ONE of Scotland’s biggest drag pageants is set to return with performers battling for the largest cash prize in the competition’s history.

The Suck-U pageant, which has been running in Glasgow since 2019, will see Scotland’s up-and-coming drag queens and kings compete for a £1000 cash prize.

Veteran drag queen Rujazzle, who is organising the event, said the growth of the pageant shows just how popular drag has become in Scotland.

She told The National: “This is my tenth year of doing drag and sixth doing it professionally full-time and it’s amazing to see how much has changed.

“When I started in Glasgow the scene in Scotland was so tiny. There were maybe 30 of us doing it.

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“Now, there’s hundreds of people who do drag and are working performers.

“Competitions like this are quite a big part of that. We’ve got people travelling from all over Scotland and even other parts of the UK to compete because it can really give them a platform to go on and succeed as a professional performer.”

The popularity of TV shows such as Ru Paul’s Drag Race have increased the global popularity of drag as an art form.

However, Rujazzle said that much of her personal success is owed to local competitions, which allow performers to hone their skills.

She said: “Many people will have heard of Drag Race but competitions have been part of our culture for decades.

“Particularly in the US, where transgender women weren’t allowed to compete in traditional beauty pageants, a culture grew of LGBT+ people organising their own pageants.

The National: Scottish drag queen Rujazzle says pageants are the closest thing you can get to a HND in drag Scottish drag queen Rujazzle says pageants are the closest thing you can get to a HND in drag (Image: Rujazzle)

“I went to university in St Andrews and did a degree in art history. I thought I would be working in an art gallery or something – I never dreamed I’d be a performer.

“But through doing pageants and competitions, I was able to grow confidence in my abilities. There’s no HND in drag – although that would be fantastic – so it’s great to get the opportunity to test your skills. It’s how you get better.”

The 10 contestants will be faced with different challenges every week: from lip-sync skills to costume creation.

Celebrity judges, including Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK alumni Choriza May, are also set to be on the judging panel.

The competition comes as drag performers in Scotland face protest and criticism, including from leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross.

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Tthe Tory MSP earlier this year claimed that a Drag Queen Story Time event at Elgin Library was “not appropriate for very young children”.

“There seems to be a lot of toxicity around drag at the moment," said Rujazzle.

“But, personally, I’ve never been heckled in the streets or attacked. Now, maybe that’s because I’m six foot and people are a bit scared of me, but I do wonder if a lot of this toxicity is purely online.

“Still, it makes me sad because drag is designed to bring joy to people. It’s escapism.

“If it’s not for you, that’s fine. No-one’s forcing anyone to go to a drag show or to take their children to one. But this isn’t a new thing. People have always used costuming and make-up to subvert and play with gender.”

She added that the outrage surrounding drag often strikes her as performative, particularly given the history of drag acts in the UK.

“I think when any minority group makes progress in striving for equality and becomes more visible that it often leads to backlash from people who are against that progress,” she said.

“But it’s strange with drag because when I was growing up Lily Savage was on TV and everyone loved her. She wasn’t seen as a danger to children but just as the fantastic performer that she was.

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“It makes the criticism feel very performative and artificial because there really wasn’t this hatred of drag back then.”

Despite becoming a culture war topic, Scotland’s drag scene remains strong, with queens like Rujazzle determined to make sure it stays that way.

She added: “People often ask me if I’d like to move to London to pursue a career in drag there and my answer is always the same: absolutely not.

“I love doing drag in Scotland and it’s part of who my drag is. That I’m able to have a career here and be vocal and visible for LGBT+ people, it makes me so proud to be Scottish.”

The Suck-U pageant kicks-off at 9pm on September 6 at Delmonica’s, Virginia Street, Glasgow.