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Three decades after Priscilla, drag blooms in Alice Springs | Drag

Three decades after Priscilla, drag blooms in Alice Springs | Drag

Miss Ellaneous wept as the plane descended over the red centre and into Alice Springs. The Iwaidja and Malak Malak drag queen had just rewatched The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and it felt like life was about to imitate art.

The following night under desert stars, she took to the stage at Lasseters casino, where the closing scenes of Priscilla were shot. In a spangled onesie, with a cheeky smile, she performed Abba’s Mamma Mia alongside fellow queen Marzi Panne.

“To know that I was coming to Lasseters and performing in the same areas that the movie was filmed really hit a nerve that I hadn’t felt before,” says the Darwin-based queen.

“I really see myself in Hugo Weaving’s character, Mitzi … I’m a drag queen, but I’m also a queer man, and I have a daughter.

“There is a message for all of us, whether you are from the LGBTQIA+ community or the dragging community or just live in a really remote little town … we all still face that discrimination daily.”

‘I really see myself in Hugo Weaving’s character’ … Iwaidja and Malak Malak queen Miss Ellaneous. Photograph: (A)manda Parkinson

As a First Nations person, she also felt moved by the scene where Mitzi, Bernadette and Felicia meet a remote Aboriginal community. “In the film the majority of the places [the queens] stop, they’re interacting with non-Indigenous people and there’s often violence or discrimination, whereas with the First Nations people there was an acceptance … that was quite touching.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Priscilla and earlier this month, Alice Springs’ annual drag and cabaret festival FabAlice staged a tribute to Stephan Elliott’s film and its legacy, with 20 international and interstate acts performing in the town over four days.

Miss Ellaneous has been performing at the festival since it began in 2019, but this was her first year as a co-curator.

“The film has been part of all our lives in some way but because it’s the 30th anniversary, we really wanted to have that focus,” she says.

Drag king Donnie Piccolo performs Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy for festival-goers on the Budget Barbie Camper Tour of Alice Springs. Photograph: (A)manda Parkinson

Top End king Donnie Piccolo said place-based festivals are important, because queer people in remote and regional communities often lack services and events that support them.

“Not everyone has had a good experience; you can never have too much love in a community,” he says….

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