Drag Artist Mademoiselle Bijou: The jewel of the night life

Thanks to several popular TV- and streaming service shows, the genre of drag (“DRessed As Girls”) is so popular that even without having seen any of such episodes, most people know what it is about – extravagant, creative and above all, free self-expression of one’s views and aesthetics, regardless of any boundaries. There are dragqueens and dragkings, and many other variations of gender-bending artists that take you over into this whirlpool of talent, strong messages and mind-blowing fashion that you simply cannot keep your eyes away or be left indifferent. That’s my love story with Bijou, stage name of artist Nick, who after seeing perform once you can only want to see again and again. Still relatively young on the scene, Bijou stroke me not only with her high artistic aesthetics and knowledge of vintage fashions, but very professional approach to her craft and strong standpoints. After this story, you’ll be mesmerized by this gem of a person as well.

Please introduce yourself:
Bonjour! My name is Bijou and I am a Drag- and Visual Artist from Cologne, Germany. I’ve been doing Drag since 2019.

And an unavoidable obvious question – where does your stage name come from?
My name is the French word for “jewel”. When I was thinking about a name I wanted something androgynous, short and catchy, something that describes my persona. And what’s better than being the ultimate jewel of the night life?

What makes Bijou unique and memorable? Does she have a message?
Bijou plays with gender and the construct of femininity. I like to present very feminine, a femme fatale. At the same time, I play with masculinity, for example by wearing no boobs and no pads. I try to portray femininity more with my presence, attitude and aura. Because femininity comes in all shapes and sizes and has to do with an overall feeling of yourself and your body.

You identify yourself as a drag artist, as opposed to drag queen. Why is that and what are the differences?
When you think about a Drag Queen, you have a very certain picture in your mind how this artist looks like. Most Drag Queens follow a craft that I don’t necessarily fit into. I more so use aspects of the artform of Drag to make my creative visions come to life. I reinvent myself every time with everything I do instead of following a specific character and keeping that one alive. Bijou is sort of a jewelry box full of little jewels, each and everyone unique in it’s appearance.

How did your career begin and why this genre?
My career really began with a performance at a very important and prestigious party called “Bohème Sauvage” here in Germany. The producer of the show trusted me and my vision and let me perform as a complete newbie. Beforehand I had amazing opportunities as well but that show catapulted me right into other amazing journeys. And why Drag? Because it allows me to create without boundaries. I have the opportunity to create whatever I want without the cage of the picture that society has of a man. I can be whoever I want whenever I want.

What do you find are the hardest aspects of your trade?
Time, money and finding respect and with that opportunities for your craft. Drag is very time and money consuming. From make up to wigs and costumes. All takes time to make and money to buy. Drag is still not an artform that is respected by the public or the entertainment business. A lot of people still think we are just some people who dress crazy and lipsync like in front of your mirror at home. Finding jobs can be hard. But if you are persistent you will make your way.

What makes a good performer in your opinion?
Uniqueness and Passion! I always say, when you think about what you need to be a good artist is that you have to create something no one else can do like you can. In a sense to trademark yourself. And you need to do what you are doing with passion. An audience can tell right away if you are passionate about your craft or not.

What else do you do creatively, or otherwise, outside of your performances?
I always loved to create and design, from drawing to photography, design and interior. I am an extremely visual person and love to see what’s in my mind become real life or at least something others can see as well.

Interactive gallery, or click on image and enjoy via Flickr:

Bijou by  Tabea Virginia Photography

When are the next dates, where we can see you perform?
I will perform and host a show in Cologne in December. Unfortunately it is sold out. I am planning my own solo show on the 15th of January 2022 in Cologne. And you will catch me in some other amazing shows in 2022 around Germany and even France.

How do you get in the mood and get ready to perform, is there a routine?
I most of the time put just some music or a podcast while doing my make up. At a gig, I try to not think about the performance ahead too much, most of the time I talk to other performers or literally just eat haha.

How do you evaluate current drag/burlesque scene in Germany and in general?
I like that both scenes get more inclusive and open their doors to more performers of different upbringings, backgrounds and interpretations of the artform. Especially the Burlesque-Scene gets more inclusive by giving opportunities to artists of different genders, body types and artistic backgrounds. I wish I could say the same about the Drag-Scene but we are getting there.

What would be your dream line-up for a perfect show? Which fellow artists would you love to work with?
Oh my god, so many! For a dream line up? Let’s go with Dita von Teese, Violet Chachki, Sasha Velour, Dirty Martiny and Bryona Ashly.

What makes your own show different to the rest?
I would say my energy and eye for detail. I love to create whole storylines with lots of details and sell it with costume, choreography and energy. And I usually pull references from places that you usually would not find ideas for performances.

How do you come up with act concept and your performance themes and outfits?
Usually I see a reference somewhere in some kind of form and an idea pops up in my head. Or I find a song I want to perform to and then build a performance around it. From there I source material for costumes, build a choreography and do more and more fine tuning. And that’s how new numbers are born.

What is inspiration to you? And where do you get it?
I find inspiration everywhere! In fashion, film, photography, magazines, paintings, illustrations and so on. I also find inspiration in other artists and their creations.

How long does it take you to prepare a stage number?
It depends. Some have taken a couple of months, some years. With some numbers I knew very quickly what the number is going to look like, with others it was a lot of back and forth.

What do you think of Drag Race? And would you like to participate? And if so, in which edition?
Which are your favorite challenges and which do you think you’ll win with most ease?

I love drag race as pure entertainment but people need to realize it is not a perfect depiction of what drag is and how you should look at it. Especially people who do not do drag should stop taking everything they see in the show as real and literal and stop talking trash. I would like to participate just for the experience and to see how I would do. I don’t need it for validation, more for learning more about me as an artist and my craft. And girl, the Ball would be mine.

You’re also part of a theater troupe Freakademy. Tell us more about it in detail. What it’s about, where can we see it, what is your role in the team?
Yes, I am part of the amazing team behind the Freakademy Haunted Houses! We are a team of actors, performers and other kind of creatives. Freakademy is known for its mind-blowing haunted houses that happen several times a year in Cologne. It was founded by Nicolas Folz, who serves as the producer of the show. Together with his co-producers and all the actors and creatives in his team, he creates dark, grotesque and unique experiences with highly aesthetic appeal. The topics of the shows vary from politics to society and its norms, sex and gender expression. I had the pleasure of being part of three shows by now and only can say, it is huge fun and always worth a visit! I serve as an actor/performer and am part of rooms in the houses. And before I say more, just know, that from next year on, Freakademy will have its own location in the center of Cologne with lots of new Shows coming up. So stay tuned, go on www.freakademy.net or @freakademy_cologne on Instagram and keep an eye out for new shows.

Is your family supportive of what you do?
Yes, very! The people I am regularly in touch with support it. My parents are the best and I am very lucky and privileged to have parents who not only accept what I am doing but also support it and are my biggest fans. They love me as I am and never tried to shame or change me. My friends are amazing support as well and sit regularly in the audience of my shows haha. I feel so grateful to be surrounded by people who see talent in me and support it the best they can.

You are such an elegant vintage queen with a distinct look. Your style just screams for own fashion collection or at least merch line! Will there be any?
Haha, first of all, thank you! Well, I do love fashion and it is one of my biggest passions and an aspect in my drag that I put a lot of effort into. Merch does sound nice but I would really need to think about how it should look like and what kind of products I would love to make. It shouldn’t be just a T-Shirt with my face on it (no shade haha). But it crossed my mind from time to time. And my own fashion line? I mean, if there is any brand out there that would like to collaborate, hit a girl up haha!

What are the challenges of modern drag/burlesque scene? What would you like to see more or maybe less of?
For a very long time, Drag and Burlesque was very niche, because it was something that was looked down on by lots of people in the past and seen as “filthy”. It was hard getting jobs and opportunities. Nowadays, that changed a lot, which is amazing but with that change obviously more artists started in the business and now there is much more competition. You have to be fast and persistent to get jobs and opportunities. But if you made a name for yourself and present something, that no one else can do like you, it is manageable. What I would love to see more in Burlesque is more representation of male performers and drag artists. In the drag scene, more diversity in style and much more AFAB-Queens (AFAB= assigned female at birth, biological females who do drag) and trans-representation in the scene. Give these artists a chance to show what they can do!

Were there ever any mishaps or funny backstage stories from your shows? Tell us!
Oh Darling, plenty haha! From costume malfunctions to falling on stage, ripping my hair out with wig glue or glueing something to somewhere where it doesn’t belong. But that’s normal and fine, no one’s perfect and mistakes happen. Backstage, we always have a lot of fun, laugh together and share memories, ideas and tips.

Bijou – all natural – with Mia La Muse and Sheila Wolf

Do you remember your very first performance? Were your nervous? What was it like?
Oh god yes! It was on the birthday party of one of my friends. He asked me if I could perform at his birthday when he found out I was about to start doing drag. First I was not the biggest fan of that idea but then I saw it as an opportunity to find out how performing for an audience is and how to interact with it. I did a 15 (!) minute number, don’t know why I was thinking that’s a good idea, and rehearsed weeks for it. Although some mistakes happened during the performance I had the most fun ever and I knew from then on, that performing has to be in my future.

What’s the most impressive performance you’ve seen personally that left you amazed?
Oh, so many! I am always amazed by performances by other artists, especially if it’s consisting something I am not able to do or never did. The best show I have seen was the Frankfurt Burlesque Festival 2021. The diversity and talent blew my mind!

Your top 5 makeup tips?
Know your shade of foundation, get to know your face shape and try out different ways of contouring, eyebrows make a face so try out different ways of drawing them on or filling them in until you find a perfect way, blush is your best friend and a red lip never is a wrong choice.

The drag genre has become more popular over the last years and more new queens are emerging. What would you advice to newcomers?
First of all, don’t throw yourself into the scene just to be in it. There is nothing worse than a queen who has no idea who she wants to be and what to do. Find out who you want to be in drag, what your thing and aesthetic is, this is always the first step. Of course, you can and should try out new things, evolve and maybe change something about your drag persona from time to time but a general idea of you who are, without copying things you seen on others, should be there in the beginning. Find a persona you are passionate about and can be proud of. And from there on it is practice, practice, practice. Whatever you do in drag, may it be lipsync, dance, comedy or host, never stop practicing. Never stop trying to get better. Never stop trying to evolve as an artist.

Do you find it’s becoming easier or harder to get performance dates, is there any competition in the scene?
I think it depends. Yes, there is competition and it gets more and more every year. Saying that, if you manage to stay unique with what you can offer and if you are very professional and put some work into advertising and a professional online presentation then competition should not be a problem.

How do you define success? At which point could you say “Hell yeah, now I made it!”
Oh, that’s hard to say. I think there will always be something I want to do and achieve, so I don’t know if I will ever have this moment of “I made it”. Success is very subjective as well. I would say you are successful, when you are happy with what you are doing and when it is benefitting you, not just financially but also maybe upping your confidence. A dream of mine would be to have my own regular show. That would maybe bring me a step closer to this “I made it”-moment. But honestly, I think my inner drive to always do something new will never allow me to settle down on “I made it” haha.

Are you being endorsed by any other brands?
Yes! I work closely with an amazing designer and seamstress called Marina Minkler, better known as Oh Marisha. Her and I create a lot of my costumes together and work closely to benefit each other. What Katie Did UK is another brand that is supporting me since I began doing drag. They care for my hands to be in gloves and my legs to be in stockings haha. In general a lot of brands have supported me a long the way and I am always incredibly grateful for any kind of help and support.

How have you been surviving the whole Corona and these last months in general? What are your remedies against sad moods and lockdown blues?
I actually survived well because I have a normal day job, so my life was still paid for. The creative outlet I build was lost which made me feel down a lot. But then I found other ways of being creative like photoshoots. So let’s just say, I survived haha.

As your followers and admirers, how can we support you?
Oh my god, just by sticking around haha. But honestly, times for performers are tough right now. Because less shows are happening, we lose engagement with people, the opportunity to really stay in touch and connect. Just please don’t give up on us, we are still here and trying to create as much as we can and are allowed to. Support us artists on social media (which with all their algorithms make it almost impossible to reach all of our fans, so please just keep an eye out on our profiles), maybe leave some nice comments and share our content. I always love to see my fans at shows, so please, if you want to, talk to me and let’s have a conversation! There’s nothing better than getting to know the people who support you.

Instagram link: @thexbijou

Interviewer & photographer: Marina Minkler

photos: Christian Becker, Hady Pictures, Levin Lee, Sheona Ann Hamilton-Grant, Tabea Virginia Photography, Sarina Bremer Photography, Kira Hagen (e.g. start photo)

 

GastmitarbeiterInnen / guest contributions

Regular guest contributors e.g. Melanie Kircher, Tatjana Tattis Murschel, Grit Kabiersch, Marina Minkler, Jasmine Frey, Maria Levin, Elvira Visser, Nina Ratavaara, John Wisniewski