Article Title:Pollyfilla, AKA Colin McLean
Category:Hall of Fame
Author or
Published on:7th March 2004 - 12:00 pm
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Story ID:162
Text:Pollyfilla "I try and make the world a brighter place - drag is my drug: I get high on heels!" Drag performer Pollyfilla has become a Wellington Icon. The creation of Colin McLean, whose work as a theatrical costume designer and drag performer has been highly regarded and displayed at the Museum of New Zealand and The Dowse Art Museum. Who are you and what's your background? I was born in Wellington Hospital in August '78 (which makes me 25...). I spent the first 5 years of my life growing up in a house my parents built in Raumati South on the Kapiti Coast, before moving to Petone, where I lived until I turned 18. I loved reading, and would spend hours at the library - fantasy authors like Margaret Mahy, C S Lewis and John Christopher were among my favourites. I guess books like that helped stretch my imagination! I went to Petone College, which was closed by the Ministry of Education a couple of years after I left. I hated school - being called "faggot" pretty much every day does have a psychological effect on a person - as if the teenage years aren't hard enough! I ended up dropping out of school not long after I was outed by the Head Girl - however I didn't drop out because of that, I just felt that I wasn't actually learning anything that I would benefit from in 7th form, so I left. I got a job working at a law firm in Wellington, where I worked for the next 2 1/2 years, and had started to do drag. I started sewing my own costumes because it was cheaper than buying or hiring, and slowly I progressed and learnt more, and the designs became more complicated. Suddenly one night I found myself engrossed in sewing the jacket I was making... at 3 am on a Thursday morning, having to be at work at 8. It was then that I decided that perhaps I had found my true calling, so I applied to Wellington Polytech (as it was then) and was accepted into the 2-year Fashion Diploma course. I hated it so much I ended up dropping out of that at the end of the year, having pretty much lost the plot of the course! We were handing projects in, while starting new ones, there was just no regularity for me, and it wasn't how I worked. So I went on the benefit for 6 months, and then started at the Bowerman Design School, which is a TOPS course run by Sue Bowerman, and people like Lindah E, Dee Za Star and last years Modus Operandi winner Cindy Dunstan had been students there. I loved Bowerman, the flexibility of the course, the way it was taught, and the fact that I could make costumes for Polly as my schoolwork, as long as they fit the design brief! I finished Bowerman and went on to be the floor manager at a theatre costume hire place, before leaving to work as a freelance designer/performer, as I needed more time to be working on Costumes and shows - for myself and other theatre productions. Since becoming freelance, I have designed the costumes for shows such as Hone Koukas "Home Fires", Awhi Tapu, and Strata (all produced by Taki Rua Productions), Gravity, The Expert, and several fringe shows, to name a few. Drag has taken me places I would never have dreamed of - I have appeared on TV (The Strip, Good Morning), Film (Stickmen, The Irrefutable Truth About Demons), been in fashion shows, won awards for my costume designs, traveled NZ and Australia... I love what I do, and I wouldn't want to do anything else! What have you hoped to achieve by your appearances and performances? My aim is to make sure that the audience are having a good time. I feel that if you are hired as a performer, and your audience is disinterested in your show, then you're not doing your job properly. Lots of drag performers seem to be concerned with always looking "stunning" on stage; whereas if lip-synching a chipmunks song, wearing a crazy crayola coloured outfit and 8" platforms and day glo hair, while hanging from the ceiling, is going to get a laugh, then that's what I'll be doing. What characterises the New Zealand GLBT community for you? Hmm.... I've been thinking about this one for over an hour. Right now, I feel that the GLBT community has lost its specialness; that GAY is perceived as BORING by a lot of people. I feel that we've been wanting to be recognised as being "the same as everyone else" for so long, that now that we're "the same as everyone else." We lost our specialness along the way. Other than that, we are a small, close knit community, who happen to share a commonality of the adoration of Barbra/Judy/Bette/Liza. What is the worst thing for you about being GLBT? Being put in the GLBT Box (as a person and a performer), and everyone assuming that I drink/smoke/do drugs because I do drag. I also dislike discrimination within our own community. We get too much of it from uneducated heterosexuals; we don't need it within our own ranks. What is the best thing about being GLBT? The sense of Community. I being a part of community events, like The Gay and Lesbian Fair (Wgtn), The Big Gay Out (Akld) and The Oscars (Chch) and seeing the diversity of our community represented: leather queens and bears, lesbian mothers with their kids, guppies, dykes on bikes, twinks, drag queens, muscle marys, singles, couples, different nationalities, whatever... all just getting together, celebrating the diversity of our community and having a great time. The vibe is just amazing, and events like those make me proud to be Queer in NZ. Relationship status? SINGLE. I've been single ever since I came out! Being a Drag Performer seems to be a deterrent to most Gay men. I've heard the phrase "Oh, you seem like a great guy... but sorry, not into fems" too many times. Since when did being a drag performer equal being fem? Drag for me is work: its what I do for a living. Pollyfilla is my stage persona, and Drag is my Modus Operandi - the device in which I communicate my performance through. Someone once said to me "Oh, yeah, but you'd give it up for the right guy..." WHY SHOULD I? I mean, the right guy will like me for who I am, and why should I give up performing and drag? If I was dating a doctor, I wouldn't ask him to stop operating on people!!! Favourite food - 7th March 2004
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