Meet The Queen
The reigning matriarch at the Imperial Hotel Erskineville, Farren Heit is our first Meet the Queen feature where we get to know some of the many Imperial drag performers who make our venue so special!! Many of us call her the Queen Mother, with two generations of drag children beneath her and many, many, many years of stories in the history of Australian drag.
Farren with her wider drag family.
L-R: with Polly Petrie, with Dammit Janet and Ruby Slippers, with Krystal Kleer
What is your drag name and what is it inspired by?
My name is Miss Farren Heit, some people think it’s because of the temperature – but it’s actually the name of my favourite aftershave by Christian Dior!
How long have you been doing drag for?
No! Not going to answer that question (pause) Alright, I’ve been doing drag for about twenty *cough* that many years. Twenty something years. THAT will do.
Farren in her earlier days, looking glam AF
Did you always have ambitions of becoming a professional drag performer?
For me it was one of those things where I stumbled into it, doing Polly’s Follies one night – and if you’re anyone [in the Sydney drag scene] you’ll know who Polly is.
From there I started having fun with, but my flatmate started doing drag at the same time and called in sick for a few shows. I filled in and it all started from there.
Some of Farrens show posters from the 2000s.
L-R: the Imperial Priscilla show, Eat Your Greens and the award winning Lie Back and Think of England.
What do you think has changed from when you started drag to now?
The biggest thing that has changed is the style of drag. Back in my day it was more showgirl inspired – think Priscilla [Queen of the Desert]. Nowadays it’s very creative, people just keep coming out with new things, new ideas and rocking it!
Who are three legendary Sydney queens people should know about?
That’s a tough one. I would say Mitzi Mackintosh – she’s the one who got me the job here at The Imperial Erskineville, for fourteen years of my life.
I would say Carlotta, she was a trailblazer, one of the originals Les Girls and is still so important in the Sydney scene. I would also put Polly Petrie in there. She’s a grand old dame, she was the one who gave me the first chance to do drag and I know a lot of drag queens have started with her.
Imperial Drag Show “Crisco Disco” poster, Farren (centre) with Mitzi and Wyness
What would be your favourite song to perform?
At the moment it’s a version of “Freedom” by George Michael but I used to love doing “Alone by Heart”.
What’s the future like for Farren?
I’m an old school queen – I like to keep my look the way it is. I think I would look silly trying to catch up with some of the younger girls so I stick to what I know. I like the way I do my drag, and I think there’s room for every type of drag and that includes mine. I’m just going to keep finding new numbers and go from there.
What makes the Imperial such a special place for drag?
Back in the day Dawn O’Donnell bought the venue and created a safe space for our community and drag, where everyone could be who they wanted to. Through the years that’s continued and the way I see the Imperial is – no matter who you are, you’re always welcome here. Just leave your attitude at the door and have a good time.
After Priscilla made the hotel what it is, I was doing shows here for thirteen years. The new owners have kept the soul of the venue and kept the space open for people queer, gay, trans, up, down, left, right – whatever. You’re welcome here. I’ve always felt welcome here and I love what I do.
You can catch Farren Heit in venue and on stage: Fridays 10.30pm/11.30pm/12.30am and Sundays from 7pm!
Q&A by Oliver Levi-Malouf