Art & Culture

Drag Race UK’s Tayce: “I Like to Be My Own Icon”

The star of 'RuPaul’s Drag Race UK' Season 2 talks her most viral moments from the show thus far, and getting to grips with being an inspiration to young queer people.

When I speak to Tayce over Zoom from her bedroom in London, it’s been 6 days since the bop ‘UK HUN?’from Drag Race UKhit our screens, and its penetrating chorus is collectively reverberating through the skulls of everyone in the nation. Number 1 on iTunes. Number 4 on the Official Big Top 40. Inescapable on Instagram. The virality of this herstoric TV moment is further clarification that the art of drag has well and truly hit the mainstream. Starved for stimulation in lockdown, the show has given us a rhine-stoned escape from the grey mundanity of a time when, in Tayce’s words, “the highlight of the week is a Tesco’s food shop”.

If you’re not already aware, 26-year-old Tayce Szura-Radix debuted said offensively catchy banger in the show’s recent RuRuVision episode as a member of The United Kingdolls – alongside fellow crowd favourites Bimini Bon-Boulash, A’Whora and Lawrence Chaney. But this isn’t her first viral moment from the season, and I doubt it’ll be her last. With whip-cracking one-liners and a visage that stops traffic, this Welsh queen’s wily charms are the stuff of a gay meme account’s wet dreams.

Hailing from Newport in South Wales, Tayce’s birth name became her drag name – unlike many other queens – because, “It’s just me, there’s no façade”. And that’s evident when we chat. Pacing around the room in a black Juicy Couture halter neck spewing a stream of laugh-out-loud stories at speed, it’s clear that the high-octane person we see on stage and screen is no act. A born entertainer, deserving of the crown.

 

First thing’s first: “UK Hun?”. What’s it like to be inside so many people’s heads at once?

I did not expect that to have the reaction that it did. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the song, but I remember being on that set and listening to that first opening and I literally looked, and I was like, “Is this for real? What is going on!” [laughs]. But the more I heard it and it was drummed into my head, well, you just can’t help but love it, can you?

 

When “Break Up (Bye Bye)” by the Frock Destroyers from last season came out, it was being blasted in all of the gay clubs. It’s a shame you guys don’t get that moment.

I know. You can sit there and really go inside yourself and get a bit depressed thinking about it. With us, it’s obviously all very much digital and online. But you can’t sit there and dwell on it, can you? I’m so thankful to be on the show point-blank regardless anyway. I know that I am very headstrong, and I have some domination to do.

 

You grew up in Newport. What was it like being a young gay kid there?

In my version of my reality, growing up it was very colourful, it was very fun – but I was very in my own world and very not phased by people’s judgement. From an early age I was very flamboyant, and people didn’t take kindly to it. At Wetherspoons once I walked past a mum and she was outside smoking a fag with her two kids, and she took one look at me and my outfit and just spat at me. I just thought like, “Wow, for your kids to see that as an example – they’re going to grow up and do that now”. And it’s just sad. I have loads of micro-experiences like that, but it’s never phased me, it’s never broken me down.

When it comes to people with views like that, you almost feel sorry for them.

Exactly. Back in the day, I would pull looks to go to Tesco’s. When I say a look, I mean head-to-toe bin bags, or I’d make these platform shoes out of books and cover them in duct tape. I looked a hot mess, but I lived. I would always get stared at. If I was out with my mum she’d be like, “I just wanna poke all of their eyes out, why are they staring at you”. And I have never felt the need to attack these people because I kind of look at them in pity.

 

It sounds like your Mum was very supportive. Was your whole family supportive?

Oh, definitely. When it comes down to the example of supportive parents, mine take the cake. They have supported me from day dot. They’ve never steered me in another direction, they just told me to go and do what I want to do. I was the first of four siblings, so, I’ve always just felt like I wanna set an example.

 

You’re very proud of being Welsh. Could you tell us what your top Welsh things are to experience?

Vacara’s Fish and Chip shop [in Newport]. They do the most amazing chips, cheese and gravy. Llangrannog. Aberaeron. These are places for a good beach, a good ice cream and a good fish and chip butty by the seaside. Perfect. Newport is a big dingey, not gonna lie. It’s on the up! But it’s no Moulin Rouge.

 

Crystal from Drag Race UK Season 1 hosts a podcast calledThe Things That Made Me Queer, which we covered recently. What moment helped you realise your queerness?

Dancing in front of the television. All the time, constantly. Always performing and just emulating Kylie Minogue. I had one of my Nan’s dresses and I cut it up and it was New Year’s Eve and it was me, my siblings, Mum’s friends, Dad’s friends, everyone, and I would stop the room to be like, “Listen tothis”. I would play Kylie on my little boom box and stand on a chair and. Give. Them. Hell.

 

What was your first ever drag performance like?

My friend coerced me into a drag competition two days before and I had no idea it was coming. Some tights, a corset, a crappy old wig from Amazon. I went up it there and did the heat and apparently, I slayed it because I ended up winning that whole competition. And that’s how the gigs started. I remember my first gig I was in a tiny, tiny club in Soho. I was just hitting the ceiling and having the best time. And then it just became my full-time job.

 

You were in Dua Lipa’s music video for “Levitating”. How did that happen, and what was the experience like?

Yes! So, I was approached to be in the music video and originally, I was picked to be in it and be Missy Elliot. I was gagged, I was like, “What? Little old me from down the way?”. The shoot was at night. I got to set, and they put me in this beautiful Paco Rabanne outfit. As I’m getting dressed, they’re giving me the lyrics on an iPad. I had to learn it in about twenty minutes and they took me out to this massive field. There were just lights everywhere. Got home at like four in the morning. It was fabulous.

In episode 1, You and Asttina [Mandella] both chose Naomi Campbell for the British gay icons runway, sparking a conversation about the lack of queer icons of colour in the UK.

That one has been a bit jarring for people to hear. From what I’ve read online a lot of people understand where we’re coming from, and on the other side of the coin people are like, “Oh my god, how could you not know about X, Y and Z”. And I was like, “Don’t get me wrong huns, I know who Dame Shirley Bassey is”. But for me, personally, growing up, I didn’t look at Dame Shirley Bassey in a way that I saw myself in her. When I stayed up till four in the morning watching Fashion TVre-runs with Naomi Campbell, I looked at her and I was like; “Wow, I want to be that”. So that’s why I picked her, and that’s why Asttina picked her too.

 

Do you think it affected you, feeling like you only had that one Black British gay icon to look up to?

No, not really, because at the end of the day, I like to be my own icon. For me, my drag is very much me. When I’m in drag there’s no character, it’s just me with a bit of slap on. I can look back at that as an out of body experience, and I can say; “Wow, you go bitch”. And you kind of look to yourself as inspiration.

 

In that episode, you talk about being an inspiration to young queer people of colour. Have you felt that since the show aired?

Definitely. The messages, DMs, emails and stuff are just so cute. There are people that are like, “I just remember you in school being absolutely crazy and not giving a hell and you haven’t really changed”. I think that is something to look up to, because you shouldn’t have to change yourself for anyone. Because the minute I change for someone else, that’s a loss. And if there’s anyone that looks up to you and sees you doing that, it’s a fail for them. I’m still learning to take it all in and figure out how to digest it.

 

NOIR: THE TOUR is coming up in August, which brings together and celebrates different drag queens and kings of colour. What can you tell us about it?

Well, all I can say is, “Black girl magic, baby”. Honey! The roster. Oh, it’s gonna be good. Off the top of my head, you’ve got Shea [Coulee], you’ve got Asttina, you’ve got Vinegar [Strokes]. Amazing queens of colour. We’re gonna give you a show honey, so just be ready.

 

Do you have any parting words for the young queer kids that are messaging you and looking up to you?

If you’re ever feeling down, you’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I am an absolute hound”. Morning and night. And, “Everyone loves me, everybody worships me”. And I’m telling you now, your days will be a lot better.

 

Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK airs weekly on BBC iPlayer and BBC 3. Follow Tayce on Instagram.

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24 February 2021