Interview with a King: Nailor Swift

What is a Drag King? What does it feel like to stand up and perform? How do you become one? All of these questions and more were swilling around in my mind before I went to see my first Kingdom show. Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to get an insight into the eye-opening world of King life with a few of the Kings themselves.

Who is Nailor Swift?

Nailor Swift (they) was born out of the King of the Fringe Kingdom night, as I lived with people who organise and created it and I used to help backstage. I started working on set and then I was asked to perform with someone! Ever since my first performance, I have been hosting Kingdom and King of the Fringe, which has been for about a year and a half now.

What would you say are the three main characteristics of Nailor?

Metrosexual, total nerd, probably more feminine than I am in my everyday life. Which is a weird juxtaposition, but very true!

Does Nailor’s persona allow you to say or do anything that you may not in everyday life?

Yeah, very much so. I had previously had a lot of body confidence issues, but in my second or third performance as Nailor I got half naked in front of 80 people! Doing that as Nailor with a pretend six pack half-painted on took away a great deal of my issues. I’ve definitely got more confidence in my body thanks to Nailor.

Was it kind of liberating?

Oh yeah! I have done that same performance three or four times now. If you had said to me two years ago that I would be doing that in a room full of strangers, I would have laughed at you! It has completely changed my ability to do things outside of my comfort zone.

Who are your favourite Drag Kings on the scene?

That’s a tough one. I genuinely love the Kings of Kingdom and they are some of my favourites because I get to know them all. You know, as we put our makeup on in the green room and get into our personas you really see the transformation. The relationship I have with the Kings when I’m a King myself is something really different.

I really love Adam All because he started the whole Drag King movement revival 8 years ago, providing a stage and a space for people to really explore being a Drag King, and he continues to support a lot of people. I also love a lot of the lesser known acts in Brighton, such as George Faithless, who has always supported us, Sammy Silver who does everything for us, and the phenomenal Benjamin Butch. Overall, there isn’t a King that I have met that I don’t love!

What advice would you give someone that wanted to be a Drag King?

Go to more shows! We have open mic nights in Brighton that we do with Kingdom, where people can come and try it in a really safe space. We always create that safe atmosphere, because it is really vulnerable and people do end up doing things they wouldn't do normally do. We have had everything from an opera singing Drag King that had never done drag to people who are non-gender binary. Drag King spaces aren't just for Drag Kings - it’s about creating a space for expression, particularly gender expression.

Find the next Kingdom show at Latest Music Bar on 4th May.

Written by Holly.

All photos are by Kitty Wheeler Shaw. Kitty is a freelance photographer; you can find out more on her website and by following her on Instagram @kittywshaw.