Don’t Call Me Masc!

Jonny Woo talks femmephobia and masculinity

Jonny Woo is a tour-de-force, a hurricane in heels, and, according to this week’s TimeOut, one of London’s 50 best people! He even topped Sadiq Khan (in the list, not anywhere else, as far as we’re aware).

He’s stalking into Hackney Empire next month for what’s fast becoming one of the biggest events on the scene calendar, The Un-Royal Variety Show!

We got PR guru and Babybel connoisseur Jack Cullen to chat to him about pumping iron, sex clubs and why he has “butched” up for the upcoming show.

So Jonny, I hear you’re a gym-queen now.

I was on tour in Australia and just happened to be in accommodation next to a gym for a month. I had time on my hands and thought ‘I’m going to do what I said I’ve always wanted to do’. I got myself a personal trainer and that’s how it started. I’ve kept it up for over two years now.

Has Jonny Woo finally come out as Masc?

I hate that term. It’s superficial and means nothing to me. Going to the gym is about me being happy with the way I look and how I feel about myself. I don’t see myself as ‘Masc’, so when that term is used it just feels ridiculous. I identify as a man, but I’m very in tune with my feminine side. How you interpret my presentation is up to you.

So why the new poster for your Un-Royal Variety then? Bare-chested, muscles flexed.

I wanted to create an image that would provoke a response and create conversation, so I presented a deliberately masculine image. I want people to think I am conforming to a gay white male stereotype, but upon closer inspection I look like I have a black eye, or is it eye shadow? I’m interested in the gender punch up going on online at the moment around identity. New definitions are fighting for recognition. Just look at the line-up. It’s feminist, it’s punk, it’s queer, it’s gay, it’s straight, it’s diverse.

Talking of online storms – what’s your take on the ‘femme shaming’ around entering certain clubs?

If you have drag queens on your line-up and don’t let drag queens in, then you’re going to get called out. I’ve been turned away from clubs before. I could never get into Trade, because my image didn’t fit that of the men in there. I had floppy hair, flowery shirts. Not tonight! I just went back to Shoreditch and popped pills in a warehouse instead. I think getting refused entry for wearing feminine clothes, not even full drag, is low. That’s not costume, its how people express themselves. Sorry mate, no chiffon tonight. Really? Does a pussy bow really mean you’ll lose your erection? I get the men only thing though.

Really? That surprises me.

If a venue is a male sex on premises venue, I can see why promoters would want to keep it men only. There is a way of communicating physically in these spaces that could get misconstrued. You know, you let another guy know you are into them by grabbing their dick. Oops sorry, wrong sex. Clubs are privately owned and they’re entitled to have door policies. Also there are loads of options in London. You only have to look east to find a whole scene that celebrates femme guys. The Glory of course, Dalston Superstore, VFD, The Adelaide and let’s not forget Sink The Pink. Saying that, when will we start addressing the needs of butch women?

Can we backtrack – Jonny Woo in sex clubs?

I can never pull in a club now that I’m sober. Hello naked night. I was thinking of nude nights in the wake of the door policy thing actually. When guys are naked, you have no idea if they’re butch or femme with clothing removed. I have no idea if I’ve been shagging femme tops or butch bottoms. When someone’s naked, you literally see the whole package. They might have a great butt, or a nice chest, or maybe just look like they’ll be good kissers. Not necessarily everything all together. Naked nights can be delightfully egalitarian.

Do you think your new gym bod has helped you feel more confident in these kinds of environments?

Of course. But I have no judgment on other people. I go for loads of different types. I used to go to Chariots years ago, all the time. But I was always drunk or on an E comedown. Sex went hand-in-hand with drink and drugs. I was very insecure around sex, so when I sobered up, it was something I wanted to deal with and thought I might as well face it head on rather than avoid it. I realized that sober you can negotiate the kind of sex you want or feel comfortable with, much better than when off your head.

You were quite wild in your clubbing days I hear. Can you still have a demented night out sober?

There are some great queer raves happening now. I love Adonis. One of my best nights recently was at AHMD at South Bloc. There was great music, I danced on a podium with my top off, watched Jenkin prance around dressed as a carousel pony, shagged a guy in the back room after we had negotiated our safe sex boundaries, then went downstairs and chatted to Princess Julia. Hot, sweaty, sexy, silly and everyone was welcome.

Jonny Woo’s Un-Royal Variety is on 19th and 20th October at Hackney Empire. Tickets available at