“This country is so progressive, even the royals celebrate drag”

“This country is so progressive, even the royals celebrate drag”

Series: A room of one's own

24-05-2023 · Interview

Fotis Barlakas (21), a bachelor’s student of Global Studies, pays 420 euros per month for a 14 m2 room in a student house on Het Bat, Maastricht.

Growing up in Thessaloniki in Greece, which Fotis Barlakas says is a very conservative country, he was always insecure about his identity. He only came out as gay three years ago when he moved to Maastricht for his studies. “The Netherlands is a very open-minded country when it comes to gay rights and pride. It’s easy to make friends and be myself here.” In fact, when he was on Tinder in 2021, he met a friend who is a drag queen. This friend encouraged him to try drag for the first time. When he did, Barlakas fell in love with everything drag.

Drag identity

This friend, along with the drag sisterhood he has met in the Netherlands, encouraged him to “buy the cheapest make-up” and drag outfits so that he could perform. Even though he believes he initially looked bad in drag because he had no idea what he was doing, “I fell in love with it all”. He most loves the transformation that comes with dressing up, and promotes drag as an experience. His drag queen name is Alectrona.

Alectrona wears the shiny platform shoes and high heels displayed on his shelves. She “can automatically be a diva”, is high maintenance and needs her hair brushed constantly before going on stage to perform. He first performed in April 2022 at LGBTQI+ Café Rosé in Maastricht. “I don’t remember much from my first performance. It was so intense I had a memory blackout.” But he found out that he absolutely loves the attention. The transformation in drag “allows you to really feel the character like an alter ego”.

Memorable performances

“I do love some sparkles”, he says, laughing. Barlakas is extremely proud of the progress he has made in his drag performances. He now performs all over the Netherlands. During his latest show, he “really felt great” on stage. Though he usually lip-syncs upbeat songs and enjoys dancing on stage, “I can also be very sexy.”

Alectrona’s most memorable performance was on King’s Day last year, when he performed for the King and Queen of the Netherlands. He was on stage near Vrijthof, with a big screen in the square broadcasting his performance on national television. Queen Máxima came up to him after the show and told him how beautiful he looked in drag. “It just goes to show how progressive the country is – the royals were celebrating drag!”

One downside of doing drag are the expenses. He does get paid for his shows, but “I constantly have to buy clothes and make-up. Travelling around the country is also expensive. Because of this, I struggle to compete with drag queens who have a higher income.”

Influencer

Another thing you notice when you walk into Barlakas’s room is the pink foam in the shape of bricks on the wall. As a YouTuber and TikToker, Barlakas needs a fun background for his videos. He posts make-up tutorials, transformation videos and – more recently – comedy on Instagram and TikTok.

Next to the pink and silver foil background are posters and postcards (mainly of the goddess Venus from various artists) from his travels. The most eye-catching one is a Moulin Rouge poster, which stands out from the others because of its size.

Barlakas has visited over 24 countries, the most memorable of which was Croatia. “I enjoy travelling. Travelling on your own can be a very liberating experience.” But it can also be scary, he says, remembering encounters he had in Cracow, Poland. In the conservative country where many people hold prejudiced views against homosexuality, he felt insecure wearing earrings. “I got a lot of cold stares from people. I was very shocked – I hadn’t expected that much hostility.”

Photo: Ellen Oosterhof

Categories: People
Tags: aroomofone'sown,room series,student room,drag,drag queen,influencer,tiktok,youtube,instagram

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