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Ryan Clifford, the creator of punk show Wonky, gets up close and personal with his muse, the leggy, label-free cosmic Chantel: Chewing the fat. Having a cuppa. The pair certainly prick up ears and stir a few loins at close quarters among the locals in Margate.

Chantel arrives at the Greek cafe to the sound of drum and bass bouncing from her portable boombox. The manager shoots her daggers. Workmen smoking outside snigger and adjust their balls. Inside, the duo perform their shtick. Hugs and kisses to rile the old English dears. You could cut the tension with a blade. Causing conscious trouble in very boring times in bleak, gentrified Margate is what they do best.

Today’s meeting they are exceptionally high after the weekend’s performance in London at the club night Duckie, a piece titled Attention Grabbing Whore. Richard Torry of the band Minty produced the musical accompaniment featuring vocals by the late Leigh Bowery. A message of praise from the club’s DJ, giving their anarchy the thumbs up and labelling the act ‘frightening’, affirmed their intent. They are multidimensional. On the dole. Free as birds. Living the dream. Ready to conquer the world through situationist art! They scam. They scheme. They create. But most of all, they laugh, gossip and give each other a good fucking lift in friendship.

Ryan: What was it like growing up in Fanny Thanet?

Chantel: Fucking depressing, mate. So lonely. So boring. There’s nothing here for kids and teenagers.

At what age did you realise you wanted to be a star?

Oh God, very young. In the deadness of conservative Margate. My imagination is out of this world and I had no outlet. I’ve felt like this since the age of seven. (Laughs)

It took you a while to get going because you went to the school of life.

The school of drugs, mate. That’s what I did for about 20 years. I learnt so much about humanity, relationships, friendships.

Cosmic insights?

Yeah, that triggered me, but the alcohol stops you exploring it. Yeah, once I calmed down I could explore the cosmic side, yeah.

So, you rejected the system?

I’ve been rejecting the system since I was a kid. As you get older you try and fit into it. It doesn’t work. I’ve never been able to connect to the group, the mass. They piss me off. I have to walk away. I go insane in my head listening to them. People are a fucking nightmare.

You’ve undergone a massive transformation in the last couple of years. How have the locals responded to that?

I had the trauma of trying to get out the door when I first started changing, a fear of people. But the reaction’s been amazing. Even the roughest fuckers around here. Because they know my face. They had to watch the change. They’re the sort of people that would have bashed you up, but because it’s me, I watched the shift and see their whole aura change.

They want to take the piss, but I’m changing people’s perceptions by walking around near them. An eye-opener. People around here have been bloody beautiful. Agata in the second-hand clothing shop went on about my body, the way I dress, then she went on about how she appreciated me for being a strong person. I always felt weak. Only since I got sobered up and started becoming a girl, embracing the real inner me, I found I was strong. People pick up on it, and they love it.

Chantel of Wonky
Chantel of Wonky (Photos Darren Black. Image supplied).

What are the worst comments?

From a mate, a piss head round here, proper messy girl: ‘(Growls) What happened to you? You looked alright a few months ago. Now you got your bollocks hanging out.’ (Mimicking a drunk) Shouting at me like that. She fancies me. Not a problem. She’s just drunk. She keeps telling me she wants to fuck me.

The grief that you get from alpha guys – is there a level of attraction in that violence?

The type of guys people warned you about, the builders, they’re sweet, mate. I’ve had the hardest fucker come up to me say, ‘Oi, brother – respect, mate.’ He fist-bumped me. I’m blowing him a kiss. That’s empowering.

Let’s talk about Wonky.

25 years waiting. Never thought I’d do anything like that. I wanted to. I’d accepted the fear, the loneliness, the depression as my way of life. You met me when I was halfway through my transition. That opened me up to be able to do it. I always wanted to do exactly what we’re doing. Punky. Pirate.

Against the system. I once signed up with an agent, but I was too much of a junkie to go to the things she’d ring me for. Now, I wouldn’t dream of missing a call.

What’s fantastic about being working class?

We can see the bigger picture. We’ve got a broader, more open view of who we are. We fit into this society in our towns, our family, our homes. We’ve got more time to really know that shit. If you’re bogged down by a boss doing your nut in, making you ill… We ain’t got that problem. Some of us envy them. Nah, mate. I have the money, but I’m not doing the fucking stress. They don’t have to live that way. They’ve got a narrow view. They can’t see they could easily do it in a more relaxed way. Chill out in your nice house; do the work on the sofa when you feel like it. You’ve got money. Put your feet up, girl.

Any idols?

Who’s that one in the Andy Warhol films? Candy Darling. I want to go back in time and meet her.

You’ve got the most amazing legs. What products do you use?

It’s all about coconut oil twice a day. Sometimes randomly I do it a bit more.

Ryan Clifford and Chantel of Wonky
Chantel and Ryan Clifford of Wonky (Photos Darren Black. Image supplied)

Any exercise regimen to keep in shape?

I love the yoga. I love doing me yoga in the water and I love dancing in the water. I rave my head off in the sea in the summer. Don’t give a fuck who’s watching. I’m always walking. When no one’s looking, I run. Especially if I’ve had a joint: puff it away and run. People think I’m the happiest, buzziest person. They don’t know the anxiety and weird things in my head (that are not mine). I dance to get the endorphins up. It’s a mindfulness spiritual practice.

A favourite place in Margate?

There’s nowhere fun around here. All what people are reading online that brings them in. But there’s fucking nothing, right? I took someone to the arcades the other week and we spent about 40 quid on games. It lasted about 10 minutes. We shot some dinosaurs. Fucking boring, really.

What’s the look of the moment?

Bright. Sexy. Tight. Short skirts. White colour – don’t mind if it gets dirty. Lots of it is free. My girl (his long term girlfriend), she works in a charity shop and she won’t let me give her any money.

I love it when you’re in your short skirt, and ladies come up to you in these cold months and say, ‘Ain’t you cold?’

I say, ‘No, my legs are always hot,’ and make them touch my thighs. With their cold hands, they can feel how warm I am. I’m so hot that when I wear tights, I have to take them off. I’ve been fine all winter. They’re just jealous when they say that.

Hundred per cent. Do you get much sex?

Chantel: I do, but not that much. I turn it down out of fear. I do turn a lot of people down.

What do you think about pronouns?

Freedom of fucking choice, right. Freedom of expression. I love the female pronouns. I would love to hear that all the time. My Instagram she/her. But I’m not buying into forcing people how to talk.

What do you think about drag queens on TV?

I like what they’re doing. Making fun out of their journey. Not something that I’d watch for entertainment. Loved Dame Edna Everage when I was younger. I’d never watch the drag race or any reality show. Just plastic capitalism.

When I say to you the ‘death of queer’. How does that resonate with you?

The corporate thing when they try take over a scene like that. They change the symbols and all that. But it doesn’t change the culture. That is on the surface level. The culture is still there. In fact, the culture is thriving, growing and changing into something bigger and better. The plastic version they put on has no real power.

Dreams for the future?

I just want to be in a hot place all winter. Not just a holiday, Ryan: I want to follow the sun. The goal is to feel free and go where it’s warm, not feel like I’m stuck in fucking Thanet. That’s it.

You recorded a love song with Richard Torry of Minty.

I love that little song, yeah. When it feels right I get on it. There was a time when I was singing it to house music and all these different types of music – folk, pop… I’m a bit of a feather in the wind – nothing’s in concrete. It could happen or get ignored.

You got more Wonky coming out?

I’m psyched. The live show has made me want to do more. I want to do a sex show in clubs where that’s allowed. I got a vision in my head for it. A set that looks like an alleyway. A luxury bed. I got barred from the pub for doing stuff. Blowjob. Packed out. Busy Saturday. People dancing.

The next episode is called ‘Gay for Pay’. Any thoughts?

I love it. I think we could do some action around it, performance in the street or pubs. Something to go along with the episode.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self?

Fucking hell, that poor cunt. All I got was bullied and shit. I never had any fun. ‘Don’t listen to your peer group mate.’ Why would we listen to other people? They’re always telling you can’t do it. Bollocks. My 16-year-old self? ‘I wish you knew what I know about you now. You think you’re worthless, man, but you’re not. You’re fucking valuable. I love you.’

What do you eat to stay trim? I only ever see you eat sweets.

Do you want to know about sugar? It’s corporate cocaine. The government want us all on coke – they want us all fucked up, sketchy and weird, drugged up. Yeah. Sounds like a conspiracy theory but it’s a well known fact. Sugar is run by the cartels. In fact when I found that out I started taking more sugar. Legal high? Let’s do it. Still on the buzz. I like lollipops. Chocolate is medicine anyway. I do overload on sugar as I’m a recovered alcoholic.

Aliens?

The skies are so busy lately, man. There’s one that looks like they got every colour of the Christmas tree on it. They turn, and they rotate. Red flashy lights come along and disappear. This happens every night for many, many years. I watch UFOs do their thing, and I have telepathic conversations with aliens. Close encounters of the fifth kind. It’s initiated by humans. They’re just waiting for people to invite them. Reach out into the universe with your mind and call to them. I was on my doorstep looking at one just sending it love and it fucking flew towards me and went right over my fucking head. One of many mad encounters. I’ve seen them get chased by jets in the daylight. Orange balls hanging about above the council estate. Yeah, crazy. Even the feds are saying aliens are real now. They’re trying to make out it’s hostile, but it ain’t. They’re interested in people that want to evolve. We are part of the same thing. They’re just looking out for their family. Love the aliens, man. They’re real.

I believe you. I’ve had a peculiar experience here. What’s the saying of the moment, gurl?

Forwards ever, backwards never. That’s NLP. That’s rewiring the brain, boy. Neurons that wire together fire together. Or the other way around! I’m not thinking back to yesterday, really. Yesterday is done. This morning is done. What’s the fucking point in going over it? Keep this train moving forwards. Choo choo. Love you.

Like it. Final question: Tell me about your dogs.

Rosie and Jay-Jay (her dogs) are my lifesavers. Saved my fucking life, mate. A guy spoke to me the other week. I said, ‘Why’ve you got so many dogs?’ He’s got about 10 Jack Russells. He went, ‘Mental health.’ That’s what they do. They are the cure for mental health, brother. Then, the love flows. So real. The only other way to learn that is to have kids. 

Wonky EP 5. Gay for Pay. 
 
 
The lovely Chantel is gofunding for new knockers! 
 
 
 
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