Cape Town – The singing reality show South African Idols is in full swing. In its eleventh season, it is the longest running reality show on TV in South Africa.
This season Shenay O'Brien rewrote Idols history when she became the first drag queen to make it into the voting rounds.
Shenay blew the judges away in the audition rounds securing her a spot in the top 8 girls. And now it’s up the public to keep her in the competition.
We chatted to Shenay about performing in drag, the challenges she faces and the Idols experience.
Channel24:You’ve made it clear that even though you support people like Caitlyn Jenner you are in fact not transgender, but a drag queen. Would you explain this to a mass audience who does not necessarily understand the difference?
Shenay:It’s quite easy to understand. Drag literally means "Dressed as Girl". It has to be understood that Shenay is a character that I am portraying. I still enjoy the everyday pleasures of being a man, especially flat shoes. Transgender is the term given when a male transitions to become a female, be it having surgery or taking hormones. I have no intention on having any surgical procedures to change myself. See it as Shenay is Sasha Fierce (Beyonce's alter-ego) to Thiart.
Channel24:How long have you been performing in drag?
Shenay:I have been performing for the past five years, doing corporate functions, events and theatre productions. I was the resident drag performer at Cantare (Monte Casino) and have done various Cabaret shows.
Channel24:What are your biggest challenges as a drag performer?
Shenay:My biggest challenges are to let people understand what being a drag performer is all about. Assumptions are made so easily without fully knowing the truth. The main purpose of drag is to entertain. I also have trouble finding heels (when you have a size 11 foot) but it all contributes to the rush of being a drag performer. Another challenge would be to show people, that just because you are different from society's definition of the norm is not necessarily a bad thing. We live in a world where we have progressed so much and being different should be embraced. I'm not forcing my belief or advocating my lifestyle but merely ask to be respected.
Channel24:What has public support been like?
Shenay:I've been completely overwhelmed with the amazing and positive response I have received since being on Idols SA. With the good comes the bad - you will always have haters, and bad/rude comments will always be there, but you have to make the choice to not let it consume your life. Read it, take it in, and forget about it! I truly am so grateful for everyone's support on my journey, as for the haters, they just motivate me more to push myself and prove them wrong.
Channel24:What’s your favourite song to sing?
Shenay:There are so many but if I have to choose I'd say Jessie J, Who you are. The lyrics have such power and it's just a heartfelt, emotion filled song.
Watch the performance that got Shenay into the top 8 here:
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