Arts & culture

From Gold Coast glitz to Drag Race blitz: Meet Beverly Kills

June 14, 2023

Image: Jake Lofven

How Gold Coast-born drag starlet Beverly Kills went from trying on wigs in the privacy of her room to performing on the largest drag platform on television.

Growing up on the Gold Coast as a queer, creative teen, Bev (as he prefers to be called these days, except around the family dinner table) had always known about drag from the media, but hadn’t ever thought it was something he would be doing one day.

“Then when I was 18 I started going out in Brisbane, and I saw it happening locally and went ‘ohh, this is a real community, and there are real people who do this’,” he tells us.

Traditionally, most aspiring drag queens get their start under the wing of a more experienced performer, some of whom create their own drag families, or dynasties, and often share last names to indicate their connection.

“I was the opposite,” recalls Bev. “I was so scared of the queens I bought my wigs online and just did stuff in my room.

“For drag you have to have this air of grandeur, kind of like a queen I guess, and I was easily swayed into believing it and felt like they deserved their respect and space.

“But it meant that then instead of coming along with someone teaching me the ropes I just rocked up into their space, very bombastic, like here I am, accept me or don’t!” He laughs.

It didn’t take long for the edgy burlesque stylings of this young, contemporary queen to get noticed around South East Queensland, even if Covid was putting a serious dampener on the performing arts. In fact, Covid may have provided Bev with a little advantage.

Image: Joel Devereux

“I did drag for 11 months then Covid happened,” Bev explains.

“So a lot of my drag experiences were very kind of sheltered, and it shaped me into a different queen. I had so much time in my bedroom, it gave me an edge in that I could do so much work on my branding and social media, that a lot of other queens didn’t get to have.”

Once things opened up again, Beverly Kills was once again hitting the circuit, and got noticed by Bleach* Festival producer Claire Carlin while performing in Adelaide, of all places. She asked Bev if he would be interested in performing at Bleach* 2023.

“I said ‘oh my god, that’s perfect’,” he remembers.

“I would always go to the festival when I was younger with my parents and my grandparents when they were around, so to be asked to perform at Bleach* was very cool, almost like a full circle moment.”

The show, entitled Heaven and Hell, will be running as a residency at Broadbeach Hub during Bleach* Festival from 3 to 13 August 2023.

In it, Beverly Kills has died in a freak accident, and her soul is being judged, to see where she ultimately ends up. It’s part comedy, part cabaret and 100% drag. Talk about putting the dead in drop dead gorgeous.

Bleach* Festival has long been known for championing the queer community in its works and shining a spotlight on emerging artists.

“What Bleach* does really well is reflect what’s already there,” Bev states. “They’re so aware of what’s on in the city and who the artists are, and aren’t afraid to put those artists out there.

“When I started doing drag five years ago, I would not have recommended doing drag on the Gold Coast, but now when people tell me they’re from the Gold Coast and they love drag, I tell them they’re lucky that they’ve got the availability to do it now.

“Most capital cities have these longstanding gay venues that have that history behind them, but recently more regional cities like Gold Coast, Newcastle, Wollongong, they are creating drag opportunities that are more long term, and they’re building their queer communities.

“The city is full of possibilities now.”

Beverly Kills is a firecracker of comedy and cabaret.
Image: Joel Devereux.

Heaven and Hell will be performed at Bleach* Festival this year.
Image: Joel Devereux.

She’s the first (and so far only) competitor to represent Queensland on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under.
Image: Adam Bradford Creative.

Of course we cannot interview Beverly Kills without talking about Drag Race Down Under. A contestant on the second season in 2022, Beverly was the first (and so far only) Queensland contestant on the show, taking out fifth place after being eliminated in episode six.

For the uninitiated, Drag Race Down Under is the Australian offshoot of the American reality series RuPaul’s Drag Race, hosted by the mother of pop culture drag herself, and is a fairly cutthroat competition featuring drag queens facing off against each other in a variety of performance challenges and runway looks.

A while on from the show, Bev remains eternally grateful for the opportunity to put the Queen in Queensland.

“When Season 2 auditions came around we were all wondering ‘who’s it going to be’?” he says.

“I hadn’t established myself as a big name performer yet. We knew as Queensland was a smaller state on the scene there may be only one of us, and there were a lot of conversations about who the Queensland rep would be, and I never really considered it for me. It was always about other queens.

“I put my tape in regardless, and I still stand by it. It was absolutely me!

“Once I got the opportunity, I got the butterflies and nerves but then when I started to get ready to be on the show I realised that if I’m going to be given this opportunity then it’s not to be taken lightly.

“A lot of these other girls had been working full time in drag for eight to 10 years and I wasn’t even a full time girl yet.

“So I decided to honour my city’s history, and honour the other Queensland girls around me, and when I was on there I would make choices that would reflect the Gold Coast and Brisbane, like the meter maid. I was so glad I got to represent that.”

Image: Joel Devereux

Being on an international TV show has certainly boosted Bev’s following and provided more performance opportunities. But in terms of opportunities on the Gold Coast, he wants to see bigger spaces open up.

“It’s a travelling town, a lot of people are here for a good time not a long time,” he says.

“There’s a lot of high-paced fun here but what the Gold Coast is missing at the moment is the longevity of queer spaces. How many have opened up and closed?

“I think the pattern might slowly be changing, and if so that would be testament to the queens who have stayed and worked their arses off because they love the Gold Coast and they have stories to tell in this city, like Dixie Wrecked and Natasha St James.

“It’s easy to say that Gold Coast struggles with having not much queer history, but we are actually building Gold Coast’s history as we speak.

“It’s more important to be present in the moment and not take it for granted, because in 20 years’ time we may have that longstanding venue that’s the home of our history and has garnered respect.

“If you put the work in and believe in your story and yourself, you can change the face of queer arts and culture anywhere.”