Dolly Diamond, hostess with the mostess, MELT: Festival of Queer Arts and Culture
The wonderful thing about growing as a person is you’re often heard more if you stop shouting and try listening a bit more. Motto: never let the bastards get you down.
When it comes to prolific performers, few shine as bright as the illustrious Dolly Diamond. The singer, actress and comedy extraordinaire has become a beloved fixture in Australia’s entertainment community since her move from the UK in 2009, charming audiences with her hosting and performance skills across, well, pretty much anywhere she is needed. As well as being a dynamo of stage and screen, Dolly has been a staunch activist and ambassador for a number of amazing causes – the woman just doesn’t sleep! Dolly will be in town for MELT: Festival of Queer Arts and Culture to bring her freewheelin’ variety show Bl*nkety Bl*nks to the Brisbane Powerhouse stage for one night only – we caught up with her to chat about making people squirm, how to charm an audience and the importance of being yourself.
Can you remember your first time performing? How was your first experience on stage?
I played the role of Annie, in the musical Annie, when I was 10 years of age and growing up in London . When I would sing ‘The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow’, you knew it bloody well would. I still get calls from the Beckenham North Theatre Company to reprise the role, but I worry I might be too old. Thoughts?
You’re a bit of an all-rounder with your skill set – cabaret, singing and comedy are just some of the feathers in your cap. Is there one particular medium that you love flexing the most?
I think you’ve named all my skill set right there, as I can’t dance. I’m more of a triple treat! I’m at my happiest when people are laughing and I used to try really hard to make that happen, until I realised you just have to be yourself and relax on stage and then the audience will do that too. I never want an audience to feel uncomfortable with me, but I don’t mind them squirming a little.
We love the sound of Dolly Di*mond’s Bl*nkety Bl*nks – the show you’re bringing to MELT Festival this year! Without giving away too much, can you give us a rundown on what the show is about?
It’s 100-percent loosely based on the 70s television show of the same name – or in more recent times, ‘The Snatch Game’ on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Our two contestants (chosen on the night from the audience) try to match with our celebrities in a simple word game. I love it because it’s all improvised chaos and it’s my job to steer the runaway ship.
Bl*nkety Bl*nks was a cultural phenomenon back in the 70s – what is it about this game-show format that lends itself so well to your performance?
Game shows are unpredictable and it’s how you cope with that unpredictability that makes for a good show. Virginia Trioli from ABC News Breakfast is always so poised but was an absolute scream as a panelist on DDBB. It’s the contestants who often get all flustered and give some interestingly weird answers and I love that.
Can you give us any hints as to which celebrity guests will be joining you on stage for the show?
We try to get people from all walks of life – butcher, baker, candlestick maker and more! I love ex-reality stars and politicians, or anyone willing to join in the fun.
Speaking of celebs, you’ve worked with some incredible artists over the course of your career – what has been your most gag-worthy star-struck moment to date?
I love meeting celebrities but I generally don’t get too star-struck, they’re just people like you and me at the end of the day – they get someone to put their trousers on one leg at a time. I absolutely loved meeting Carrie Fisher though, she was a formidable woman and I’m always impressed with that.
You’ve been a performer for many years and over that time the profile of drag has skyrocketed in popular culture thanks to shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race – what has been the most positive change that you’ve seen in the drag landscape?
I love Drag Race – it has it pros and cons (literally) but it doesn’t define the world of drag all of sudden. That world existed a long time ago and some of the younger queens need to remember that. It’s the same with all the other reality talent shows – it’s a fast track to success. Good luck to you if you ride the wave to stardom but for every sequin success there’s bound to be a nylon nightmare.
On the flip side, what is the most challenging aspect of your line of work?
I love my job and I try not to complain (publicly) too much. It’s not much fun performing when you’re ill though but I only ever cancel if my arms and legs are falling off.
As well as being a superstar of the stage and screen, you’ve loaned your face and name to a number of charitable organisations. How do these partnerships come about?
Over the years I’ve approached various organisations – I’m not one of those people who sit back and wait for the phone to ring, I never have been. You absolutely must give back in life though, so when Guide Dogs Victoria or Movember ask me to be an Ambassador I’m in there straight away, just after lunch or a cocktail hour!
MELT Festival has fostered a reputation as being a place to celebrate and embrace queer culture. What is one piece of advice you would pass on to the new generation of LGBTQI+ individuals growing up in the world today?
It’s so important to be yourself but not at the cost of anyone else. I’ve always had a big personality growing up and was desperate for everyone else to see and hear me. The wonderful thing about growing as a person is you’re often heard more if you stop shouting and try listening a bit more. Motto: never let the bastards get you down.
You can catch the inimitable Dolly Diamond when she helms her famous Dolly Di*mond’s Bl*nkety Bl*nks variety show on Saturday June 29 as part of MELT: Festival of Queer Arts and Culture at Brisbane Powerhouse.