Meet Minnie Cooper, Fringe Face for 2019 and Australian Drag Royalty

Across the city it is known by all that on a cold winter’s night, many moons ago, an infant child wrapped in muslin was placed at the door of an old discotheque by the name of ARQ. The child’s mother disappeared into the rhythm of the night leaving the babe to be found by a trio of Queens who picked her up from the icy ground, and pressing her to their ample synthetic breasts for warmth, claimed her as their own. And so the child was raised on strong foundations (all of which purchased on sale at Priceline) and showered with love, sequins and lash glue. She was homeschooled in the back rooms of Arq until one day, she found her way to the stage announcing herself as the sparkling, radiant, womanly queen we know today, Minnie Cooper.

Minnie is a true legend of the Australian performing arts. In her long and celebrated career, marked by the relentless grunt-work and resourcefulness for which Drag is famous, she has performed with the likes of Cher, Kylie Minogue, Jimmy Barnes, Kate Miller-Heidke, Rhonda Burchmore and many more. She is a dancer, a singer, a choreographer and an MC like no other. She has produced a number of events for Sydney’s iconic Mardi Gras and Sleaze Ball; and in 2016 she was a semi-finalist in Australia’s Got Talent viewed by over a million people; firmly establishing her as one of the household names of Aussie drag.

We spoke to Minnie, one of our 2019 Fringe Faces, about life as Australia Drag Royalty and the state of the scene in Sydney.

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Now the official story is that you were left as baby on the doorstep of Arq, thereafter raised by Drag Queens. But how did you first come to drag?

That is the urban myth lol. The 1st part of my career I actually worked in professional musical theatre as chorus boy. I used to choreograph the drag show. In 2003, when I was in between jobs, Chelsea Bun asked me would I work with her in a drag show at the Kings Cross Hotel. 16 years later I’m still in between jobs.

How would you describe your style?

Hollywood glamour with sharp wit.

Given you’ve won a record four Drag Industry Variety Awards (or DIVAS) for Entertainer of the Year, you’d be in a position to know, what makes a good drag queen?

It’s hard to say one thing makes a good drag queen. The one thing I do believe is someone who is true to themselves and not trying to be what they think they should be.

At its best, what can drag achieve?

Look at Rupaul, there is your answer.

Drag is increasingly being brought from the fringes where it traditionally lived, into the mainstream. What challenges does that bring?

To be honest because of the success of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and now Rupaul’s Drag Race I think mainstream audiences enjoy it as much if not more than the gay community. Drag is not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s absolutely ok. I don’t like sport. So I don’t expect everyone to like drag.

Where’s your favourite place to perform in Sydney and why?

I love Stonewall Hotel and The Newtown Hotel because the people that come there really enjoy the art form and appreciate what we do. 

You’ve done your fair share of travel and seen your fair share of queens, what do you think are the greatest strengths of the Australian scene?

The thing Sydney’s has is big production shows. Most drag shows I have seen overseas are just one Queen performing by herself.

Who, in your view, are the new queens on the scene to watch?

I would have to say Jacquie St Hyde and Mynx Moscato, both brilliant performers.

What do you love about Sydney?

I love it because it’s home. Hate the lock out laws though; it’s killing the spirit of the city.

What does the Sydney Fringe mean to you?

Fringe is so important. It’s where an artist can show the work which they might never have had the chance to show anywhere else.