Deff Becomes Her: A Shemanic Trance Falls Over Pride - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Deff Becomes Her: A Shemanic Trance Falls Over Pride

Deff Becomes Her: A Shemanic Trance Falls Over Pride

Published July 29, 2019

Photo by
Kollin Schafer

Deff is a powerful presence in the Reykjavík drag scene. The alter-ego of Neville J. Ingley, Deff delivers energetic, fast and physical performances; at a recent drag marathon headlined by iconic US queen Detox, they were a bewitching whirl of colour that dominated the big stage of Gamla Bíó, making hearts race, jaws drop and faces crack.

Shortly after that show, Deff relocated to Portland. But for one night only during Reykjavík Pride, they’ll return to Iceland to stage a new show entitled ‘Shemanic Trance.’ An ambitious group effort, it will also featuring Hans, Chardonnay Bublée, Miss Mokki, and Skaði, amongst others.

The show was successfully crowdfunded—although getting to the target amount was a bumpy ride. “Everything is quite last minute in Iceland, so it was a huge risk,” says Deff, speaking on Skype from Portland. “I did it ‘all-or-nothing,’ which was stupid. But I had a lot of support from close friends and people who are really into what I do, and they made it possible to put it on.”

A Starr is born

Deff’s relationship to drag has been in a state of evolution of late, as evidenced by a recent Facebook status addressing both the content of the show, and their relationship with drag as a discipline. “It’s been hard to express why I’m frustrated with drag as a whole,” Deff explains. “A lot of the RuPaul’s Drag Race queens have been doing McDonalds ads and selling Coke and Starbucks; becoming what I think drag is the opposite of. To me, drag is an anti-establishment, punk-rock kind of thing. It’s not about fame-seeking and capitalism.”

“I’m not really here to entertain you. I’m here to make you feel.”

Dropping the “Starr”—taken from Deff’s drag mother Gógó Starr—was a part of this evolution. “I wanted to put away an old part of myself,” says Deff. “It was never intended to upset my drag mum, but I felt that the name had significance about wanting to be a star. Really, as a teenager, I just wanted to be a starving artist. I wanted to create something for people to feel inspired by. I was thinking these things, and listening to an old Björk song called “I Go Humble,” and it all just clicked. I want to take away everything that feels superficial, and allow myself more time to focus on producing great work.”

High-art drag

‘Shemanic Trance’ will be Iceland’s first chance to get a look at the refocused, rejuvenated, powered-up version of Deff. “The name of the show came from Gógó,” says Deff. “She once said that when I perform, I go into a shamanic trance. And I said: ‘Don’t you mean shemanic?’ And it became a joke. Then I was thinking about what shamans do: they heal people, and help communities. That came together with the fact that I’m getting more political and thinking more about my art.”

For anyone interested in drag, it’s a must see show. “It’ll be high-art drag with a message,” Deff finishes. “As I said in that Facebook status: I’m not really here to entertain you, I’m here to make you feel.”

‘Shemanic Trance’ is at Gaukurinn on August 16th. Tickets are on sale at midi.is priced 3,000 ISK

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