The Vivienne on Dancing on Ice and anti-drag hate: ‘It’s become more than a skating competition’

The Vivienne in a blue dress holding her arm against her blonde wig against a colourful rainbow background.

In a PinkNews exclusive, The Vivienne talks Dancing on Ice and why we should be more afraid of those imposing drag bans than of drag itself.

“I just find this whole thing crazy,” The Vivienne sighs, sounding somewhat exasperated. The Dancing on Ice finalist, who opened up the world of drag to a whole new British audience when she won the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK back in 2019, is reflecting on the rapidly worsening situation for queens globally.

When The Vivienne began her journey on ITV’s Dancing On Ice in January, she did so with the intention of putting the competition first, and the drag second. 

“I never went on the show to be this huge gimmick act. We always wanted the main focus of it to be skating,” she says. Thanks to Tennessee becoming the first US state to introduce a law effectively banning drag in public, and rising hostility towards the artform in the UK, her presence on the primetime, family competition show has become politicised.

‘This has suddenly become more than a skating competition. It’s become a statement for our community’

“This has suddenly become more than a skating competition. It’s become a statement for our community, to show the world that we are just having fun. Drag has been around since the dawn of time,” she explains matter-of-factly. 

It was a point the 30-year-old drag queen briefly made while speaking to the judges during last week’s semi-final. “To be able to do this, especially now at a time where drag is fully under attack, to show that drag is nothing but entertainment,” she said, in a message broadcast to millions of people watching at home. “We’re nothing to be feared, we just want to have fun.”

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Her time on the show has been fun. She’s skated to camp icons Dolly Parton and Cher alongside her dance partner Colin Grafton, made everyone weep with a gorgeous performance to Beyoncé’s “Halo”, and never once fallen into the bottom two. She’s dazzled in velvet and rhinestones, and just generally had a blast.

Yet there are still those who think of drag queens as some sort of public danger. Much of the concerning discourse, for example, focuses on whether drag queens are ‘appropriate’ for children.

“There’s far more important things to be worried about,” The Vivienne urges. “Gun violence. Public funding. Trans rights. Women’s rights. Abortion rights. Crazy stuff that is going on that is far more harmful than a drag queen on TV or a drag queen reading a child a story book.”

Conversely, she feels that those right-wing politicians pushing an anti-drag narrative are the ones who should be considered hazardous for children.

“Any governor who is trying to stop trans rights, women’s rights [or] gay rights is a lot more dangerous to children than any drag queen could ever be,” she says. Talking directly to the the Republicans of the US who are scared of drag queens but defend the right to bear arms, she declares: “We’re not the ones killing people. You may have not killed anyone, but you’re allowing people to die on a daily basis in mass shootings.”

Not only are drag queens not dangerous, they are not by nature inappropriate as entertainment; The Vivienne’s time on Dancing on Ice has proven that. Of course, there are drag shows that aren’t suitable for kids, just as there are TV shows, books, films and stage shows that children shouldn’t see. 

“That’s why we have ratings,” she argues. “I’m not delusional. Would I bring a child to my comedy show? No. Would I let a child watch me on Dancing on Ice? Yes, because I know how to edit myself, and I know what is appropriate for a family TV show.”

The Vivienne knows the importance of seeing queer people on screen. At age 11, she watched fellow Liverpudlian icon Pete Burns on the sofa on The Graham Norton Show, in awe of his unapologetic fabulousness.

Seeing someone openly queer, so comfortable in their own skin, was inspiring. She hopes that with her own appearance on Dancing on Ice, she can offer that Pete Burns moment to other young LGBTQ+ people.

“You have to let people have their own journeys, but if we can, [we’ll] help them in little nuggets to show them that you’re gonna find your own people, you’re gonna find out that there’s people all over the world that are just like you. You’re just going to be fine,” she says.

“Visibility and representation is so important. It’s crazy that we’re still saying that in 2023, when we had Lily Savage on our screens every Saturday night in the ‘90s.”

If The Vivienne takes the Dancing On Ice crown this Sunday, it’s an irrefutably massive win for LGBTQ+ representation in the UK. For the first drag queen to ever grace the ice to win the whole entire thing would be nothing short of legendary. She’s already a “hit with the nans,” but now she’s urging the LGBTQ+ community to pick up the phone and vote, too.

Drag Race UK stars Baga Chipz and The Vivienne look off camera with their mouths open, against an orange, pink and green background.
The Vivienne can’t wait to read her sister Baga Chipz at the upcoming Haters Roast. (Getty/ Emma McIntyre)

Beyond Dancing on Ice, The Vivienne is looking forward to hitting the road in April for the UK Haters Roast, where some of the biggest RuPaul’s Drag Race stars will read each other for filth, live on stage.

Using her own comedic inspirations, from Lily Savage and Robin Williams to her own nan, The Vivienne is looking forward to taking aim at her fellow queens. Who is she ready to read the most?

“Oh, Baga! I’ve not seen her in ages, I can’t wait to rip her a new one on stage every night,” she cackles. “She’s an easy target.”

It’s a pleasant reminder that drag is not an intrinsically dirty thing – it’s fun and funny, educational and uplifting. 

“That is all a drag is,” The Vivienne signs off. “It’s entertainment.”

Catch the Dancing on Ice final this Sunday (12 March) on ITV from 6.30pm. 

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