Drag icon Glitzy Von Jagger recalls how lockdown depression helped her find her true calling

Glitzy Von Jagger poses along an armrest

For most of us, the coronavirus lockdowns were tough. Remember banging pots and pans on our doorsteps every Thursday? Learning how to bake banana bread? And don’t even get started on the Zoom quizzes…

But for one queer performance artist and DJ, it became a turning point in their life they’ll never forget.

See, the artist now known as Glitzy Von Jagger has always been obsessed with drag. They can’t get enough of it. If RuPaul is going to slap her name on a new Drag Race spin-off, then you can guarantee that Glitzy is going to watch it. The kings, the queens, the bios and everyone in between.

And it was while slumped in a self-described depression during the first COVID-19 lockdown that Glitzy decided to stop listening to their fear and instead listen to their heart, and begin their journey to becoming a world-famous drag queen.

And lo! The incomparable Glitzy Von Jagger was born. After years of dance and performance art, it was during lockdown that she realised how much she missed the stage – and how it was time to stop listening to her inner-saboteur, harness her love of drag and become the drag icon she knew she could be.

“I’m a lockdown queen, really,” she explains to PinkNews. “I did comedy courses. I lived and breathed YouTube makeup tutorials. All of it.”

Fast-forward to 2022 and, in celebration of its long-standing commitment to LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion, Virgin Atlantic launches a competition to find the UK’s next iconic drag star. The prize? An all-expenses paid trip to San Francisco – flying upper class and staying in a gorgeous Hilton hotel, no less – to perform alongside two RuPaul’s Drag Race legends in one of the most legendary and iconic drag bars in the world, Oasis. Oh, and all this during Pride Month, to boot.

The competition was in partnership with San Francisco Travel Association and the winner performer was accompanied by none other than  Kitty Scott-Claus and Vanity Milan.

Countless drag kings, queens and performance entered the competition for a chance to win the once-in-a-lifetime prize, but after campaigning for votes dressed as Elsa from Disney’s Frozen around the streets of Stoke Newington, in East London, it was lockdown queen and self-confessed “Jill-of-all-trades” Glitzy Von Jagger who won the chance to perform one of the most unique cities in the world.

Her, Glitzy recalls to PinkNews her epic stint in San Francisco, performing in what is now her favourite gay venue in the world, and why we should always, always strive to overcome our fears and listen to our true calling.

And click here for more information on Virgin Atlantic holidays to the fun, quirky and oh-so-queer San Francisco, including special offers for the Hilton Union Square hotel.

Glitzy Von Jagger (C) and Drag Race UK stars Kitty Scott Claus and Vanity Milan – and the Virgin Atlantic crew . (Virgin Atlantic)

PinkNews: So how are you feeling after your epic trip to San Francisco to perform in drag to a rapturous US audience thanks to Virgin Atlantic and San Francisco Travel Association? 

Glitzy Von Jagger: It feels like a fever dream. It just went by so quickly – it’s always something I’ve wanted to do. I was absolutely living off having a camera crew follow me. It was long, long shoot days.

We did so much every day in drag apparently it was unseasonably warm, which I can confirm. I was doing like high drag looks so I had all the geish on – latex and weaves and you know.

It was just so amazing. I can’t like quite believe it happened. It was such a roller coaster of fun things to do. I was literally running on adrenaline and excitement and gratitude. Just so thrilled to be here.

And it was your first time performing in drag in the US, is that right?

I have performed in the US, just not as Glitzy. So back in my chorus boy days. I danced for the Osmond Brothers on their Christmas spectacular and we did 32 states and I was a dancing Christmas present. “It’s a marshmallow world in the winter,” step, kick, step, kick, turn. That was good fun

I was in my early 20s and we were young and wild. Boys out in Chicago, we just partied our way around the Bible Belt. I did get into drag, though, on that tour. I remember getting into drag at a truck stop – it was all the girl’s stuff. I was pretending to hitchhike. I was like, “Give me a wig!” And all the girls did my makeup. And I was hitchhiking by the trucks and did a photo shoot out there.

I have done drag [in the US]. It wasn’t like, drag drag. I was cross-dressing. I’ve been cross-dressing since I was two.

That’s a full-circle moment from that truck stop to Glitzy Von Jagger performing in San Francisco.

Yes, at the Oasis [iconic drag bar in San Francisco]! Which was just unbelievable because I have been obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race since its very inception. I’ve watched it from the beginning. I watch all the international ones. I listen to the podcast, I watch it on YouTube.

I’m fully obsessed, and it’s not waning either. You know, when people are like: “Oh my God, there’s so much saturation.” I’m like, give me more! More drag!

That’s really lovely to hear. I sometimes think Drag Race has become one of those things where it’s almost cool to hate it now, you know?

I feel like that’s like anything that’s popular. Ed Sheeran was cool until he became number one all the time. He’s still an amazing songwriter and he’s bashing out the number ones. I don’t know why we do that. Is it a British thing?

Is it just, kind of like, a general zeitgeist-y culture thing?

A zeitgeist-y culture thing. I love drag, I’m obsessed in all its forms. I love the drag kings, bio queens, all of it drag, drag, drag, drag, drag, drag. I love it. I always have Lily Savage, Dame Edna. Are we allowed to like her? Isn’t she a bit naughty? We all want our drag queens to be a little naughty or what’s the point? I did feel like the naughty sister with the girls.

From that truck stop to that Oasis stage where all of the Drag Race winners have performed – so all of my idols who I look up to, and who are at the top of their game. It was a real honour and all the San Francisco queens were so lovely and supportive. They really lift each other up backstage, like chatting, and giving tips and sharing knowledge and everyone followed me on Instagram and like, they’re all out there videoing me and one of the girls give me a $20 bill tip as well.

It was cool to feel like part of the cool drag girls in the circle.

I had never experienced a drag show like, like that. There’s something about the US crowd, they seem to have much greater reverence and respect for drag than I think some of the UK audiences do.

It was like a rock concert! They were going for it!

I think some of our audiences are maybe a bit British, a bit more reserved… you know, until it hits about 11pm and then everyone’s had plenty of jars in them and then they get going. They were in from the get-go, waving those dollar bills… and I kept my first dollar bill tip that I got – I’m gonna frame it! I shoved it up my pantyhose.

That’s such a part of it as well [US audiences tipping drag queens]. It really adds something to it. People love to give, people love to be noticed by someone on stage and have that energy transaction. It makes you feel good as well. I felt really good having a bucket full of tips. I was thrilled!

Glitzy Von Jagger (C) and Drag Race UK stars Kitty Scott-Claus and Vanity Milan. (Virgin Atlantic)

San Francisco was so chill and groovy and open, accepting and celebratory – I’ve never seen bigger Pride flags anywhere. It’s the queerest place I’ve ever been. The amazing Holocaust Memorial flags made out of pink sequins glittering on the mountains around that you could see from every angle? It was amazing. They go for it.

I was really overwhelmed by how significant it all was. I wish we had something more like the Castro District [San Francisco’s gay village, essentially] over here in the UK. A real place to be, you know?

And naked men walking around. On every corner [for years, San Francisco’s Castro District has been known for its nudist population]. I love that! No shame around bodies and nudity, and all of that. I go to Burning Man and I rip my clothes off. It’s so freeing. It’s a very American thing, though. I haven’t ever done it at a festival or anywhere here in this country. But when I’m over in the US, there’s loads of it going on.

It feels like the ultimate de-drag. Because I’m not presenting as anything other than on a soul level. People can sort of really see you.

How did you go about pulling you jaw-dropping Oasis performance together? What was the thought behind it?

It was an act that I’d already done. I got booked to do a baby shower so I had the idea of turning up pregnant to the baby shower because it was in drag. So how can I make this more draggy? I bought myself a pregnancy bump – that was the start of it.

Then I saw how much attention I got with the pregnancy bumping in drag. I was like, oh, I like this. This is fun. So I kept it going with my drag. And then I was like, oh, should I just like take Glitzy to term and do it like it’s performance art.

So I would turn up to all of my gigs and my nights pregnant. It just added a different element. It was really fun and really campy and people responded well to it. And then I was like, well, I’ve got to give birth at some point! So I made it part of my act and I give birth to a puppet on stage – and she is my drag daughter.

I like conceptual cerebral silliness. I want to be able to sing live, I want to dance, I want to be to write some of the stuff myself and the content and to have a bit of a journey going on through there. To just ultimately have fun – and it feels authentic to me.

Of course, you were performing on a bill headlined by RuPaul’s Drag Race UK icons Kitty Scott-Claus and Vanity Milan. Did you know the girls much before the trip?

I didn’t know them. So it was fun to make some new friends and get tips and get some insider gossip on Drag Race because, you know – I’d love to do it! I was asking them all the time.

They’re great girls. We had a good laugh and there was real camaraderie throughout it all. It was their first time performing in America it was all a great huge experience and we were looked after so well.

At the Hilton, flying upper class on Virgin Atlantic… I just love I love all that bougie s**t. I grew up in a council estate so doing stuff like that is just a dream.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from them Kitty and Vanity?

Wear a babydoll dress [laughs] – especially when you’re doing things like [the trip to San Francisco]. They practically lived in babydoll dresses while we were in the US because they could be untucked, no tights, bare legs, and it gives you that drag illusion at the shoulders and at the hips. They were comfortable. And when they were walking around those b*****s are wearing slippers. Big fluffy slippers. And then there was me, tottering around in my heels.

Both only wore human hair wigs as well, which is a lot lighter. They’re fancy though. Those are expensive. That’s that Drag Race girl money, you know?

Drag Race UK star Vanity Milan on board Virgin Atlantic flight to San Francisco. (Virgin Atlantic)

So, where did Glitzy Von Jagger come from?

The Jagger is Mick Jagger. I love The Rolling Stones. I love indie rock music. I’ve upped my rock and roll movements over the years.

So where did I start? Where did Glitzy come from? I’ve been cross-dressing for years, always fannying around, dressing up to go around East London and all that sort of stuff.

But it was lockdown when I was sitting at home and I realised I was depressed. I performed all the way through my 20s. And when I was a teenager, I had lots of time to sit in my bedroom because I was Billy no-mates and think about what I wanted to do and dream up where I was going.

I got myself Billy Elliot-style to stage school with a full scholarship down to London. I hated doing a normal job in between dance work, so I learned to DJ. And then the DJing took over and I got really busy with it, and I got comfortable with the money. I started DJing at show bars and singing and dancing and combining all of it.

But I missed the stage. All my friends who were performers had gone and done other things. I tried it but I didn’t like it. The only thing that really makes me happy is performing and I thought, well, I’m never gonna really go for it, and I’m obsessed with drag.

I was kind of exhausted by the thought of doing it because I knew how much graft it would be to get to the level that I want to be at – because I do have such high reverence for the art form. I did comedy courses. I did makeup courses. I lived and breathed YouTube makeup tutorials. All of it. So I’m a lockdown queen, really.

At a time when it was really difficult to be a performer that’s when you decided no, this is the time.

I just had to go for it. I started a weather girl channel at home. I entered it into BBC Radio – like the actual script of me talking – and it got accepted. I got to be interviewed on the radio and they loved it. They picked three of their favourites and it was archived in the British Library, which is so cool.

I moved high school several times and only had books and I always wanted to be a writer as well. I think maybe I’ve got a book in me at some point, but we’ll see.

My granddad taught me to read at a very young age. He’s very dear to me and used to sit with me for hours on his lap. I was reading at an adult level when I was six. So to have some writing of mine – even just, like, a short comedy writing bit – archived in the British Library was really f**king cool to me.

Glitzy Von Jagger says she got into drag during lockdown. (Virgin Atlantic)

Drag has been an outlet for that. Like comedy, scripts and pieces. I love DJing but it’s not rocket science. I felt like I wasn’t using my creativity. I wasn’t using my brain. And so I wanted to reclaim my stage. I came out of lockdown lashes swinging. I was booking things, doing things. I got a residency at Sushi Samba, so I run my own night called Disco Blouse on Saturdays.

I booked a feature film at the start of the year, which was amazing. I had four scenes with like 40 lines, or so. It’s called Tiny Little Voice.

I wasn’t living truly in my power and I wasn’t listening to my intuition and going through it. I think I was scared, honestly. But I’ve always found when I just do what my higher voice is telling me to do, and don’t listen to the fear – you know, my inner-saboteur – then things go in flow for me.

Since I put a wig on, no one was surprised. Everyone was like, ‘Well, of course you’re a drag queen. Obviously, you are. I can’t believe you didn’t do it sooner.’ And I was like, ‘Oh God yeah, me too.’ But everything has just started to get really exciting and I’ve just been getting all these wonderful opportunities, which I’m very grateful for.

If you’d told me that Glitzy Von Jagger had been around and grafting for the past ten years then I wouldn’t have been surprised. She feels like the manifestation of all the things you’ve done in your life up until this point?

Drag is a really good vehicle for everything I do. I feel I’m a ‘Jill of all trades’. I’m a good singer – but I’m not like Whitney Houston. I’m a really good dancer – but I’m no Beyoncé. I feel like I’m really good at lots of things. Jill of all trades, mistress of none, but who said our Glitzy wasn’t having more fun?

I get to write, I get to do comedy, I get to act, I get to sing, I get to dance. I now get to do the makeup – badly [laughs]. I get to do the wigs and do the styling and things like that. You get to do so much with drag.

I trained in everything, I trained as a singer, dancer, and actor. With drag, it’s my own art, it’s my own vehicle. I’m not at the mercy of casting directors who’d be all, I’m too short, I’m too camp, I’m too this, that and the other. I can create my own lane.

The fact that Virgin Atlantic did a whole competition to find a drag icon of its own – it shows goes to show the power of drag in 2022.

People love it! I went around on the campaign trail for Virgin Atlantic in Elsa from Frozen drag, because there are lots of families around here. And since then, I’ve been asked to lead the Christmas parade as the angel down Stoke Newington Church Street.

So for anyone who’s thinking about exploring drag themselves but they’re maybe a bit trepidatious, your advice is to just go for it?

Just go for it. With anything that’s calling to you, it’s calling to you for a reason, because it’s your purpose. The only thing really ever stopping you is fear. The things that I’m scared of, that’s where I grow the most.

Even if I do fail, I learn from the failure, and so the failure becomes something that is beautiful as well. It’s like death, in a way. Death is awful and it’s sad but, without it, things wouldn’t mean so much. That juxtaposition of life, the Yin the Yang. The left and the right. The drag kings and the drag queens. This and that.

From left to right, Drag Race UK stars Kitty Scott Claus and Vanity Milan, Glitzy Von Jagger, and queen San Francisco icon Snaxx walking the streets of the Castro District. (Virgin Atlantic)

What were some of your highlights on your San Francisco excursion? Where will you be recommended for people who ask?

Hippie Hill is gorgeous. Visiting Pier 39 – the sea lions are so cute! – and going under the Golden Gate Bridge with the Adventure Cat Sailing Charters was incredible.

You have to do the Castro District AND if you are there, look up [San Francisco queer icon] Snaxx and book her to take you on a walking tour, because she’s just wonderful. She knew everything it was it was so much fun.

Get yourself some Crest whitening strips.

The Hilton in Union Square where we stayed was beautiful. The cocktail bar at the top with views overlooking San Francisco was breathtaking. And riding on the trams is so much fun – we were hanging off in full drag as it was speeding up and down the hills. I thought I was going to lose my wig!

And I think now, Oasis drag bar is probably my favourite gay club in the entire world.

What’s coming up next for Glitzy Von Jagger?

I’m performing in Manchester Pride at the end of August on the main stage on the Saturday (27 August) at 6:30pm. So you can catch me there.

I am going to be DJing at my night Disco Blouse at Sushi Samba on Saturdays. I perform at Archer Street Soho and the Act in Notting Hill. I’ve got lots of like events and festivals and things coming up. So just stay tuned, follow the socials, and like Glitzy Von Jagger!

I’m very much looking forward to the day I first hear ‘Glitzy Von Jagger’ coming out of RuPaul’s mouth.

Please! I wonder how she’ll say it?

Like you haven’t practised.

I have thought about how she’ll say it – and it would be awesome. Amazing. Epic.