As EuroPride takes off in Malta, American drag queen, Sherry Vine, says “Pride is political and not just a party”, but prefers to focus on what performers like her want to do – “make people happy”.
EuroPride, now entering its 29th edition, is considered a major, important event and Sherry, a star in the US with her TV shows, said she was honoured to be a part of it.
This is not her first visit to the island – Sherry was performing on a cruise ship that stopped here for a few hours, but what she saw of Valletta was “fabulous and very memorable”.
The drag queen is now looking forward to exploring the island and seeing everything Malta has to offer, telling the public in a promo clip to: “Forget Ibiza! It is all about another small rock in the Med.
“If it is good enough for the late Queen Elizabeth, then obviously it is good enough for this old queen,” the flamboyant performer said.
More focused on the “fabulous beach club scene” and hosting EuroPride at Gracy’s Arts and Supper Club in Valletta, Sherry admitted she did not know a lot about the LGBTIQ+ community here but was aware “they have created a space that is regularly being voted most friendly country for us”.
Referring to the recent outrage about the participation in EuroPride of Israeli singer Netta because of her support of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, Sherry’s take on these controversies is that “Pride is political and not just a party”.
Having said that, she jokes, “I think I should stick to talking about the few things I know about.”
She herself won a Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contribution to Drag from the Tel Aviv LGBTQ+ Film Festival in 2019.
Sherry feels mass events of the sort are effective and needed, rather than creating a sort of us-and-them divide. They are important to bring drag and LGBTIQ+ issues to the world stage, she says.
“If there is one person in the audience who maybe was not sure how they felt about drag queens or gay people, and after the event or show realised it was fun and questioned why they were unsure, evolving and opening their minds to other lifestyles, then it is worth it.
“At the end of the day, my job is to entertain and unite the people who are there.”
With over 30 years under her sequined belt, Sherry has earned the title of ‘Drag Legend’ and her video parodies on YouTube have been viewed over 20,000,000 times.
She has starred in and produced theatre, film and TV shows on drag – The Sherry Vine Variety Show was the top scripted show this summer on OUTtv – and she maintains these have been very important in making it more mainstream.
“When I started drag, you did not see it on TV or movies, unless it was a heterosexual actor in drag to escape or ‘pass as a woman’. They were not in drag as entertainers, or in their own right.
“Now, certainly because of the popularity of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, an American reality competition TV series, there are more and more TV and movie opportunities for drag artists,” she points out.
Thirty years down the line, the drag queen scenario has changed: “When I started performing in drag in 1991, drag was still very fringe. Most of the audience were gay men. Now it has become a legitimatised art form and the audience is very diverse. I love that!
“But yes, we still face issues, especially here in the US! It is shocking to me how some sections of my own country are so anti-drag when all we, as performers, want to do is to make people happy.”
As to whether drag was misunderstood and the talent behind it underestimated, she said many dismissed it as an art form but pointed to the many performers who can sing, dance, act, do comedy and write.
Trying to pin down a defining moment in her career, Sherry says her TV show and touring the world have allowed her to extend her chosen family. But opening for Bianca Del Rio at Wembley for 12,000 people was “incredible”.
Her advice to anyone contemplating a future in drag is: “Find what makes you special and exploit that. Do not try to copy someone else. Be inspired, but always make it your own.”
That is what Sherry will be doing at Gracy’s, which has invited her to host a cabaret dinner show and the rooftop Pride Without Prejudice party, “ensuring this important conversation continues to happen on a global platform”.
Sherry said she was thrilled to be performing at the Valletta club, which has created a programme of events and a EuroPride Passport, giving holders temporary membership.
“I mean what’s not to love? A baroque palazzo with rooftop views over Valletta – I will feel completely at home!
“What I love about coming to new places is that I do not know what to expect. I would love to attract a diverse crowd of LGBTIQ+ people and also our allies from all over Malta; people who are ready to laugh and let go for an hour and enjoy themselves.
“My show is a little bit edgy,” she pre-empts, “but I perform all over the world, so I have a good sense of what to do or not do depending on the country, language, etc…” she says about possible cultural differences.
“I know people need to laugh and I will be bringing the laughs. And the glamour!”
During her participation in Malta’s EuroPride, Sherry’s aim is to “make everyone feel gorgeous and enjoy the event”, she assures, predicting “a fabulous week of fun”.