“Drag is like a bridge between day and night”

At least once a week, Saskia (38, she/they) transforms herself into Drag King Vinny von Vinci. She experiences that the night may facilitate drag easier than the day does, but is drag really limited to the night? 

When Saskia first started to dress up as a Drag King, she felt there was a big difference and an energy shift between Saskia and Vinny. “When I put on my make-up, I was able to take up more space, change my posture and body language and I was also able to interact differently with people.” But now, Saskia feels the difference has gotten smaller. “I feel like Saskia and Vinny merged together to the person I am today.”

Drag and Night
The drag scene often comes alive during the night, especially in Amsterdam’s LGBTQ+ areas. According to Saskia, this is because it is linked to nightlife and queer culture: “Sexual expression comes alive at night and within in this drag has its own place.” However, Saskia doesn’t think that people can only express themselves openly at night. “This is an old-fashioned opinion,” she says.

“Drag is an artistic expression and being in drag means taking a stage,” Saskia says. “Whether that is an actual stage in a club or a bus ride dressed in drag during the day.” But with clubs closing early at night due to Covid, the most obvious and actual stage disappears. “We have to get creative and take our stage during the day. For example, visit the supermarket in drag. But I started to dress up in drag during the day before Covid as well because, for me, drag doesn’t just have a place in the dark of night.”

Vinny von Vinci
When Saskia was 6 years old, she saw an episode of Tipping the Velvet on BBC. One of the characters in the show went out on the street dressed in drag. “That was the first time I saw someone dressed in drag. It felt so intriguing and I also thought it was incredibly sexy and interesting. That memory has always stuck with me, so I figured there has to be something there for me.”

Once a week, Saskia gets together with her drag brothers House of Lostbois to prepare performances or workshops at Club Church in Amsterdam. According to her, being in drag allows her to learn a lot about who she is. “Drag may start at night, but the lessons I learn while I’m performing, I take home with me. So, when I wake up as Saskia, I also learned these lessons about my gender identity and who I am.” Saskia says being a Drag King is part of who she is. “In the beginning, the night offered me as a Drag King a lot. But eventually, I no longer needed the night for me to express myself that way.”

Saskia mentions that the night functioned like a tool for her. “The contrast between being in and out of drag and between day and night, is fading away for me. The binary disappears. Day and night are merging together and are more like a relationship. For me, drag functions as a bridge between them.”

Saskia is also a PhD student, following Environmental studies in Canada, while living in Amsterdam. Currently she’s doing a project about polar bears. In her research she works together with Inuit, the natives of the Canadian North Pole, and biologists to collect their knowledge and bring that knowledge together in research. “I think it’s fun to play a little bit with expectations of people,” Saskia says. “There is a certain expectation of what a PhD student is like. For example, ‘oh she must sit on the couch with a book at night’, and it’s actually not very obvious that I would put on a wig and perform on stage as a Drag King after class.”

Photo by Rosalie Duin

However, Saskia doesn’t feel like there’s a big contrast between being a Drag King and a PhD student. “I especially feel like society sees it as a contrast.” She explains that for her, it plays a big part in everything she is and does. “Being queer is something you are and it’s in everything you do. I don’t feel like I fit in with the binary distribution, so I prefer to take a non-binary and an intermediate position; in research and in my life.”