WATCH: Drag queen transforms into 'alien insect'
PUBLISHED: 09:22 03 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:22 03 November 2019
It takes almost three hours for 22-year-old Alfie Laurence to transform into his drag alter ego, Moth.
Preparing for the Halloween drag special event "Hallowqueen" at the Castle Pub in Norwich, the performer and professional makeup artist runs through an intricate makeup routine, with the aim of transforming himself into an "androgenous alien".
He begins the process by using glue to flatten his eyebrows, until they are completely smooth, so he can change their shape with makeup.
He then uses delicate layering techniques to sculpt and highlight his face, changing the appearance of his bone structure until he resembles "something not entirely human".
The final result is striking: Bowie-esque, colourful and immaculately executed.
The popularity of US TV talent show Ru Paul's Drag Race, which sees drag queens battle it out to become the world's next "drag superstar", has catapulted the once niche world of drag into the mainstream, with phrases like "fish" (a drag queen who is particularly feminine) and "sashay away" (Ru's catchline for when a drag queen is eliminated from the competition) becoming enshrined in the younger generation's vernacular.
For 22-year-old Alfie, who lives in Norwich, the show ignited a passion which would change his life.
He said: "I was interested in acting as a child but lost confidence as I got older. Performing in drag is an unusual feeling and not one that many people experience. When you're in drag, particularly for the first time, you feel completely different because people treat you completely differently. You have to present yourself in a more confident way to match the outside. It helped me to become a more confident person on and off the stage. You feel invisible."
Growing up gay, Alfie said that he, like many other LGBQT teenagers, experienced bullying.
However, after discovering drag whilst studying in Paris, he became embedded in a community which championed diversity and inclusively.
The performer said the Norwich drag scene opened his eyes to how limited most peoples' view of the genre is, fuelled by the focus on gay men impersonating women on TV shows like Ru Paul's Drag Race.
He said: "When I first started drag I was doing classic, hyper feminine drag makeup, but as I developed my skills I found that the type of drag that interested me was more androgenous and club kid. The drag scene in Norwich is incredibly inclusive and creative, and that changed my view.
"A lot of people don't realise that drag can be anything you want it to be, it's not just a man dressed as a woman lip syncing and telling jokes.
"It's about total self expression and playing with gender in whatever way you want. You can be a man, woman, or anything in between and still do drag."
For Alfie, creating his alter ego Moth is an exercise in artistry, and pushes the boundaries of traditional gender norms.
He said: "Moth is an androgenous alien insect. I'm not subscribing to either one of the gender binaries. I don't even want to resemble a human. I'm creating this fantastical being and its creating something not from this world is what excites me."
Although drag's rising popularity is creating more opportunities for performers, Alfie said paid work was difficult to find in Norwich.
Drag collective The House of Daze is the biggest organiser of drag events in the city, and puts on regular nights at venues such as Pottergate bar The Birdcage, The Castle pub and Norwich Arts Centre.
Events feature a variety of acts, ranging from lip syncers, live singers, dancers and comedy routines.
Alfie said performers mingle with the crowd during the show, and that the interaction helped foster a positive atmosphere.
He said: "People are being drawn to the scene in Norwich because it's so fresh and interesting and accepting. Everybody is feeling the same love for the art of drag and accepted in that space and a part of something bigger. People let loose of all their insecurities and have fun when they're at a drag show."