The Celebrity Big Brother winner gives London X the X-clusive on Dancing with the Stars, Drag Race and old rival Anne Widdecome.
Does Courtney Act ever sleep? Since winning CBB last year, the drag superstar has hosted her own chat show, stunned the world on Dancing with the Stars in Australia and is now back in the UK – with a one-woman show called Under the Covers. We caught up with the Thunder from Down Under to find out if she’ll be popping up on Drag Race UK when it finally launches this year…
Courtney, hello! Tell us a bit about your show, Under the Covers.
“I did it last year around the UK and Australia, and then Underbelly asked me if I would do it again this year. I’m really excited to do it with a band, which I haven’t done before, with some new songs. Anything can change but I’m planning to do my Eurovision entry, Fight For Love.”
Yes, you made a bid to represent Australia, it’s a shame you weren’t chosen this time!
“It is a shame, but what I learnt it, I really love performing live, but I didn’t enjoy that as much as the Christmas special I did. They were both high budget productions. But the Christmas special was loose and frivolous, but the Eurovision was really serious. Even though it was pop music. I realised I prefer working with a live band and where things are a little more loose. Which is why I added the live band to Under the Covers. But I’ll be cheering Kate Miller-Heidke along on the 18th.
You’re a showbiz veteran now – do you ever still get nervous performing?
“I don’t get ‘nerves nerves’ but I just did, yesterday, a pilot for a TV show – all I can say is it’s a pilot for a talk show – in LA. And I couldn’t mention the guest, but one of the them was a queen of daytime talk, and it’s not Oprah or Ellen, and she said to me, are you nervous? And I realised I did have a flutter in the belly. Which was fun because it made me feel alive. When I do shows, I don’t get nerves as such, but I get a little excitement, like, ooh, this is fun!”
Well your career has really sky-rocketed since CBB…
“When I came out of the house, I felt genuinely humbled by the response and reaction – and what they chose to show of me. I just remember this whole, 16 months since Big Brother has just been amazing, because of the opportunities I’ve had, to be working in the mainstream as more than a gimmick, someone who’s respected and understood, and people are interested in – and I don’t have to make a dick joke. I mean, it’s always welcome though, don’t get me wrong, I love a dick joke, but before it was a pre-requisite, whereas now it’s an added extra. A serving suggestion if you will. I mean, who doesn’t want a side of dick?”
Are you still in touch with Andrew Brady?
“He’s in Bali now, he was in Australia. In a cattle ranch. He was doing that thing where to get a VISA extension, you get a one year VISA if you’re under a certain age, and to get another year you have to do picking fruit and that sort of thing. So, he was working at a cattle ranch in Alice Springs. It’s horrible.”
On your way into the house – you exposed yourself to the nation…
“I know! My skirt fell off and I was like, they’re either going to love that or hate that. It wasn’t until I came out and started seeing the memes… It was on the front page in Australia, and I didn’t find out until a year later when Facebook memories were re-posted. My crotch on the cover of newspapers! I didn’t know this! I knew it was shared but not on the cover of papers.”
But you did it on purpose, right?
“No I didn’t do it on purpose! I had a brand-new top and shorts and coat and I brought my favourite outfit for the promo, it looks so good, but then I thought I needed something red carpet ready. So I had this skirt made the night before… and it just had pop studs on it, and it was fine when I was fitting it, but when I was walking down the stairs it popped off. And then I did it in front of Anne Widdecome and I couldn’t have planned it better to be honest. They say first impressions are important, and I think that I made a horrible first impression with Anne.”
And what do you make of Anne now?
“I hear she’s in the Brexit party and teamed up with old mate Nigel Farage. I mean, I think there’s a real issue with making people like Anne Widdecome and Katie Hopkins lovable on reality television. Because yes, they’re people, and they’re humans, and they’re entertaining, but people are so quick to dismiss Anne’s political history, whether it be Section 28, which was the legislation that forbade LGBT issues from being discussed in schools in the United Kingdom. And although Anne wasn’t there in its inception, she did raise a bill to keep Section 28. She’s got so much history of small-mindedness when it comes to queer people, the environment and women’s bodies, and people just sort of like, oh Anne, let’s give her a hug. And then something like the Brexit vote happens, and she teams up with Nigel Farage, of all people, and you think, OK, let’s just remember when these extreme figures are on reality TV, and what they stand for. It’s fun to have fun and games but it’s important to remember when they historically vote against everyone’s rights. You didn’t really learn much about Anne’s politics when she was in the house.”
How would you react if you saw her now?
“Depends on the context. I probably wouldn’t have her on the talk show because its giving more voice to someone with such conservative views, although it would be entertaining, we could do better than that. And, obviously, you need to hear all sides of the argument, but when someone has proved to be as unwilling as she is to move her thermometer on a number of issues. It’s like OK, we’ll leave her alone. Certainly, if we were at a function I’d certainly say hello to her, like at a Big Brother reunion, I’d talk to her. She’s still a human. It’s interesting with her, the more I’ve learnt about her since coming out of the house the more shocked I’ve been. She voted against every piece of pro-LGBT legislation that ever came before her. She’s consistently denied the rights of queer people.”
Would you ever return to a Big Brother All Stars?
“Yeah, it’d be fun. It’s scary once you’ve won to go back in the frying pan. Like Bianca Del Rio, she has a very staunch opinion on returning to Drag Race if they did a winner’s season. She’s like, definitely not!”
And will you be returning to Drag Race?
“I definitely won’t be on All Stars if that’s what you’re asking. I love Drag Race, I love watching – although I haven’t seen much of this season. And I love All Stars. If they were to ever ask me back in any other capacity, I’d say yes, I love it. But I think I’m just a fan of the show for now rather than involved actively. I mean, the Drag Race universe is such an amazing anomaly, you can do shows like Big Brother and Dancing with the Stars, which are bigger shows, but they’ve got nothing on the Drag Race fandom. Because it’s cult. And not just the gays – the girls. It’s like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Drag Race speaks to the queer community and a lot of women out there because it’s about self-determination and self-identification. People really love that, it empowers them. And the colour and the creativity and the fun of it. It’s undeniable the impact it’s had on the world.”
How about an appearance on Drag Race UK?
“I love that they bring back girls on Drag Race, and on All Stars. I love the way they include the girls more in the last few seasons, so I’d love it in that way. I’m waiting for the phone call!”
And you made a big impact on Dancing with the Stars, coming second. How was that experience?
“It was so much fun! I don’t think I’ve ever had the opportunity to focus on one thing so much before. They were really supportive which was amazing. I was really surprised at how they lent into my tango where I go from Courtney to Shane. They just said, that sounds good. I even double checked with the producer, and they were like, yep, fine. And when it came time for the same sex dance, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t get to do it. The style was tango foxtrot. I realised this was my only time to do it. My style inspiration was Billy Porter, and I didn’t want it to be trivial, like a side by side jive. I wanted it to be two men, passionately holding each other. We got 29 as a score. Craig Revel Horwood gave it a 9… I really wanted a ten from him, which we finally got on our final dance. It was such an honour. Two men dancing together is well overdue – and from Strictly too. It’s weird that this should be a boundary that’s been broken but it was necessary. It would be remiss of Strictly not to have a same sex couple this year. They have to. Craig said on the show, it hasn’t happened on Strictly but it’s about time it did.”
And would you do Strictly?
“If they wanted me, I would definitely do it. Maybe it wouldn’t be fair because I’ve just done Dancing with the Stars in Australia. But I love Strictly, it’s such a good show. You’ve got to keep hustling. I love being back in the UK because this is the only place I’ve actually won a competition reality show. You’ve got to go where they love you!”
And what’s coming up?
“I have nothing to tell you, unfortunately, there’s so many plates spinning on different continents.
I’d love to do more. The Bi Life was certainly fun to do, but I have no updates. I’d like a bloody break! After South Bank, at the moment, hopefully HR approves my long service leave and I can have a few weeks off.
But, I suppose, I sort of had eighteen years of time off so I feel like a couple of years of striking while the irons hot is not so bad.”
- Courtney Act is performing at London’s Underbelly Festival, Southbank, from 12-19 May 2019
- Tickets on sale now via com/under