Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes

Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes
East London legend Crystal talks to Huck about her new campaign, Vote, Babes! which brings together over 20 drag artists to encourage young people to use their vote.

It’s Thursday afternoon and Drag artist Crystal has just scraped her make up off - a bit of errant eyeliner around her eyes is the only thing betraying the face she’s just removed. She is, she admits as we talk over zoom in a hastily arranged interview, “tired”.

Indeed haste is a key theme of our conversation as we talk about Vote, Babes!, a new voter registration initiative the east London legend launched that very afternoon after coming up with the idea just 5 days previously. “I messaged photographer Matt Ford on Saturday morning and asked if he would be interested in doing something after I read a stat that said only 40% of young people would vote in the next election.”

The statistic comes from polling conducted for the Prince of Wales award. The research shows that, although almost two thirds of the 3,000 18-24 year olds asked had been involved in some sort of political activity in the previous three months, less than half would use their vote in the election.

“I wanted to do something to hopefully spread a bit of awareness about the registration deadline, hopefully encourage young people to engage and to see there is actually something powerful you can do with voting,” she tells me. “Matt said, why don’t I get a few more people involved and so I messaged basically every drag artist I know basically and before you know it, we had a pretty huge list which is really cool!”

In total over 20 drag artists from across the country came together to be involved in the project, which encourages young people to sign up before the voter registration deadline of the 18th June and use their vote. Those involved include a number of Drag Race UK alum such as Davina de Campo who said, “It’s always the most important election ever but this time really feels like it is. Super excited for change! Hopefully see you at the polling booths!”

On organising such a big project, that included 20 shoots for photos and video content, I ask how Crystal managed to pull it together in such a short amount of time. Drags, I posit, are quite famously unrushable. She laughs, sighing slightly as she does. “Whatever is more chaotic than herding cats, I guess herding drags, but it was that!” she tells me, before admitting the tight deadline actually helped focus things. “In many ways just messaging people on Saturday saying - we’re doing this thing on Monday and Tuesday, are you in or out, actually helped bring it together but I still can’t quite believe we’re on Thursday. Our Photographer Matt has basically been either shooting or editing non-stop since Monday and everyone has been so generous with their time, it’s so appreciated.”

This is an election that is coming against a backdrop of increasing homophobia. One of increased Transphobia, and the weaponisation, not just of trans people but also drag artists specifically. What comes next really matters for so many, but especially those in drag communities, their fans and the wider LGBTQ+ community.

“I think our community tends to be progressive, and I want to see more of that represented in Politics,” Crystal tells me. “I think a lot of people are feeling disillusioned because they feel like their choices are between Conservatives or Labour and neither of them are particularly exciting right now to progressive people, but I still think it’s really important to vote, so that we show that our voice, and our disdain for those two options is counted.”

For Crystal it’s not necessarily about saying ‘don’t vote Labour’, “in some places, maybe the most progressive or best chance you’ve got is Labour, but in other places you can do a protest vote, spoil your ballot, or actually help elect a Green MP with more progressive policies than what’s currently on offer.”

“When I think about the 60% of young people who aren’t planning to vote, I just imagine what we could do if we tapped into that. It’s just such a huge opportunity.”

The campaign, entering its sixth day of existence as I write, is in its infancy. It is, perhaps a little previous to ask about future plans, but I do it anyway.

“One thing I’m definitely doing is creating a mailing list so I can send out reminders about the deadlines for registration for proxy vote, for postal vote, for actually getting out and voting etc which people can sign up to on the website,” she tells me. “Beyond the election, you know politics is something that is at the heart of what I do as a drag artist so I will definitely continue agitating for change, whether or not that’s through a campaign called Vote, Babes! or something else!”

Find out more about Vote, Babes here.

Read more Huck Election content here.

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