The art of drag has come a long way. It now enjoys an almost mainstream appeal, thanks to the ever-growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community in society and shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Performers all around the globe feel more empowered to show their talents while serving flamboyant personas and unique looks in the process. Examples of support can be seen constantly, such as the overwhelming social media buzz for Drag Race UK’s Frock Destroyers possible bid for Eurovision late last year.
As we celebrate a different kind of pride season and tune into All Stars 5 every weekend, we’ve decided to highlight some memorable drag performers from Eurovision history, both on the main stage as well as the hopefuls who gave a strong attempt back home in their national finals.
We know all about the iconic acts like the victorious Conchita Wurst and the inimitable Verka Serduchka, but there have been many more through the years.
Here are ten times drag acts werked it and were fabulous every high-heeled step on the way!
Drag Queens at Eurovision and national finals
After Dark (Sweden’s Melodifestivalen)
A third-place finish at Melfest 2004 cemented After Dark’s status in schlager folklore. But the drag project — led by Christer Lindarw and Lasse Flinckman — enjoyed success over many years. The act continued without Flinckman, returning to the contest in 2007 and 2016. The 2007 effort referenced four of Sweden’s biggest TV names, calling them “self-lovers” — although all four apparently gave their consent. Lindarw retired the After Dark project in 2017.
Babsan (Sweden’s Melodifestivalen)
Babsan was the drag persona of Lars-Åke Wilhelmsson. She was yet another testament of Sweden’s love for fabulous personalities. Appearing on countless shows in the 1990s and joining After Dark soon after. She was a pink-haired, bold, glammed-up middle-aged fun-seek woman. A Melodifestivalen appearance was inevitable and in 2011 she gave us the cheeky “Ge mig en Spanjor” (Give Me A Spaniard) in 2011. Ole!
Queentastic (Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix)
Backed by Thomas G:Son, the fab Norwegian act Queentastic almost punched themselves a ticket to Athens in 2006. The duo had previous experience stemming from their time in Norway’s iconic drag group the Great Garlic Girls. They tried their luck in Melodi Grand Prix after grouping up in 2005, achieving a third-place finish. They have been pride parade staples ever since.
Lolita Zero (Lithuania’s Eurovizijos atranka)
Gytis Ivanauskas became Lolita Zero with two goals in mind. One was to promote the movie Zero 3. The second was to represent Lithuania at Eurovision 2017. This bid somehow involved watermelons. She reached the final thanks to the public vote and a wildcard rescue. “Get Frighten” became a highlight of this edition of the marathon Eurovizijos atranka. Fun fact: Lolita Zero mostly lip-synced, instead vocals were provided on-stage by Jurij Veklenko, who went on to sing at Eurovision 2019.
Club La Persé (Finland’s UMK)
UMK 2017 was notable for being quite a bonkers affair. And Club La Persé came to serve some club kid realness. With thumping beats, bizarre staging and the most unique looks of the night, the quartet brought their little world to Finland and the Eurovision bubble!
Kamil Show (Armenia’s Depi Evratesil)
The persona of Arsen Grigoryan, Kamil Show quickly became one of Armenia’s favourite media characters. She even got to be buddy-buddy with celebrities like Lilit Hovhannisyan in the process. Not knowing Spanish didn’t stop Kamil from giving us the explosion of colour which was her Depi Evratesil 2018 entry “Puerto Rico”. She ended up coming second with the Armenian public in the televote.
Courtney Act (Australia’ Eurovision Australia Decides)
In one of the most mindblowing crossovers ever, RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Courtney Act was one of the acts competing in Australia’s first-ever national final. The infectious “Fight For Love” ended in fourth place overall, featuring smoldering looks and fierce choreography from the high-profile drag artist.
DQ (Denmark 2007)
While the sparkling Verka caused a stir in 2007, she wasn’t actually the first drag act to tackle Eurovision solo. That honour went to Denmark’s DQ, who featured in the semifinal some days prior. Surviving a second-chance round in that year’s DMGP, the Drama Queen took her pink plumage and bejeweled crown to Helsinki. While she didn’t qualify, she left her dramatic stamp on Eurovision history.
Sestre (Slovenia 2002)
Five years earlier, the very first drag act was selected for Eurovision. Amidst much controversy, Sestre secured a close win in the 2002 edition of EMA. Their selection sparked both pro and anti-gay protests in Slovenia, to the point of having a parliamentary debate about the topic. They ended up going to Tallin, and their Eurovision entry “Samo ljubezen” placeed 13th. The “sisters” are remembered as groundbreaking performers and they are still going strong to this day.
Ketil Stokkan (Norway 1986)
But who was the first to ever to don a wig, heels and makeup for their country? We have to look way back to Bergen 1986, when the host country’s Ketil Stokkan’s act featured backing dancers from the Great Garlic Girls, the same troupe as Queentastic. The performance included some extra acting inspired in Romeo and Juliet. As such, “Romeo”, which gave Norway a respectable 12th place, represented the first occasion on which someone from the LGBTQ community was visible on stage, inspiring many acts along the way.
What do you think? Is there any dragtastic act you’d love to see on the Eurovision stage? Let us know in the comments below.