From Iceland — Meet A Pioneer of Reykjavík’s Flourishing Drag Scene

Meet A Pioneer of Reykjavík’s Flourishing Drag Scene

Published May 9, 2023

Meet A Pioneer of Reykjavík’s Flourishing Drag Scene

With a reputation for pushing boundaries and breaking down barriers, Gógó Starr has played a pivotal role in the flourishing drag scene in Iceland. In fact, she is credited as one of the scene’s pioneers, organizing shows that paved the way for a vibrant and diverse community of performers.

In 2009, my drag character made its debut as part of a school play. By 2011, the character had taken on a life of its own, and I named her Gógó. For me, letting go of my drag persona felt like releasing a part of myself that had been suppressed for too long. The name Gógó was inspired by Lady Gaga, whom I admire, and the desire for a name that captured both my Icelandic heritage and stage presence. The last name Starr was added later when I created my Instagram account.

Over time, Gógó has evolved from a loud and extravagant persona to a grittier, edgier version that’s less mainstream.

Through my experiences in the drag community, I’ve learned the importance of toning down my act to become more relatable to my audience, while still pushing boundaries to keep things interesting. My drag character has taught me a lot about self-love and acceptance, which has had a positive impact on my personal life. Sometimes I find myself inadvertently reacting as Gógó in my daily life, blurring the line between my on-stage persona and my authentic self. But ultimately, playing the character of Gógó is an exhilarating experience that I relish and continue to refine through practice.

Loud and proud

My journey as an event producer began in 2013. My involvement in theater during high school led me to organize events for them, and eventually, competitions. The joy I found in organizing those events sparked an interest in creating shows with an audience. Since then, my experience has grown, and I am now a skilled producer for various arts festivals. I had to learn everything on my own, starting with buying products based on their appearance.

Photo by Art Bicnick

However, I didn’t let that stop me from experimenting and watching YouTube tutorials until I found the best techniques that worked for me. Through practice and trial and error, I learned to identify the products that best suited my skin type and adapted my routine to fit any situation.

I founded a group of talented individuals that eventually developed into a monthly show, and later progressed to bi-weekly performances. Our show focused primarily on drag, but also encompassed a range of queer variety performances.

From there, we gained momentum, expanding into a monthly production and eventually launching Drag Lab for more grassroots and experimental performances. Our collaboration with Pride further increased interest in drag, which we believe is currently in a renaissance or golden age. While we acknowledge the possibility of a future decline in drag’s popularity due to a general queer backlash, we remain committed to standing up and fighting for our community, especially those of us who are loud and proud. Unfortunately, the project ended in August last year, but we still have little events.

Grandma Gógó

I didn’t really think about it at first, but I started drag out of curiosity. I hadn’t watched “Drag Race” yet when I started. I just tried on some glitter and started being fabulous. Then, we did a little show that was a spoof of the “Drag Race” competition with just the Nordic competition. It was a small show with some of my friends. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was acting really feminine and doing something that felt so natural to me, and being celebrated for it. As an entertainer, it felt like such a liberating art form because you can do anything. You are creating the art, you are the art. You’re directing the art, you’re celebrating, like it’s so many different things all in one package.

I believe that only one person from our original group still performs in drag. At the time, we were mostly just experimenting and not taking it very seriously. However, my perspective changed when I participated in a direct competition, and winning inspired me to pursue drag more seriously.

In 2011, I competed in my first drag competition, and although my girlfriend at the time still performs as both a drag king and a drag queen, many of the original cast have moved on. I find the Icelandic drag scene to be particularly inclusive and diverse, as the art form is accessible to anyone regardless of gender or body hair preferences.

The community I belong to is truly remarkable. Although my fiancé is not interested in pursuing drag himself, he is always willing to lend a hand in preparing for our shows. Although I have managed to dress him up once or twice, he does not share my enthusiasm for drag. In our community, it is customary to “adopt” newcomers and welcome them as your own children. This is why I already have grandchildren, some of whom are even older than I am.

Unleashing your inner muse

I believe that drag is inherently political because it challenges societal norms and critiques the current atmosphere by allowing individuals to dress up as something they are not supposed to be. It is a constantly evolving and creative way of interacting with the world, and I consider it a form of art. However, as a creative, I have experienced moments where I feel overwhelmed and lacking in inspiration. This is common among most creatives, as we often reach a point where we feel like we don’t know what we are doing. In my case, as I get more bookings, I tend to do more of the same numbers, but this is not always possible when the audience is the same people who come to the shows again and again. Thus, I am constantly challenged to do something new and push myself creatively.

I usually find inspiration in a concept first, whether it’s a new costume piece, a new wig or a song that I want to perform. I particularly enjoy doing funny acts and physical humor and often switch up the song to be something else. One of my craziest performances was based on Baywatch, where I hired some dancers and got us some sexy outfits. It was different from anything I had done before and it became a hit.

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