Originally from Castres in the Tarn, “La Big Bertha”, 35, is one of the ten candidates for “Drag Race France”, a new program broadcast on France TV from this Saturday. A talent competition of an art that shakes up the codes. Interview.
This Saturday, June 25, France Télévisions is launching the first part of “Drag Race France”, a variation of the American show “Ru’Pauls Drag Race”, cult in the LGBT + world and beyond, which already has 14 seasons. Among the ten candidates followed by the cameras along this “talent contest”, produced by Endémol (eight episodes shot last March), La Big Bertha, 35, from Castres. Interview with an artist who gladly shakes up social codes!
The Big Bertha, tell us a bit about yourself!
I grew up in Castres, moreover it was at the age of 7 that I discovered the theater at the school of Briguiboul. It was a big revelation for me and suddenly, I started to take an interest in all the arts of theatre, circus and cabaret. My first debut on stage was, of course, at the municipal theater in Castres. It is also a place that will remain forever etched in my memory. The creaking steps in the dressing rooms, I still have them in my head! (laughs) My goal, moreover, is to return one day with my cabaret in this theater. In the meantime, I currently live in Paris where I studied theater.
How did you find out about the world of drag?
When I was young, I discovered the whole universe of Jean-Marie Rivière, who for me is a bit like the “dad” of French cabaret. Then I discovered other characters like Maria Ulrika Von Glott, a wacky German singer character played by Marianne James. And from there, I wanted to combine all my theater background by adding a bit of cabaret and little by little doing drag. 7 years ago, I also discovered the world of burlesque stripping. Today, all that is my job. I have my own show productions, I travel a lot to perform abroad, especially in Switzerland, Germany and Sweden.
I know it will cringe but it can get things moving. This is also what our job is about, raising questions among people and raising their awareness.
Can you explain to us concretely what “drag” is?
For me, it’s a performative art, a scenic art that talks a lot about transformation. At the origin of drag, it was a man who transformed himself into a woman by creating a character. He’s a stage character and at night, you don’t go down to buy your baguette as a drag queen. You should know that it still takes 3 hours to get dressed and put on make-up! (Laughs) Like any art, drag is constantly evolving, hence the appearance of new drag eras such as drag kings or kids clubs. The notion of gender in drag art is disappearing, and that’s fine!
Why “Big Bertha”?
To refer to the drag queen “La Grosse Bertha”, a fantastic character who offers totally crazy numbers. And I was inspired by it!
Why did you decide to participate in this show?
I’m a somewhat atypical drag queen because I’m very tall (1.90m without heels!), I’m a bit 125kg and I keep my beard! Big Bertha is a very hilarious, grotesque character who likes to provoke. Through this character, there are plenty of messages, the first of which is the acceptance of the body. As a child, I suffered from that, from not being in the “norm” that was imposed on me. So I decided to make it a strength thanks to La Big Bertha. And for the beard, I find that it intertwines gender issues and it provokes reactions from people, positive reactions that make them forget all that. Let go of labels and stereotypes. And via this show, I push the concept to the end. And in this sense, the production team really shows a very large panel of drag art in France. There was a lot of benevolence during the filming.
Was it time to launch this show in France?
Yes and what is more on the public service. It’s a huge step forward for our art and for open-mindedness. I know it will cringe but it can get things moving. This is also what our job is about, raising questions among people and raising their awareness.
What is the concept of the show “Drag Race”?
Nicky Doll, the most famous and international of French drag queens, takes over the helm of Drag Race France, a drag-queen contest, for an eventful first season! At her side, an exceptional duo to find THE best French drag queen: DJ and singer Kiddy Smile, icon of the ballroom and voguing scene, and Daphné Bürki, emblematic face of France TV, actress and stylist by training. To help them, each week, prestigious guests from the world of French culture invite themselves into the competition. Through mini and maxi challenges, parades and legendary lipsync, the 10 queens compete in talent in all areas: fashion, music, humor… because only one will be the queen.