Drag Race UK champion Ginger Johnson on Pride, politics, and being strung up from the ceiling

Drag Race UK champion Ginger Johnson on Pride, politics, and being strung up from the ceiling

The champion of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK‘s fifth season, Ginger Johnson, is due to host the legendary Pride After Party at the Clapham Grand in London on Sat 29 June – with MNEK.

In the run up, she took time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about Pride, what she wants to see from the Government this general election and being strung up from the ceiling. No, really.

When the self-professed “helium balloon in the shape of a woman” calling itself Ginger Johnson first walked into the Werk Room on Drag Race UK‘s fifth season, she was the instant pick for the win for many fans.

Their predictions came true – and speaking to Ginger, it’s not hard to see why. With a razor-sharp wit, cheeky humour and a seemingly endless supply of (truly) galvanising remarks on the importance of Pride, the County Durham-born drag titan is a force to be reckoned with, both on and off stage.

For her first London Pride as Drag Race UK‘s reigning queen, Ginger is celebrating with the help of some very special guests at The Clapham Grand, in the venue’s “biggest and most diverse” Pride After Party yet.

Fresh from the first day of rehearsals – which involved being “covered in post-it notes” and “working out where the nearest chip shop to the rehearsal room is” – Ginger sits down with PinkNews to discuss everything from her set list and surprise guests to the genny lec (general election) and why now, more than ever, Pride is a year-long event.

PinkNews: Ginger, thank you so much for speaking with us after what I can imagine was a very sweaty day of rehearsals – we’ll kick off with why The Clapham Grand, for you, is the place to celebrate London Pride this year?

Ginger Johnson: I’ve actually got a long history with The Clapham Grand – I’ve been working here for somewhere between five and 10 years, and nobody throws a party like the Grand.

It’s always just so camp. There’s always 10,000 balloons dropping from the ceiling. Everybody’s neck deep in confetti by the end of the night. It’s perfect.

What you just described seems to be the perfect compliment for Ginger Johnson.

Ginger: Yes, balloons and confetti, that’s me. I’m basically a balloon in a wig. So hopefully I don’t get strung from the ceiling and dropped in the dance break of a song.

Listen, it’s Pride. If you want to get strung up from the ceiling, that’s your business. Aside from that, though, what does Pride mean to Ginger?

It wasn’t until I started to engage with Pride and go to marches and parties and events… until I reached that point in my journey as a queer person, that I started to understand and accept who I was, and am. And that’s so important.

Apart from the fact that it’s a great time for us to think about what’s going on in the lives of queer people socially and politically, it’s also a time for us to celebrate – and I often think, around Pride, about the people that maybe don’t feel secure enough to come out.

Knowing that Pride is happening somewhere, knowing that there are people waving flags, and being a community and enjoying each other’s company is so important – because even if you’re not able to join, for whatever reason, knowing that there are other people out there doing it, and that you are welcome there when you are ready, is so important. It saves lives.

Ginger Johnson is headlining Pride After Party at the Clapham Grand (Supplied)

You’re very much a figurehead this year – the main stage in Leicester Square, The Grand – what’s that like?

Every time I get in drag, especially if it’s for a big public event, there is always the chance that I’m the first time anyone has come into contact with a drag queen – or even a queer person. I think I always feel that responsibility, but it’s a pleasure to be the potential first point of contact between somebody and the LGBTQIA plus community, an absolute privilege.

As you’ve mentioned, celebrating Pride isn’t something everyone has the privilege to do – but how do you celebrate Pride all year round?

I get to celebrate Pride every time I put a wig and some lipstick on, but deeper than that it feels pertinent this year, that we make sure that the community spirit, and that spirit of wanting to come together and celebrate our similarities and our differences, is there.

That is something we should be trying to take out into our lives as much as we possibly can. And it doesn’t need to be something serious. All it needs to be is coming together with the cause of celebrating each other – and you can do that anywhere; you don’t have to wait until June. You can go to your local drag bar and see a local drag queen who might be having their first time on stage. And that is you taking part in celebrating Pride, whatever time of year it is.

Drag has always been political, and we’re (unfortunately) in the middle of a general election, with both the Conservative and potential Labour government taking swings at the LGBTQ+ community. What would you like to see from the next government?

I don’t have any trust in the current government or the future government to protect LGBTQIA plus people in the way that they need to. What I would like to see from the community, is a response to what’s about to happen in the election. And the most important thing is that we gather around to protect the trans people in our community, because they are being victimised.

They are being hit like some sort of ball to play a political game with, and we have a duty to protect them. That’s what my wish. Whatever happens in the election, none of the parties are prepared to stand up for some of the most vulnerable people in society, which is the trans community.

PN: Fantastic answer. To lighten the mood, let’s get back to Ginger’s setlist at The Grand’s Pride After Party with MNEK and yourself. Can we have any setlist teases, and will you be playing “The Spark” by Cabin Crew.

Yes, I will be performing a piece of traditional Irish folk music that has only just been unearthed recently. I just love that song! I love its energy. And I’ve written my own version of it.

My wish for Pride at the Clapham Grand this year is that when I say: “Everybody in the crowd, start bouncing”, everybody better start bouncing or you’re going to be on the wrong end of Ginger Johnson.

PN: Any special guests you can tease?

I’m actually about to live out my dream Pride duet, because we have the fabulous Cheryl Ferguson joining me onstage! And I’m really hoping we get to do a duet together. Maybe “Islands in the Stream”? I think the power of Ginger Johnson and Cheryl Ferguson on the same stage at the same time… that is the spirit of Pride.

Tickets for The Grand’s Pride After Party with MNEK, hosted by Ginger Johnson, are available now. The event starts at 9pm on Saturday (29 June), and is the venue’s “biggest and most diverse” Pride event yet.

The post Drag Race UK champion Ginger Johnson on Pride, politics, and being strung up from the ceiling appeared first on PinkNews | Latest lesbian, gay, bi and trans news | LGBTQ+ news.

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