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Lanah P, known to many as Al Pillay, is what we describe here at QX as “A one”. They’re unforgettable. Unignorable. Unapologetic. They are a whirling, turbulent durbish of smashed norms, gender-defying defiance, and underground London glamour!

They’re punk, they’re attention-grabbing, disruptive, and formed a part of the cultural zeitgeist that has shaped our gay scene as we know it today. They’ve done it all! Released music, been on telly, and called everyone from the 80’s on speed dial!

Dylan Jones spoke with them about their contentious, impassioned and radical views on media, society and modern life.

 


Hi Lana! How was your pride this year?

As a performer of some standing and notoriety, I have performed at pride on a number of occasions. I think my first pride was around 1984. Back then it was so much more politicized. People weren’t bought, it wasn’t owned by self-serving Tory city boys on the MAKE whose main objective is to gain a ticket to the Barclays Bank Christmas Ball. Turning us all into a total capitalist commodity via the tool of hedonistic bamboozleing. It was much more alternative in those halcyon days, and diversity wasn’t forced, it wasn’t it fake. It was organic, it wasn’t off a Topshop rail. Being our authentic selves, WE fought for all these queens to wear their crowns with pride today! If I’m in the West End I just pass through, but this year I got spotted a LOT! Very nice strangers were asking why I wasn’t playing the main stage in Trafalgar Square. Maybe it’s because I’m too alternative? OR is it because I’m the original No Filter hashtag? I was liberated from the day I was born, and suffered the consequences. My life has always been a movie called GO FUCK YOURSELVES! STARRING ME!

Did you go to the Orlando Vigil? What did you think?

I did go. I cried as I remembered the 80 other countries around the Globe that directs their toxic LGBTQI-phobia at other human beings that are bereft of the privileges we wallow in here. I thought it was amazing that our wonderful mayor Sadiq Khan addressed the crowds, and the excellent Jeremy Corbyn mingled with and greeted people.

You were one of the faces of Channel 4 back when it started up. What do you think of British media and TV at the moment?

What you mean to ask the lovely Lanah, is that you acknowledge that I set a precedence and was a seminal star of C4’s groundbreaking “the comicstrip presents” with French and Saunders.

Yes! Sorry! Seminal! You were a SEMINAL face of Channel 4!

The channel’s FIRST! The first ever unapologetic genderqueer, loud and proud personality. And there hasn’t been seen since! Ha! They wrote a movie for me. And there was NOBODY else like me on the British screen or in cinema. The film is very relevant in today’s political climate, because we’re currently in a right wing paradigm that wickedly promotes the end of empathy. The film was called EAT THE RICH (because if things don’t change that’s all that will be left to eat!). Nigel Harris, director of a brilliant and much-needed organization, The Camden LGBT Forum, wants to include a screening of it as part of the British Library Movie Season in September, followed by Mark Kermode interviewing me.

As for what I think of the media today…well I think it’s a cis white middle class domain. Same as theatre. Especially musical theatre, which is racist and conservative in its cognitive dissonance. I’ve also noticed a lot more tokenism posing as diversity on television. And I’m sick of seeing so-called reality TV personalities being the dupes of their own existence. Hence the reason I rarely watch TV these days. I prefer to read Spinoza and George Orwell instead.

What do you think of how sexuality and gender is being portrayed in our society today?

I’ve always maintained that the whole concept of gender is a scam! It doesn’t truly exist for any of us. It’s just an earthbound illusion. I come from the optic that we’re all spiritual entities, biological gender being only an objective fact. And Sexual diamorphism doesn’t cover it either. For most of us, gender is an essentialist social construct and an existentialist truth. But for some of us, there is no truth in it. Everybody’s origins begin in androgyny.

How do you think your gender was perceived when you first came into the public eye?

In the 80s, as Stock, Aitken & Waterman’s premier mixed race brown skin HI-NRG diva with the smash “Pistol In My Pocket”, I electively lived a transsexual woman’s role. I soon figured that I was buying into a misogynistic patriarchal idea of what it wanted a woman to be. It was an attempt to turn me into a cisgender female for the sake of respectability politics and I wasn’t having it. That said, no amount of male socialization or masculine posturing would ever be able to erase my intrinsic and inherent feminine traits.

And what do you think of how trans rights have progressed over recent years?

I’m happy to be living in this wonderful, phenomenal period of gender transgressions. I predicted this future back in the gender-bending climate of the 1980s when I was experiencing a lot of shit and altercation on the street against the prism of Thatcher’s right wing England. I do worry though that a lot of folk are just taking a micro narrative and pushing it to a meter one, and ending up as the dupes of their own existence. Gender is performative and is being performed all the time. It is as mutable as mortality. Being male or female is not gender behaviour, it is human behaviour.

We loved you in Torsten with Andy Bell. You’re working with him again now aren’t you?

That’s very kind of you! The role was created specifically for me by Barney Ashton, who is a genius talent, along with his creative partner Christopher Frost. I’m not a massive fan of the musical theatre world. I’ve experienced it to be full of dysfunctionals, that are intimidated by genuine alternative people. I realise it’s all subjective, and I do have my own little gems, but instinctively Torsten was avant-garde enough to get me interested again. And besides, I got to work with the lux Andy Bell, who I was astonished to hear is a big fan of mine also!

What plans do you have for the future?

Queercore! Which Barney wrote for me initially, then Andy, hearing its brilliance and totally besotted with me, wanted to do it as a duet and thank goodness he did! QUEERCORE is a mildly autobiographical self-deprecating send-up piece. It’s actually saying “you’re even more deluded about me than I am about myself”.

I’ve become my own producer over the years and next year will produce my own feature film. I think mainstream is controlled by too many parochial minded tossers and imposters all toeing the line and occupying positions they shouldn’t. I’m also currently the “Empress of Slap” on my Youtube channel doing makeup turorials! I do possess an NVQ level three in make-up and eyebrow shaping…I see some of your readers are either into wild life or have a flymo? Haha! And I also have “Lana’s Story Land” videos, where I put my own particular slant on traditional children’s fairy tales. Both to be found on YouTube! As well as that, I’m about to play the role of a very affected theatrical character in a John Jenkinson film, filming commencing in October. There’s another documentary by Claire Lawrie which I’m attached to, and also I’ve been talking to moviemaker Gurinda Chada (Bend it like Beckham) about stuff. Apart from that I’m open to great offers. You know why? Because I GOT IT GOING ON! AS I’M THE ORIGINAL NO FILTER GURL! Innit.

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