King Sammy Silver is a London, UK-based drag king and YouTube personality serving sass, sex, and surrealness across multiple social media platforms. We sat down with him to learn a bit more about performance, sexuality, and doing drag as a non-binary individual.
Ennis F.W.: Sammy, you realize meeting you at the Austin International Drag Festival changed my life.
Sammy Silver: I hope in a good way?
EFW: In the best possible way! So first, tell me about you (the drag king), you (the artist), and how those two identities overlap.
SS: Ok, maybe a bit of a long winded answer, but here we go. So when I first started drag I created Sammy – a sassier, more confident, more carefree character than me – Sammy was someone who I wanted to be rather than who I actually was.
However, over time I have found my true identity and the character of Sammy are really now blending into one – my sensitivity, my more concerned side as an artist has definitely projected onto Sammy. For example, Sammy did do a lot of big show numbers – just something to entertain a crowd and get them pumped, but now I have been creating acts with Sammy that have a lot more to do with my life outside of drag such as Sammy trying for an interview, Sammy dealing with heartbreak, Sammy goes dating, et cetera.
EFW: It’s interesting how when you first start, you have this big idea of your persona as something separate from yourself but the longer you do it, the more it dials back towards who you are as a person.
SS: Exactly! And alongside discovering that I’m not a cis-woman, drag helped me A LOT when it came to dealing with my gender and body dysphoria.
EFW: Interesting. How do you mean?
SS: Well, all my life deep down I’ve known I am not a woman despite having a biological female body. When starting drag it was very much of ‘Yes, I am a woman dressing up as a man’ because that’s what everybody else seemed to think it was so I just went along with it although I knew that description did not fit me.
It was through drag that I discovered terms like non-binary, gender queer, etc. For a long time, I really did hate my body– of course I still dislike it to an extent– but when first starting drag I was in quite a bad state because it was bringing up lots of things about my gender identity that had been pushing down for such a long time. But meeting like-minded people and people who also identified with these terms through drag made me feel a lot more comfortable.
EFW: That’s awesome. How did you get your start doing drag?
SS: I had played about with drag at various parties at Uni and it was a friend who was putting on a feminist cabaret and she asked me to perform in it in drag. I quickly cobbled up together a song about biphobia (which I still perform every now and again) and I’m glad to say it went down a storm.
EFW: That’s right! You write your own songs, correct?
SS: Yes. I love writing lyrics. I find it’s good way to process thoughts and express yourself. I tried a bit of stand up comedy once, never could quite hack it. I find I tend to be a lot funnier and wittier through my lyric writing.
EFW: So which of your numbers– song, dance, or otherwise– are you most well-known for?
SS: I think a lot of people know for my song about biphobia, my robot routing (which I am performing this week at Bristol Burlesque Festival and super excited) is also becoming quite a popular one.
Whenever I go to gigs and people have seen me before they usually ask, ‘Sammy are you doing your bisexual song? Are you doing your robot routine?’ Which of course is lovely to hear and nice to know your work is appreciated but I always try and be creating new acts, gotta keep things fresh.
EFW: Is the robot one the one I saw you do the Saturday of AIDF?
SS: YES! The very one!
EFW: Oh my God, that number was EVERYTHING.
SS: Thank you! I do thoroughly enjoy performing it! I don’t bother working out in the day when I know I’m performing that one, it’s certainly a great cardio workout! Hehe.
EFW: Obviously, you’re already a great dancer. What are your goals for yourself as you continue to develop as a drag king?
SS: Thank you! I do love dancing, but there are A LOT of things I want to improve on. I really want to do some more break dancing in my acts. I’m teaching myself various things from video tutorials at the moment, I would to be able to do the turtle spin and the downrock. I know I haven’t mentioned the videos I do yet, but I want to keep creating them, keep making people laugh. I know this may sound a bit of a silly dream to have but I would LOVE to make it big on YouTube!
EFW: Why is that silly? I think that counts as being an international celebrity.
SS: I say silly because I know it’s a very small chance to go viral with so many people out there putting new content up, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just gotta keep on working hard, focus on your goal and not be afraid to sometimes take risks. But yes to be internationally known would be pretty cool!
EFW: Alright, last question. What advice do you have for new and upcoming kings?
SS: There are gonna a lot of people who are ready to tell you that drag is this and drag is that, my best advice is to NOT LISTEN TO THOSE PEOPLE! I strongly believe drag is what you make it, drag is an art form and can be interpreted in many different ways. There are gonna be elitists who think drag needs all these rules, and it really doesn’t, if you wanna perform something and you wanna look a certain way, then go ahead and do it because that’s the beauty of drag. I’ve seen so much variety within this world and it never gets boring.
Adding to that whatever your gender identity you can still do drag. I’ve been told quite a few times that I can’t be a drag king identifying as non-binary but yes I bloody well can. So can you!