SANDRA: “I don’t need to be ridiculed on TV, I can do that on stage myself.”

Words by Jason Reid

Madonna, Cher, Lassie, Sandra – when you’re known solely by your first name you know you’ve made your mark on the world.

With a career that has spanned over four decades, and still going strong, Sandra is not only one of the biggest names in UK drag, she’s also a living link to our country’s drag history. Because it’s (most certainly) not all about tongue popping and death drops.

QX drag devotee Jason Reid caught up with Sandra this week for a good old chinwag…

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Hey Sandra, long time no chat. How’s tricks? 

Not too bad at the moment. I’m getting better now after being ill for a while. But I’m as busy as ever!

You’re never not busy. What are you working on right now? 

I’m down in Brighton working on an alternative panto, Snow White – 7 Poofs and a Piano. It opens on Jan 31st. I’m having so much fun preparing for the shows.

And you’ve got your London residences at Central Station, Admiral Duncan and Two Brewers. What do you like about those venues? 

Yes, I have my finger in many pies. I like that they’re all very different – especially the audiences. It’s a good variety.

 How do you stay so busy? 

 I don’t know. I’ve been saying that for the last 40 years. I think it’s because I resonate with people on their level and I chat about everyday situations.

You are very friendly and easy to get on with, which helps I guess. Do you miss anything about those early days when you were starting out? 

I miss the camaraderie between people. That’s the only thing, really. Other than that, well things have changed a lot, but that has to happen or nothing would move forward.

Do you think there’s still a sense of drag camaraderie today? 

Yes, of course, but the only time I see people now is for charity events. We’re all so busy with our individual careers.

The scene has changed a lot over the years, but some stuff has also stayed the same. You’ve got an old school sensibility coupled with a modern edge – especially in presentation and music. Is that a conscious decision on your part? 

I think it is, because as the scene changes, so does the music. You have to sing stuff that audiences know. I mean, you can still do the classics but it’s important to evolve.

You’re well known for not holding back with your patter. What do you think of political correctness and censorship in comedy? 

It’s gone to far. If you accuse someone of saying something racist, ask yourself is it actually racist? Or just a statement? People take stuff the wrong way. Comedy has always been about pushing it as far as you can. If certain people don’t like it then they don’t have to come.

 Does anything offend you?

 Not really. To me it’s no holds barred. Once you’re on that stage you can say what you like within certain reasons.

I guess everyone has different boundaries for different reasons, so as a performer is it difficult to gauge those boundaries from audience to audience? 

What I do is, at the outset of the show I try the material out and if gets a laugh I carry on and if it doesn’t I drop it. And move on quickly…

Whenever I swing by to one of your shows they’re always fun, and there’s a real ‘up’ vibe. Is that important to you? 

Yes, absolutely. I don’t take myself too seriously. And I’m not one of those acts that just wants to be famous. It’s not all about fame, it’s about entertaining.

Who were your favourite drag performers when you started out in the 80s? 

There were three: Lily Savage, Regina Fong and Adrella. They were my mentors.

Who are your favourite drag performers now?

Cookie Monstar, Son Of a Tutu, Titti La Camp, Tanya Hyde; I like a bit of everything really.

Would you ever do a reality show? If so, which one?

Absolutely not. I have been asked. I don’t need to ridicule myself on TV, I can do that onstage myself.

Who or what would you like to be reincarnated as?

Cleopatra, because she got to shag Mark Antony.

 What grinds your gears on social media? 

People who air their dirty laundry on Facebook. It really annoys me. Don’t do it!

Who’s your drag crush? 

Topsie Redfern

 What’s your favourite smell? 

That dirty workman smell, do you know it? Very musky. Yum!

The key to being content is…

Just be yourself and embrace everything that comes to you. I always say: life isn’t difficult, it’s people that make life difficult.

Sandra performs at Central Station every Wednesday, Admiral Duncan every Thursday, and Two Brewers every Sunday. 

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