Courtney Act is a TV sensation: Australian Idol, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Celebrity Big Brother UK, Eurovision and The Bi Life – the Australian drag star thrives at everything she competes in. Most recently she made it to the final of Dancing with the Stars Australia, dancing in drag as part of the first same-sex pair on the show ever. Now, Courtney is headed to London to bring her smash-hit cabaret show Under The Covers to the Underbelly Festival from 12th-19th May. We spoke to Courtney to find out what we can expect…
You just made it all the way to the final of Dancing with the Stars Australia. What was your favourite moment of the competition?
Dancing with the Stars was so cool and getting to do it in Australia where I grew up was amazing. Me and my dance partner Joshua Keefe were the first same-sex couple in the Anglosphere to compete, which was pretty epic as well. I think my favourite moment was when we did a tango on episode three that was themed ‘Most Memorable Year’. I started off as Courtney and was dressed in pink. My dance partner was on the other side of a mirror, all dressed in blue. I pulled through the mirror, we did this dramatic tango and I tore off my wig and my dress. Then I ended up back at the mirror, rubbed all of the make-up off and ended up as a boy.
Did a lot of planning go into that performance?
When we were planning it Vanity, who does my hair, was like ‘well it sounds good, but you shouldn’t attempt to do all of that in 1.20 minutes’. It could have gone horribly wrong. But it all went right! It was so magical. Afterwards Vanity was like ‘oh actually, you did it – I was surprised that it worked, but you did it’. I think that really was my favourite moment.
— Courtney Act (@courtneyact) March 4, 2019
What it was like working with your dance partner?
He was absolutely amazing. We just got really lucky I think, because we got on so well. We’re a similar age and worked so well together. When you have to spend six hours of a day basically hugging someone it’s important that you get on with them. And you can’t mind their sweat all over you either. We had a lot of fun.
Now you’re bringing your cabaret show Under the Covers to London. Can we expect to see some ballroom dancing in the show?
It’s funny you mention it, because I’ve actually been hunting around for a Latin ballroom dancer in London so I can include a little dancing. I haven’t actually nailed anyone in yet, but it’s a definite maybe. But there will definitely be stories and a video montage.
Why should people come see the show, even if they might not know all of your work?
It’s a great night out. Just getting out of the house and seeing some live theatre is so much fun. We do so much television-watching and phone-watching nowadays that I just love getting out and seeing a live show. Being in a room filled with people and having a shared experience with a big audience is great. There’s lots of really fun bespoke costumes, fabulous wigs and fun stories too.
Music is a big passion and talent of yours, what can we expect to hear in the show in terms of music?
There will be live music and a live band. We’re featuring lots of your favourite songs that you didn’t know where covers, like Björk’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. Even “Gloria” by Laura Branigan is actually a cover of a song that was in Italian by a guy called Umberto Tozzi.
Are you excited to come back to the UK?
I’ve been in Australia for four months doing Dancing with the Stars and out of the UK when it was really horrible and cold, so that was handy. Now I get to come back after that beautiful summer we had in the UK last year. I’ve been in lots of competitions and reality shows all around the world, but I’ve only won one and that was in the UK (CBB). It’s a good omen. I feel like the UK appreciates me, so I appreciate the UK as well.
Would you say your time on Drag Race has helped you channel your creative energy to be able to put together a show like this?
Starting out in the year 2000 on Sydney’s drag scene, we had to do everything ourselves. We were making the costumes, we were putting together the soundtracks and writing the jokes. That’s what a drag show is to me. We didn’t have much money to do it either. So being a drag queen is good preparation for being on Drag Race and then Drag Race teases out these individual components and you just have so much fun doing it. Everything is preparation.
What advice would you give to anyone who doesn’t know how to channel their creative energy?
Try different things. At school now there are so many cool subjects. You can even do queer studies at school, that’s just crazy and brilliant to me. But yes, just try lots of different things. I’ve tried so many things now and have been fortunate in my career to be able to do that. Even Dancing with the Stars most recently – I was amazed at how much I loved it. If you’ve got that creative energy try doing lots of different things, whether it’s fine arts, visual arts or performance art. It might even be creative mathematics! Find out where it is and express it and wear it on your body and feel comfortable with it.