Life's a drag: "I’m Burley Chassis and I came to splishy splashy."
Not many people can say that they've never once repeated a look. I’ve found myself in the same jeans for nine days straight. No shame, my friends, no shame. It takes a special kind of person, someone with creativity dripping out of their beautifully clear pores to manage to be a fashion icon every time they leave the house.
Burley Chassis, 22, is a Sydney based drag queen who refers to himself as a ‘professional idiot’. Although I disagree with the idiot part, his work is more than professional. Combining spontaneity, emotion and artistic expression with music and lip-sync, creates one of the most fascinating drag aesthetics that Sydney has to offer. Burley was kind enough to chat to us about make-up tips, advice on dealing with Sydney’s nightlife scene and his drag journey. Here’s what he had to say… When did you first discover drag and why did you decide to give it a go?
My drag discovery came from a bit of a collection of influences. At a young age, my mother & I watched ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ which at the time I didn’t completely understand but I loved it. If you ask her about funny memories of my childhood, the answer you'll generally get is along the lines of: “Oh he used to run around in just a feather boa, a long black and white Cruella De Vil-esque wig and too much jewelry. But he was happy.”
Later I discovered Willam Belli (now known from Ru Paul’s Drag Race) and she sort of showed me the more modern side of drag. In my later years of high school, I was also studying a diploma in fashion which has always been my true love. I was making fantastical, elaborate, ultra-feminine gowns but no one wanted to wear them. So I figured fuck it, I'll just wear them myself. At that time I also started playing around with makeup and my personal sense of identity and gender which shaped the journey.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I don't know if I really have just one aesthetic. I'm tribal, but vintage glam. I'm a clown, but a monster. I'm fashion, but garbage.I like to call myself a professional idiot, I just do whatever the fuck I want. And at the end of the day I hope people can enjoy it!
What do you love the most about performing?
My favourite thing about performing is bringing something different and emotional to the audience. Music has a very strong impact on both my emotions and the way I paint my face. When I perform "If I was your woman" by Gladys Knight, I channel all the heartache from my life into it. When I do "Quiet Please, there's a lady on stage " by Dusty Springfield I think of my mother.
Performing is when people really get to see a true little snippet of my true feelings.
What are your ultimate career goals and how does this compare to what you wanted to ‘be’ when you were younger?
My ultimate career goal is to be akin to someone like James St James, Amanda Lepore, Leigh Bowery or Mathu Anderson. I want my thumb in every creative pie, and I want people to love me for what I create, not what show I made a funny catchphrase on. That aside, I do have one and it’s "I'm Burley Chassis and I came to splishy splashy".
If you were a contestant on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, what would your strategy be?
If I was a contestant on Drag Race, my strategy would be to present myself as exactly what they are looking for in the interview process. Then, when I get there, I wouldn't bring any costumes, only bolts of fabric, a sewing machine and 20 un-styled wigs. I would create everything from scratch in the workroom. I don't like planning drag, it's more of an extension of my creative subconscious – which sounds pretentious but it's true - and I think it would make great TV!
What has been your favourite look that you’ve done and why?
I have never, in my whole drag career, repeated a look and I think that at the moment I've done upwards of 1500. Picking one favourite is hard. But I think a recent one was a black line down the centre of my face with geometric tribal markings and I wore a grey wool coat and did huge, messy and silver hair.
"I want my thumb in every creative pie." Can you tell us about your drag family?
My drag family is the Haus of Egg, otherwise known as #hausofunnecessarilylongbuttotallyrelevanthashtags!
It consists of myself, Kay Daver (my drag sister, total rice queen, Queen of the Dead), Cherry Kills (bisexual rapper, big feminist, Tayla's husband) and Tayla Macdonald (drag queen, biological woman, genius, my favourite child).
They are the most creative, interesting, supportive and loving people I know. Even when we're separated by thousands of miles, we still talk every single day and share everything with each other. I honestly don't think I would be where I am or who I am today without them.
How did you come up with your drag name?
My drag name came from Dame Shirley Bassey. It's a spoonerism. Burley Chassis is two masculine things to make up a feminine creature. Burley is on one hand a big strong man, but it's also the fish guts you use to attract sharks when fishing. And a Chassis is the body of a car. I came up with my name when I was sixteen years old, and I've never changed it.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
My biggest inspirations are Mathu Anderson, Leigh Bowery, John Galliano, Christian Dior and my mother. All for different reasons but every one of those people shares the same qualities of strength, individuality and resistance of the norm.
"I'm tribal, but vintage glam. I'm a clown, but a monster. I'm fashion, but garbage." What was the highlight of your time in LA?
I've been to LA twice now. The first time was in January of 2016 and the second was from September to December of the same year. The biggest highlights were probably being able to paint James St James for his show Transformations, meeting and hanging out with some of my creative idols and really getting to explore a different kind of drag that we just don't have in Australia. As a makeup artist, what are your top three makeup tips for an A+ beat?
Just three is tough, but I’d have to say:
1. PRACTICE ALL OF THE TIME! Even if you're not going out, paint a face and just play with different ideas.
2. BLEND. And when you think you’re fully blended, blend again.
3. DON'T BE AFRAID! Whether it’s using shimmer, doing something that isn't conventionally "pretty" or just going minimal. Makeup and drag is fun, don't make it stressful by boxing yourself in.
What are your views on the current Sydney nightlife scene?
I love all of my Sydney sisters! Sydney nightlife right now is being hit hard by the government and the nanny state we live in. I think what everyone needs to do is remember to be kind to each other, courteous to your bar staff and respectful of the entertainers. And if the club looks empty, STICK AROUND! If every person walked into the club, saw it was kind of quiet, then left, there would be no one there. If the club looks quiet, linger awhile. Then the next people will come in and see more people there and THEY will stick around and so on. And there are definite perks of a less busy club: no line at the bar, you have room to cut a rug and you can be a bit sillier because there’s so much less of an audience.
Quick fire round!
What’s your coffee order? Iced Latte.
Best song to get sexy to? Wrong Club by The Ting Tings.
If you could wear an outfit from any of Beyonce’s film clips what would it be? Anything from Formation.
Best song to belt out at Karaoke? Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner.
What’s the best way to indulge in your own sadness? Listening to Robyn really loud and drinking wine in the bath. Follow @BurleyChassis on Instagram and check out the rest of his Haus of Egg fam for some incredible looks that you’ll want to poach.
Laura is a 21 year old Italian grandmother who likes coffee, going to bed early and snapchat filters. Follow her on instagram @laurajmasia