IT’S a weeknight in Glasgow and inside the opulent Polo Lounge Club drag queen CJ Banks is dressed as Alfred Hitchcock. The slim performer has donned a white wig made entirely of cotton buds and stuffed her tuxedo with materials to give the illusion of a protruding belly.

Alluding to the iconic director, she slowly lip syncs to spoken word about how to create suspense, maintains a stern expression and makes eye contact with the dozens of audience members watching intently. Once the crowd’s discomfort has peaked, a hip-hop beat begins and she performs a modern dance number – her face doesn’t crack. Viewers howl with laughter. Welcome to the world of Scottish drag. It’s “wacky, bizarre and fabulous” as CJ, one of the residents at Polo’s weekly Mothertucker show, puts it.

Last week the hugely popular RuPaul’s Drag Race series launched its UK version on BBC Three. The US reality show – in which drag queens compete in entertainment-themed challenges to be crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar – has so far run for 11 seasons, spawned four All Stars spin-offs and even boasts a Thai edition.

The programme has taken drag from the old-school-style of Lily Savage and Dame Edna and injected a new hyper-glamorous incarnation of the art form directly into the mainstream consciousness. In the process it has boosted its most popular contestants to superstardom.

Season six runner-up Courtney Act won Celebrity Big Brother UK, season seven winner Violet Chachki features frequently in Vogue and fan favourites Willam and Shangela had sizeable roles in Oscar-winning A Star Is Born. One of the programme’s judges, Michelle Visage, is a competitor on Strictly this year.

Unfortunately, no Scottish queen was invited to try their hand at gaining such success on the UK edition. The lack of representation might lead you to believe that Scotland’s scene isn’t worth showing off. The truth is in the space of a few years drag in Scotland has gone from a handful of queens to a movement sweeping the length and breadth of the nation, with dozens of shows held every week.

Nowhere is this drag revolution more obvious than in Glasgow. “There’s a lot of different scenes,” says 22-year-old Lawrence Chaney, another resident at Mothertucker. “You’ve not just got the conceptual drag, you’ve got high-energy top 40 at Suck, and then you’ve got Trigger in AXM which is kind of alternative drag. You’ve got nights like Hellbent which goes even further into heavy metal/alternative … it’s about exploring politics, it’s about more than just being a woman on stage.” There’s also musical theatre and technical sci-fi drag styles on the go, he points out.

The National: Lawrence ChaneyLawrence Chaney

Most Scottish drag artists perform “mixes”. These are audio tracks made up of songs, dialogue and effects which form a kind of story. CJ Banks’s Alfred Hitchcock mix, which was part of a themed night titled “Hitchcock vs Spielberg”, is a great example of how this works in practice. The queens often complement these mixes with props. Lawrence’s act at the same show was based around Psycho, and using a DIY shower setup made from white fabric and plastic poles she successfully acted out the film’s most iconic scene in just a few minutes, adding elements of humour through physical comedy and dance.

Mixes aren’t the go-to for everyone, though, and across Scotland there are performers showing off their creativity through poetry, burlesque, art, stand-up and more.

Lawrence’s drag has gone beyond live shows. You might recognise the full-time performer from his advertising campaign for Glasgow’s Subway system, his viral videos topics such as Straight Pride and make-up, or his hosting work on BBC Scotland. “I’m busier than ever,” he says. “It’s really quite non-stop.”

READ MORE: Lawrence Chaney: 10 things that changed my life

Heading east, one 20-year-old queen is also experiencing limited free time. “Scotland’s dancing queen” Miss Peaches recently found herself with a big responsibility. The young performer took over Dundee’s weekly Bingo Wigs gig with the aim of “uplifting” the queens in the city and is starting to see a real community emerge. “The drag scene is better than ever,” she explains. “Last year, if you were to ask anyone here what the drag scene was like, they probably would have given you a funny look.

The National: Miss PeachesMiss Peaches

“The scene is very vibrant, very varied, there’s a huge array of girls here who all do something different – so why not show it off?”

And in Edinburgh, the fierce-looking 80s-inspired Alice Rabbit has been enjoying some career highlights. After four years of hosting her weekly gig The Rabbit Show, Alice, 25, has been touring Europe – but she loves being a mainstay of drag here in Scotland. “It’s not just a big group of people who saw Drag Race and went ‘oh my god, I can put a wig on and be an icon automatically’. It’s not like that.

“I think for me regardless of the genre every single Scottish queen has a bit of punk in them.

“When I say that, it’s kind of like there’s that sort of subversive counterculture attitude and I think as Scottish people, as well, we are inherent to fight the system no matter what it is.”

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They may have found inspiration from icons as varied as Joan Jett and Courtney Love for Alice, Beyonce and pop divas for Peaches, horror and old Hollywood glamour for Lawrence, but all three discovered drag through RuPaul’s Emmy-winning series. They’ve grown up watching their favourite queens boost their careers by competing for RuPaul’s approval.

“I feel like Scottish drag’s kind of doing great on its own,” Alice suggests. “But at the same time, it would be great to have that representation on the show. So the UK can see what Scottish drag is all about. I often feel like Scottish drag queens get swept under the rug.”

“It’s one of these things that I always felt I’ve been preparing for all my life,” Lawrence adds. “Seriously, when RuPaul came up on that video and he said we’re doing Drag Race UK I was like, this is it, this is what I’ve been waiting for, this is the moment for all of us in the UK.”

Seeing a Scottish performer compete on Drag Race would be beneficial for the whole community, Lawrence adds. “If one of us gets on it that’s more money in the bars, more money to the shows, a bigger budget for the shows, more drag queens being able to do it full time – it will elevate the scene.”

For Peaches, the idea of Drag Race is about more than career success – it’s a kind of validation from a world where her identity and what she does aren’t fully accepted yet. “For the average person in Scotland, whenever they think of a drag queen they think of like a 50-year-old man in an awful wig, awful make-up and a dress. That’s the stereotype and that’s the stigma. It’s not like that,” she says. “People don’t see us as actual entertainers and actual human beings so therefore when you have something like Drag Race come along and you’ve seen the queens who are coming from it making three, four, five grand a gig, why would you not? Not like we need it. But it gives us hope for the future.”

In the Highlands, 28-year-old Venus Guy Trap is starting to see attitudes change. After taking up drag during her time living in the capital, she was concerned about going home to Inverness in 2014. “When I moved to Edinburgh, Inverness was still very much at a place where [drag] wasn’t a thing. And people were really quite close-minded and a little bit ignorant in the grand scheme of things,” she explains. “I did worry that if I wanted to continue pursuing this and doing this, was Inverness going to be a place that would accept that? Would I find myself in danger, would I be persecuted for being different, was Inverness ready to progress?”

The National: Venus Guy TrapVenus Guy Trap

Her homecoming wasn’t what she expected. “When I started doing [drag] up here I very quickly realised that maybe I’d been a bit close-minded and thought that Inverness was stalling, when in reality there’s a whole new generation of people in Inverness now compared to when I moved away. Now the people in Inverness are very accepting and very progressive and it’s become a real thing up in the Highlands.”

Inverness is yet to develop a fully-fledged drag scene of its own with dedicated nights, but live singer Venus has stayed busy getting booked on her own.

She has a lot to celebrate after being crowned the first Miss Drag Highland this summer and having performed at the Proud Ness LGBT march and rally – which, with an estimated 10,000 people in its crowds, was one of the best attended events of its kind in the country.

Seeing such progressive change has been an incredible source of hope and positivity for her.

“Drag in Scotland is the driving force behind a lot of cultural changes that are going on right now,” she says.

“Because Scotland is one of those places that we are trying to be multicultural, we’re trying to be the epicentre of all different kinds of people from all walks of life … If we drag performers can make people more open-minded and more accepting of drag, then Scotland in the future is going to just be the best place on Earth to live because everyone can live their life as they choose.”

Venus, too, is concerned by the lack of Scots on Drag Race UK – but wants to show producers what they’re missing. “I think the best response that we can do is just keep trucking on and doing our show and show them why they made a mistake, because there’s a lot of things going on in the Highlands.”

Critics have more to hold against RuPaul’s Drag Race than just its lack of Scots. The programme has faced scrutiny for not including drag kings (women that perform as men) or femme queens (women that perform an exaggerated version of femininity). In Scotland, these kinds of performers are very much included. As Alice puts it, they “have been performing here for decades”.

Women doing drag is not a new concept. “Ball culture,” which sees men dress as women and women dress as men and compete for prizes by posing, voguing, walking and dancing in various “categories”, is an LGBT phenomenon founded by young Black and Latin American people as far back as the 1920s – possibly before that. The slang, physical movements and competition elements of these balls have shaped drag into its modern form. Language like “reading”, “shade” and “fierce” originated in these spaces. Watch the fantastic 1990 Jennie Livingston ball culture documentary Paris Is Burning to see for yourself the extent to which this art form has influenced RuPaul’s series.

For 29-year-old drag king Andy Kist, performing is as an outlet for his “more masculine personality”. At the start of his career he liked to take on a super-masculine approach but after starting to perform in Glasgow, he began exploring more androgynous appearances by incorporating make-up, skirts and dresses into his aesthetic.

The National: Andy Kist at The Polo LoungeAndy Kist at The Polo Lounge

Photograph: Jamie McFayden

Andy loves performing in Scotland because of how inclusive the scene is. But the world at large has to follow that example, he says. “We don’t get the same recognition for drag kings. Even in America kings are entering these pageants as the only king and they’re coming out on top which, to me, shows we can compete on the same level and we should be given the same recognition.”

Similarfeelings are held by outspoken 28-year-old femme queen Havana Meltdown. In three years, Havana has gone from being one of “maybe about four” performers like herself in Scotland to finding herself with a “matriarchal position” in the Lunar Dynasty – a collective of all the country’s femme queens.

The National: Havana MeltdownHavana Meltdown

Photograph: Chris Belous

Later this month, she – alongside co-producer Chanel O’Connor – will become the first femme queen to host a weekly show in Scotland. But despite her success, she finds there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding her work.

“Drag is purely a form of entertainment,” she explains. “It’s just a lot of it is deeply rooted in gender and playing on gender. I’ve had people who’ve been very confused by like, my boobs. They’ve had no idea that they’re real and have asked to touch them or have even touched them without asking.

“As someone who’s been a very active feminist throughout my whole life and a very active member of the LGBT community, it allows me to put those things into practice because me being a female show producer, me being a very visible female drag queen in itself, is almost a political act.”

While Drag Race UK was being filmed, Havana transformed her social media in what was essentially comedy, performance art and protest all at the same time by branding herself as the show’s season one winner and “live tweeting” from the set. The experiment drew in hundreds of likes and retweets – she even had strangers approach her to congratulate her – but also raised awareness of the fact performers like her aren’t accessing the same opportunities as traditional drag queens.

“Drag is about creating your own world and creating your own delusion, and that’s exactly what I did,” she says through a laugh.

“This is the closest I’m ever going to get to getting on Drag Race.” As well as being female, Havana explains, she’s “Scottish, which is already niche in itself”.

Peaches doesn’t want Scottish drag to be a niche, and she hopes that with time it grows to the point where it cannot be overlooked.

“The main places are Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow. What, three cities out of the whole place, are you having a laugh?” she points out with frustration in her voice.

“Let’s be honest, there’s obviously more drag throughout the whole of Scotland, but no-one knows of it. I hope Drag Race comes along next season, I hope they put on more than one Scottish star and I hope whoever gets on they really show what Scottish drag’s all about.”

Asked about the lack of Scottish representation on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season one, a BBC spokesperson said: “The application process for Drag Race UK was open to anyone. The only criteria we were looking for was charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent.” They added the programme is regionally diverse.

Catch Lawrence Chaney (@lawrencechaney) on Tuesdays at Mothertucker (Polo, Glasgow) and on Wednesdays at Suck (Delmonica’s, Glasgow), both from 9pm. Free entry.

See Alice Rabbit (@alicerabbitxoxo) on Tuesdays at The Rabbit Hole (CC Blooms, Edinburgh) from 9pm. £3 entry.

Watch Miss Peaches (@misspeaches2.0) on Tuesdays at Bingo Wigs (Church, Dundee) from 8pm. Free entry.

Check out Venus Guy Trap on Instagram @the.venus.g, Andy Kist @andy_kist and Havana Meltdown @havana_meltdown.