Reuben Kaye: How drag makes me feel more masculine

“I am a gentleman in make-up,” cabaret and drag performer Reuben Kaye told PinkNews.

“That’s where the blend of my masculine and my feminine resides. The make-up serves to hyper-masculinise me. You can’t [help] but look at me and go: ‘Oh, that’s a dude!’

Kaye caught up with PinkNews about the ever-changing nature of drag, and how he weaves in elements of cabaret.

“Drag for me is one of those amazing contradictions in that it is often the thing that has made the performer in their life the weakest,” he said.

“The thing that had them ostracised and yet it then becomes their strength. It’s something that is not a choice, ‘cos no drag queen chooses to be one. If I could choose it, don’t you think I’d rather be a financier? But I’m not, am I? I’m here with a conscience and eyelashes – it’s not healthy!”

Kaye merges cabaret-style performance with drag as a means of “breaking through stereotypes and trying to comment on society.”

“They are inextricably linked, because they are both reactions to, and commentary on, society through a queer lens. And it’s about breaking down stereotypes and it’s about breaking down preconceptions,” he said.

For Kaye, drag is a reflection of a society that is always changing.

Rueben Kaye performing (Club Swizzle)

“You could look at my type of drag, and think that it’s incredibly retro, but at the same time that has never gone away as a form of transgression. It’s still relative and it’s still relevant.

Kaye doesn’t really define what he does, because “as gay people, people have been defining us for ages without even asking us to.”

His drag style borrows heavily from 1920s Weimar Berlin aesthetics.

Rueben Kaye loves to merge drag with cabaret (PinkNews)

“And then you look at newer styles of drag, and newer queens, employing different techniques in different performance styles – from RuPaul’s Drag Race and beyond to some of the art performance queens, who are anti-drag,” he explained.

“You might say those have nothing to do with what I do – and you’d be wrong, because they bear their roots somewhere along the line of the family tree of drag.”

Reuben Kaye hosts Club Swizzle, bringing cabaret with a twist of comedy, circus and drag to The Roundhouse in London until August 26.