Canadian woman takes on stereotypes as a drag king

AFP . Montreal | Update:

This combination of file pictures created on 12 August 2019 shows Melodie Rousseau posing before applying makeup and after for her Drag King performance in Montreal, Canada. Photo: AFPMelodie Rousseau is an actress by day, but at night, the 33-year-old Canadian makes herself up as a man -- and takes the stage at Montreal's cabaret halls as a drag king.

Performing in drag is not only a means of artistic expression -- it's a political statement by Rousseau and others looking to step out of the formidable shadow of the better-known drag queens.

Rousseau, who performs as Rock Biere, needs two and a half hours for her transformation.

On her slender face, she uses a make-up brush to draw the eyebrows and contours that define her alter ego.

"It's about erasing the woman to create this virile male," she says with a laugh.

Little by little, Rock Biere's more masculine jawline emerges. Rousseau straps down her breasts and creates defined abs. She sticks fake hair on her chest and chin.

In this file photo taken on 12 July 2019 Melodie Rousseau performs during her Drag King performance in Montreal, Canada. Rousseau is an actress by day, but at night, the 33-year-old Canadian makes herself up as a man -- and takes the stage at Montreal`s cabaret halls as a drag king. Photo: AFPWhile drag queens have entered the mainstream thanks to shows like "RuPaul's Drag Race," drag kings are still under the radar.

In Quebec province, they can be counted on one hand, according to veteran Canadian drag king Charli Deville.

Deville says only four drag kings are featured on a regular basis at Montreal's bars, as opposed to about 80 drag queens.

Rousseau was running a cafe and working as an actress in her own theater company when Rock Biere became part of her life last year.

At first, she was not interested in performing, but her girlfriend "forced" her, she says with a smile.

"There is of course a political side to it all, for a woman to take on a male persona," the actress says. "It's a bit dangerous for a woman to dare to adopt the physique of the dominant sex."

In this file photo taken on 12 July 2019 Melodie Rousseau applies makeup for her Drag King performance in Montreal, Canada. Rousseau is an actress by day, but at night, the 33-year-old Canadian makes herself up as a man -- and takes the stage at Montreal`s cabaret halls as a drag king. Photo: AFPFor sociologist David Risse, the director of the Center for Diversity Research and Cultural Activities in Montreal, the act of being a drag king is a "statement -- it's empowerment."

The women involved are "reappropriating an entire gender (...) and they are doing it on their own terms."

"I really work on a critique, even parody, of men," says Rousseau.

In this file photo taken on 12 July 2019 Melodie Rousseau performs during her Drag King performance in Montreal, Canada. Rousseau is an actress by day, but at night, the 33-year-old Canadian makes herself up as a man -- and takes the stage at Montreal`s cabaret halls as a drag king. Photo: AFPAt one point, her Rock Biere character takes the stage with drag queen Crystal Slippers for a duet.

Rock tries to pick up Crystal in the crassest of ways, and she rejects him repeatedly, eliciting uproarious laughter from the audience.

World of queens 
Rousseau admits she had to overcome her own fears to enter the world of drag. She worried about how the audience and her loved ones would judge her, and also was concerned about "being a girl in a man's world."

In this file photo taken on 12 July 2019 Melodie Rousseau (R), accompanied by a Drag Queen, during her Drag Kingperformance in Montreal, Canada. Photo: AFPDrag shows -- usually held in gay bars -- are indeed a place where drag queens, typically men dressed as women, hold court.

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