I interviewed Alfie Dry, second-year student and the performer behind the Oxford-based drag act, Miss Take, as part of our LGBTQ+ history month collection. Miss Take has been performing in Oxford since Trinity ‘21, and I was excited to find out more about the Oxford drag scene, how Alfie became a part of it, and what it means to be a drag artist today.
How did you come to start this Journey?
My first exposure to drag, like many of my generation, was [RuPaul’s] Drag Race. it’s such a lovable show – but once you have that initial attraction, it’s important to explore further. Luckily my mum was growing up in London in the… I was about to say the sixties! [Laughing] She’d kill me for that! She was growing up in the seventies and eighties, and she knew the Vauxhaul Tavern, so she taught me more about the drag scene.
My school – I went to a very Catholic school – had a talent show every year, and I thought, why not do a drag show there? I told my mum, and we thought – since it was for a school talent show – we’d create this irreverent, sultry teacher. Big, blonde; strict, but slightly bimbo. You normally address teachers as Mrs or Miss – and more words begin with ‘Miss’ than ‘Mrs’ – so after ‘Miss Chief’ and ‘Miss Behave’… at the same time we said, “Miss Take” and it was like, “Ding!”. It got to the day of the talent show, and the deputy head came up to me and said, “Absolutely not.”. Straight guys had gone up in dresses in a mock-funny way, but the moment it was queer expression they were like, “Satan shall smite thee!”. A big palaver, but that’s how it started, and that’s the story I told the first time I performed in drag – as me – in London.
What would you say are the most fun parts of what you do?
My biggest thing in drag is to make people laugh. When you hit a lovely rhythm with your comedy – literally, if it’s poetry – that connection with the audience is gorgeous. It’s where my tagline – “Love who you are, but love me more” – comes from. I want to give people confidence, but I want them to laugh at my jokes too! Really, the whole thing is a joy. It’s a remarkable art form I’d encourage everyone to try.
And the most difficult parts?
The most difficult part, far and away, was learning to do makeup. It still is! I have my routine, I put music on – more often than not it’s Donna Summer on repeat. Sometimes, something will go slightly wrong, a dress will feel slightly weird, and I’ll freak. Like, “I can’t do the show!”. In that moment, whoever’s with me is always great, but I’ve started to prefer getting in drag alone, because I have those mini-panics and then I’m fine. When I first started, it was the eyelashes! I’d put it directly on my eye, burn it with the glue, take it off, put it on my eyeliner, smudge my eyeliner… Now I can put on an eyelash in my sleep.
[We both laugh at the somewhat oxymoronic nature of this claim.]
There’s such a high standard now, from what we see on social media. Back in the day you’d have that gorgeous, ‘end of the pier’ drag – “Rouge, rouge, blue, blue, go!”. I love it, and I actually wish it was still the aesthetic people leaned towards, but now there’s a big expectation to look a certain way. I don’t think there should be that box. I like to have the big look, and the sculpted face, but I really respect queens who don’t. Fitting expectations can be the hardest bit.
Another thing – I don’t know if this is hard, per se, but what’s interesting – is that in drag, you feel super confident, and you can take on the world, and then afterwards you suddenly feel like that’s not the case anymore. But you still can! Deep down you are the same person. Learning to extrapolate the confidence and the fire that you have in drag into everyday life is a really important thing to do, and that’s something RuPaul has spoken on.
How long does it take you to get ready physically, and also into the right mindset?
It’s always the physical aspect first – when I started out it took me six hours (and I’d look horrendous at the end of it!). The quickest I’ve ever put my face on was an hour, but really, it’s about two hours for my face, and an hour for all my accoutrements.
As for the mindset, I feel that fantasy with the wig. I’d feel it putting one on right now! Growing up, I always loved the swish, and I still love the expression you can show with hair. A flick: you’re annoyed. A twirl round: you’re aroused…
But I don’t feel as though I’m truly in-character until I’m on the stage. But people have an instant reaction to drag queens in a way they don’t with many performers, because there is a magic to it – though they’re lauded and loved, there’s still a rebellion to it. You’re still sticking your fingers up to society and celebrating queer culture. When people are cheering, they’re not just cheering you – they’re cheering for queer love. And I love that.
Are there any performances as Miss Take that really stand out for you?
The show that comes to mind was Miss Take’s big debut, at the Oxford Union in May of last year. My family and friends came, big names of the Oxford drama scene were in the audience… I wanted to impress them. There’s always this moment, just before I hear, “Welcome to the stage… Miss Take!” But in that moment, I’m not Miss Take! I’m me, and it’s terrifying. But then I walk out – bam – applause – holding clipboard, hair, waving, and suddenly I am Miss Take. That show, my first big “Can I do it?”, went better than I could’ve hoped.
You mention the impact of family at your first show, and the people you hoped to impress – does the audience affect the way you perform?
I will always give the best show I can, because you never know who in the audience needs it at that moment. I’ve been in a low place at times, as we all have – and when I watch a drag show, a queen will say something, or even hit a beat just right – and it lifts you. So I would never be flippant about a show. Also, at the end of the day, I have a name to represent. You never know who’s watching – to be more Machiavellian about it – with an eye for other opportunities. I could never give less.
That said, with my family around I’m slightly more nervous than usual. They’re the most supportive people in the world, but they’re also the people whose opinions I care about the most. And they’re all f***king talented performers! I might also change how I perform depending on the setting – in Plush, I don’t do stand-up comedy – it’s a nightclub! But the people in the room don’t change the energy I give.
Do you have a vision for the future of you, drag and Miss Take?
It’s always fun to experience momentum, and I definitely am. More opportunities are coming my way and I’m very grateful for that. I’d love to get to bigger and bigger stages, reach more people, spread the love – for other people and for me – and I don’t mind what form that takes. One thing’s for sure, I want Miss Take to continue to spread her legs across this globe!
I started drag with the intention of going onto Drag Race, and if I got a call tomorrow, saying, “We want you on,” I’d love to. But I no longer think it should be defined as the pinnacle of drag. Drag Race may give you more exposure, but we need to remember our roots. We need to remember what it is about drag we love. Drag Race is a competition. Drag can be competitive – it makes for a great television show – but drag is also about community, and lifting each other. I’ve experienced that here; I’m friends with Rusty Kate and Felicity Suxwell, and they could not be more supportive. They were there for my first Plush show, they lifted me up and made sure I felt comfortable.
I do big, campy comedy, and I’ll always keep that element, but I want to add – pun intended – a lesson. Something thought-provoking. I was listening to Running up that Hill by Kate Bush, and I was thinking, it would be so beautiful to tell a story with this in drag! To entertain, but to inform. I want to show that drag is fun, and it’s funny, and it should be a big celebration, always! But also to remind people where it’s come from: who we’re remembering, and who we still hato Running up that Hill byve to support. Not everyone gets the same love as – if we’re honest – white, cis, male drag queens. I want to experiment and bring emotion into it in a different way.
So do I have a definitive plan of where I see Miss Take going? No. But I’ll keep on pushing her to whatever limits I can reach. I’m very grateful for a lot of what life has thrown at me, when it comes to drag, and I’m excited for the future! Just remember my most important lesson: “Love who you are, but love me more”.
For updates, show dates and for more information, find Miss Take on Instagram @misstakeofficial