropriate for either the learner and for the intended audience.” (Lewis Bailey)

“We understood Lewis wanted to appear in the style of Rau Paul [sic], whose style of performance is characterised by strong language and sexual innuendo,” she added.

The number of children embracing drag culture appears to be on the rise, with one star, American 10-year-old Desmond Napoles, taking the world by storm.

Known on social media as Desmond is Amazing, the drag kid has around 80,000 followers on Instagram and even created the first ever drag club for just for children, Haus of Amazing.

Drag kids do still face challenges though, with one nine-year-old star, Nemis Quinn Mélançon Golden – who performs as Lactatia – experiencing a horrific backlash after they modelled for a clothing company.