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Michael Marouli on representing North-Eastern drag

Michael Marouli on representing North-Eastern drag

Ian Chaddock

BY Ian Chaddock

18th Jan 2024 Film & TV

7 min read

Drag superstar and Ru Paul's Drag Race UK finalist Michael Marouli is set to team up with fellow finalists Tomara Thomas and Ginger Johnson for the Angels of the North Tour 
Recently wowing audiences on Ru Paul's Drag Race UK season five, Newcastle drag superstar Michael Marouli made her mark by declaring "All right, lasses" and serving a mix of incredible looks, strong performances and a great sense of humour. Or "fierce, fabulous, filth" as her website proudly declares. With her fellow North-Eastern queens Ginger Johnson (who won the series) and Tomara Thomas, the three finalists won the hearts of viewers and each other alike, becoming fast friends. 

Now, the three North-Eastern drag queens are teaming up for the Angels of the North Tour, starting in Norwich on April 9 and finishing at Birmingham on April 21.

What was it like starting out in the drag scene for you?

Yeah, I mean, I've been doing this a long time now. She's old. But I started out before it was kind of cool. You know what I mean? Like, now with Drag Race, it's gotten so mainstream, which is incredible. When I started out, it was very much still kind of an underground thing. It’s not that it was frowned at, but it was seen as “oh god, drag”. It’s incredible how far it’s come now and it’s now just so appreciated by everyone.
"I started out in the cabaret scene, worked my way up and evolved and then boom—I was on Drag Race"
I started out in the cabaret scene and just worked my way up. I evolved and went with the times and then boom! I was on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Do you think it's really exciting to see drag being more accepted and embraced by mainstream culture?

It's incredible, especially for the younger generation. The younger drag queens really putting the work in, it’s just incredible to see.  
There was nothing like this when I was younger. If Drag Race had been around when I was 21, imagine. I would have been RuPaul by now.

It seems like the UK and US versions of RuPaul’s Drag Race have a different vibe—with the UK more comedy-focussed and the US fashion-based, although you have great range. What do you think?

Ru Paul's Drag Race UK season 5 cast
I think you've hit the nail on the head there. I think with British drag, it's more performance based. Everyone can do a show—every single member of our cast can do their own solo night at a venue. Whereas in the US, they do have a lot of look queens, as they say, who will just literally look fantastic and it's all about the fashion element of it.
I think that's what makes us different. We're just all about grit and being working class. But it’s that thing about doing the whole package—I like to still look good and put effort into my costumes and stuff like that. But have the chops to back it up and be able to get on a microphone and make everyone laugh for 45 minutes.

You had a real bond with your fellow North-Eastern queens Tomara Thomas and Ginger Johnson. Did the three of you all being from the North bring you together?

I’d never met either of them before the show but it was from day one, just hearing the accents in the work room was like, “Oh my god”. I felt so at home straight away, and it was just so nice. And when we did the Disaster Class on episode four, the improv challenge about the Geordie night out, we wrote that in ten minutes, it just fell out of us naturally, straight away. I thought there’s something special here.
"With Tomara and Ginger I felt at home straight away and it was just so nice and it felt so special"
We got on like a house on fire. We just bring out the best in each other and they're just the nicest people. I think that's what's so amazing. There's not a bad bone in their bodies—we just have a laugh and just gelled instantly. I knew we were going to be the final three.

Does humour help to deal with the darkness of toxic masculinity? 

100 per cent. And I think that's why we all are just so stupid and daft because it was kind of our escapism. Especially growing up in the North East, where there is that toxic masculinity and the homophobia was just rife. It’s a shame that all of us had to leave the North East to find ourselves and spread our wings in the world. But I think attitudes are changing. And us representing the North East, especially as gay people and drag queens, it's been incredible the support we've had.
"To go back to Newcastle now, where there's a huge drag scene, is amazing"
Literally two nights ago, me and Tamara got to perform at the Glasshouse in Gateshead, which is a world-famous music venue. And we performed with the Royal Orchestra, and it was just the fact that that even happened. It just shows the change and the support we had. It's been epic, and we do have that whole patriotic thing in the North East where we want our own to do well. Everyone has rallied around it.
The Angels of the North things has really took off, and it's just so nice to see. And to go back to Newcastle now, where there's a huge gay scene and a huge drag scene, and everyone's just so supportive, and it's just amazing.

How did you come up with the giant black, chained heart look?

I got the brief and it was like a heart-themed runway. I knew that every single person was going to do a red heart look. So I thought, let's do something completely different and quite avant garde.
I knew I wanted to do a bold look and I just thought that's going to be the perfect one. And then the little red hands. Just a little pop of colour and a little sneaky twist at the end. You could sleep in it, it was marvellous and like a mobile bed.

I loved the Spice Girls look. That must have been really fun?

People went nuts for that. That's something I've always said. “When I get on Drag Race, I need to do the Spice Girls look.” I had that planned for years. I thought a mash-up of the Spice Girls would be be amazing.
The fact that I got to do it and it went down so well was like a dream come true. I’ve always loved the Spice Girls so little 14-year-old me was literally screaming.

You had a couple of high fashion moments yourself, like with the voluminous blue dress. Did that feel great?

That was just gorgeous. It was so much fabric and I just felt amazing. And I knew the judges were loving it, it was incredible. The Italian designer is just beyond and wanted more and more, but we did have weight restrictions. I couldn’t get that much in my suitcase.

What’s something you don’t realise from watching Drag Race about performing and competing on the show?

Michael Marouli
I think it captured it really well. We've all said this. The one thing that maybe didn't come across—well it did, but it was more so—was how much we laughed. You’ve only got each other, you're away from home and you've got no contact with the outside world. So we just relied on each other
It was one day. I think it was the sewing challenge and at the end we were just sat talking and literally screaming and crying laughing because we're just delirious. It was the best, best time. It's like summer camp for drag queens. The competition side you forget about a bit because you just have so much fun.

That time in between doing it and it airing must be strange, knowing your life is going to change? 

It's crazy. It's just wild in that in between when you come home from filming and months later waiting for to air and then watching it all. It's just gone nuts but it's everything I wanted it to be and more.

Shows like Drag Race have so much positivity and joy. Do you think that's what makes it special?

I think that's the core of Drag Race is it's about the heart. And it's about showing that it does get better, regardless of your size, age, gender, sexuality or whatever. It's all about the life experience, and just celebrating you for being you.
That’s what it felt like at Drag Race. Finally, everything that you ever wanted to be, you can be and we're going to cheer you on for it. It’s just a celebration.

Do you see people of all ages at your drag shows?

Absolutely, it's every walk of life. People love it. I get so many messages from older people as well, who are just obsessed, and they just love it. Drag has been going on for so long.
"It was a lot more undergound years ago but a lot of older people are obsessed and love drag"
It was a lot more underground years and years ago, but a lot of older people say “Yes, I'm obsessed. I've always loved drag. I love this.” It's just amazing to see there's so many supporters and fans out there of every walk of life. It's just incredible.

The challenge where volunteers who worked for the Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline came on and you helped them enjoy drag must have felt special?   

It was incredible and it will stay with me forever. It was just seeing the joy on Peter’s face. Just hearing his story as well, how he's 65 years of age and has had to suppress it for all these years. And finally just to live out his dream. It was just the light went on, and his eyes and I was just watching him going, “oh my god, this is incredible”.
I said to him one day, “this is all about you. It's your moment. I've had all these weeks here being celebrated for me, this is about you. And if I can just give you that little moment, it would mean everything.” And he just loved it.
The Switchboard Helpline have been incredible and they’ve had so much support and exposure because of the show. It's just been amazing. I think the Angels of the North are going to do a little something with them as well.

What can people expect from the Angels of the North shows and tour?

Tour poster for Angels of the North tour
It's going to be epic—it's going to be high quality and full production value. It's going to be a full variety show. We've got comedy, we've got choreography—all the best bits of Drag Race are going to be in it.
The three of us are just so different, but we complement each other so well and it's just going to be the best night out ever. Get your tickets and make sure you're there.

The Angels of the North Tour tours the UK in April
Banner photo: Michael Marouli

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