By Richard Keddie, site user
Twiggy is one of the Midlands' most well known and outrageously flamboyant drag artists.
Twiggy is one of the Midlands' most well known and outrageously flamboyant drag artists. Turning heads wherever he goes, the self-styled queen of eccentricity and all-things-bizarre has become a symbol of Birmingham's constantly evolving and extremely outlandish gay club scene. Richard Keddie delves into the glamorous world of big shoes and glitter to discover the real story behind alter ego Twiggy.
"My life has basically been one long fancy dress party," says Twiggy, Birmingham's larger-than-life god of flamboyancy, and it would be wrong to challenge the claim of the costumed one whose somewhat unconventional presence has graced fashion shows, night clubs, alternative events, exhibitions, carnivals and parties for over a decade.
But Twiggy wasn't always dolled up in foundation and lipstick or showcasing amazingly spectacular masks and head-dresses while wearing 20-inch platform boots. Although, his thirst for rebellion did in many ways dictate his taste for the unusual.
"I was into punks and the New Romantic scene from 1980, resulting in me frequently being sent home from school because of my appearance - having a pierced nose and mohawk were unacceptable in those days which is why I went down that route, I suppose. "I hated blending in and thanks to my appearance, I've excelled at that for
Today the alter-ego that is Twiggy can quite comfortably stroll the streets of Birmingham's Gay Village as he casually struts his eye-catching attire along Hurst Street but the long journey to a fashion freedom now enjoyed by so many drag artists and cabaret acts can't be described as an easy one and for Twiggy, like many, getting where he is today has been no less a battle.
"When I left school in 1982, I embarked on a fashion design course but as I was wearing my own outré creations, it lead to me being challenged, spat at and attacked in the street. I gave up college after 14 months because I felt I was being suppressed and not taught anything, which led me to begin making clothes and jewellery for people in 'club-land' to increase my income.
"I'd been clubbing since Valentine's Day 1981 so I had made a few friends. Luckily, one of those friendships got me a foot in the door with Patty Bell from Kahn & Bell, the hottest alternative shop outside of London. I began working there which helped me meet local club kids and celebs - Boy George, Martin Degville and Duran Duran."
Spikey, sexy, rubbery
"I then had a stall on the Rag Market selling my own bits and pieces which lasted six months as my desire to work in clubs and do shows took over. I worked at The Kipper Club for Gay Jon which led me to getting more well know and performing at other venues, broadening my audience and forcing me to look more over-the-top and immaculate."
As time moved on along with clubs, music and a new generation of party-goers, keeping up with the mood and expressions of the day presented further style challenges for Twiggy.
"When Acid House came along, which made me go down a 'day-glo' colour scheme
In the early to mid-1980s, there were early introductions of 'Hard House', a more radical form of 'house' music, leaning towards aggressive 'hoover' type sounds. With the advent of these new fast-tempo styles of electronic dance music in clubs, Twiggy was provided with the perfect opportunity to exhibit his wild designs and more recent innovations to a whole new crowd.
"I began working at Tin Tins and Sundissential which was another great chance to model the creations I produced or had custom made. I'd tried my hand at making footwear but cobblery wasn't my strong point. I now own 14 pairs of boots and shoes that have all been custom made in Venice, Germany or Catalonia which range from 12-20 inches high and cost between £300-£600. The fabrics I use for outfits are mostly inexpensive so I can afford to pay that amount of footwear.
"I prefer to buy plain fabric and enhance it with appliqué, rhinestones, feathers, paint, spiders, glitter etc. knowing that on its original viewing, I will be the only person that will own the item I'm wearing."
"Because my imagination, manufacturing skills and precious time are used when creating performances or costumes, I feel it's a horrendous act of theft when I see people attempt to recreate what I've concocted. Something compels me to conceive and give birth to my ideas the way an idea or inventor does and I feel that part of me is being taken away when it's not of offer. I hate imitation and despise duplication."
Since inception, the persona that is Twiggy has appeared in print over 200 times, has featured at several art exhibitions, on television and in film and has even helped students pass their course work projects by standing in as a subject.
The determination of the one who peers through from the masks and make-up of Twiggy to achieve what he has is quite astounding to say the least. But what does Twiggy, who has donned his many guises in over 18 different countries, make of his long and eventful journey as the region's most popular costume queen?
"Not bad for a boy who wanted to be Joan Crawford dressed in a gown by Adrian... I suppose in a way I've sort of realised that ambition."
Images courtesy of Twiggy, Wayne Evans and Adam Yosef.
last updated: 06/08/2008 at 18:58
Have Your Say
John Travolta's hairpiece
lucia (garlands babydoll)
Za Za Da'Hor