Brighton is famous for its drag scene and produces some of the best talent in the country. Recently I had the pleasure of talking to my friend Rio Munn, a Sussex student pursuing a career as a drag performer under the name of Aurora Blake. Having attended multiple performances of Aurora, it has been amazing to watch her progress.I wanted to speak to Rio to learn about his experiences and to find out about his story from the start.
Jessica: Tell me about the first time you got into drag
Rio: “The first time was in November 2021 when I was 18. I had never in my life touched makeup or had anyone put any on me so at first I found it a bit odd but I think that’s just because it was an unfinished product, when I saw the whole thing put together it was like in Harry Potter, the invisibility cloak. It is like a blanket of confidence, it made me feel like a much-heightened version of myself”
Jessica: How would you describe the Brighton drag scene?
Rio: “Very, very diverse, you’ve got all different types of performers which is quite fun even in Drag Soc (a society at the University of Sussex) you can see the variations. If you took the last event for example, there were drag artists who were asked to take part, me included, and others were drag kings, non-binary, and transgender performers. It is diverse in terms of opportunity, you do see every area of the queer community being highlighted”
Jessica: Who has been an inspiration for you?
Rio: “I look to other queens, like for example ‘Baby’, she was the first non-’Drag Race’ girl I saw on social media, she had this intensity I wish I had, I saw her years before I started drag and I was so enamoured by the talent that came off this person, I wanted to be them”
Jessica: Who has been a mentor for you?
Rio: “ ‘Ex-Girlfriend’ my Drag mother who painted me for the first time, helped me get started doing my own makeup and hair. They have guided me through everyday struggles as well”
Jessica: Tell me about Aurora
Rio: “Aurora is me, I may be cocky but at the end of the day I am still me, Aurora is me but heightened and loud”
Jessica: Are there any personal struggles that Drag has helped you with?
Rio: “I find myself to be a person with incredibly low self-esteem and putting on this suit of armour has been a way for me to connect with myself. I didn’t think I was talented before doing this but it has given me a renewed sense of identity and helped me to find my niche”
Jessica: What difference has performing in drag made to your life?
Rio: “Drag has allowed me to find the confidence that has always been in me and now that I’ve experienced it with the makeup and the hair and the clothes it has allowed me to take that part of me and apply it to everyday situations. Even at uni I don’t feel like I’m stupid anymore because I am no longer constantly looking at people around me and thinking they’re so much better than me. Drag has been the tool to help me harness my inner world and I guess I now have a support system, who would have thought I now have my own support system just because I’ve got a wig on”
I had a great time talking to Rio and learning more about the Drag scene in Brighton. Hearing about his personal struggles was eye opening as to the amazing effect that Drag can have on people, both those watching and performing. In a world that seems to be increasingly hostile to members of the LGBTQ+ community I feel it is becoming even more important that we hear their voices and learn how vital understanding and acceptance are in our attempts to make the world a better and safer place.