Must watch documentary: I Am Divine

I am Divine (2013)

Genre: Documentary/Biography

Director: Jeffrey Schwarz

The challenge of finding something engaging to watch is nothing new. Even with so much at our fingertips, we’re all guilty of watching Gilmore Girl re-runs or Grace and Frankie for the umpteenth time. Without going into too much detail (we hate spoilers), let us make the case for putting the fantastic documentary I am Divine on your ‘much watch’ list.

So, “Who is Divine?” we hear you ask. Many of you may recognise her face without having any idea of her significance, as with many of the Brighton Girls recently introduced to this documentary. Beyond her iconic image, it seems, she has become a faded memory in subculture history.

I am Divine tells the story of drag queen Divine (a.k.a. Harris Glen Milstead) from her beginnings as a small town boy from Baltimore to global superstardom via her friendship with neighbourhood friend and cult director John Waters.

A true trailblazer, Divine took the nature of being a drag queen away from female impersonation or trying to ‘pass’ as female, as was the case in the early 1960’s. Instead, she was fat, loud and unashamed of who she was, what she said and ultimately what she wanted out of life.

Intimate interviews with Divine’s closest friends and her many fans demonstrates the power of her magnetic personality, while also contrasting her ostentatious, abrasive and unapologetic stage presence with the shyness of Glen when off-stage.

Divine’s humour is tenderly presented throughout the film, along with her ability to bring the weird and wonderful into the mainstream.

It’s easy to see that the over-the-top drag style we all know and love is here to stay, making it more and more important to trace and appreciate its beginnings. This is what marks I am Divine as an essential watch.

Expose yourself to Divine’s intoxicating and extravagant personality, we promise you won’t regret it.

Further watching

Hairspray (1988) – A John Waters original staring Divine as Edna Turnblad. Despite it being towards the end of her career and playing a supporting role, it is phenomenal. The 2007 re-make just doesn’t compare.

Carlotta (2014) – This may be hard to find, but is totally worth it. Carlotta is an Australian trans pioneer and headliner of an infamous drag show in the 1960’s who still performs in Sydney today! Hunt it down and bask in her brilliance.

You can find I Am Divine on Netflix UK.

Written by Holly Foster

ArtsBrighton Girl