Robyn Withawhy gets sassy!
Illustration Tales of Black Eyed Jack
Hi, I’m Robyn; I’m a drag queen who lives in East London, but I come from Essex, probably the sassiest place on earth.
How would you define sassiness?
Essex, as you probably know, has a bit of a reputation. There’s something magical about the sexually confident, strong and powerful women that our county produces – they define sassiness. Growing up there, I found myself obsessed and in admiration of them. I define as queer, but I’d say I mostly fancy women. I’d see women walking down the street, hair bigger than my wigs now, oozing sex appeal and self confidence. I didn’t know if I wanted to snog them or be them. In the end, I chose both.
Do you think there is a duality with sassiness and masculinity?
I don’t think there has to be – my male wardrobe is often as fabulous as my female one; it’s just different. I’ve got tartan suits, mustard suits, even a pink pinstripe short suit. It’s definitely harder to channel your inner sassiness as a guy, but I think it’s thoroughly possible. The tragedy isthat boys are funnelled into a world of homogeneity – just look at shoe shops: women get the choice of so many shapes and colours; boys often onlyget the option between black or brown shoes. Male culture is often so fearful of stepping outside of the norm, and so judging of those who do. It’s a tragedy really. You see so many guys afraid of their own sexuality, pushing down any difference within themselves in order to fit in. I think breaking the cycle of toxic masculinity is one of the most important things we need to do as a society.
Who is more sassy, your male or female counterpart?
I think my female persona is definitely more sassy, not least because she’s often fuelled by Jack Daniels and coke. I joke sometimes that jack and coke is the magic potion that helps me summon Robyn Withawhy up to earth from hell and allows her to take over my body. I mean, obviously whether I present as Robin with an I, or Robyn with a Y, it’s all me. But Robyn is definitely a bit more of a handful.
Tell us your best sassy story.
Sink The Pink was once booked for a gig in Birmingham; five of us piled into a car one Friday night and drove up from London after work. About 20 minutes away from the venue, they called up and asked if we wanted to soundcheck for our show, which we thought was weird as mostly we just run a club and dance around while one of us plays trash pop – no real sound check required. We turned up at the venue, were led to lovely changing rooms, and got in our looks. Just before we were due on, I asked to have a peek at the space. Opening the door, I saw that there was a 200-seat auditorium with eager punters waiting for the Sink The Pink show, not the club space we were expecting.Freaking out a little as we didn’t really have “a show”, we decided to kick it off with me doing a number. I do a lip-sync to Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, which involves me stripping off completely down to a tuck job (and it’s a convincing tuck). We figured that anyone who stayed after that would “get us”. So we strolled in, chins held high; I called them all down from their chairs and proceeded to get stark naked while lip-syncingmy heart out. About half a dozen people stormed out and demanded their money back; the rest stayed dancing with us until they closed for the night.
How and when did you get into drag?
I’ve been cross-dressing since I was a little boy, pretending I was too sick for school, then dressing up and prancing around the house on my own. I’ve always embraced my feminine side and have always loved dressing up.So when I moved to London, I started hosting parties in drag, and it developed into a lovely side career for me.
Where do you see yourself and drag culture in 10 years’ time?
In 10 years’ time, I’ll be 50 years old! So I imagine I’ll probably still be spinning around the pole-dancing poles at Savage wearing far too little and having the time of my life. I think drag is at a really interesting place right now. Lots of lines are being blurred and barriers pushed down; “traditional drag” is being eaten up by a rise in all sorts of exciting gender performance. The fact that my friend Georgie Bee (a female drag queen) won the Miss Sink The Pink crown last year just goes to show that. The future feels very uncharted, and that’s nice.On the flip side, I think drag’s also very on-trend at the moment; there has to be an inevitable crash coming around the corner. RuPaul’s Drag Race is on Netflix, and it’s discussed around the water cooler in offices all over the country. Julie from accounts talks about “throwing shade”, and every mother fucker is trying to contour their make-up. I think I’m looking forward to drag culture going back to dirty basement clubs again.
How did you get involved with Sink The Pink?
I’d been along to a couple of Sink The Pink parties and loved them. I missed a couple and noticed in the photos on Facebook that they’d managed to get a
pole-dancing pole as a prop. I’d already been taking pole lessons and was pretty good, so excitedly I messaged Amy & Glyn (who run it) asking if they’d let me have a go on the pole. The next thing I know, it’s years later, and I’m thoroughly embedded in the STP family.
Talk us through the process of coming up and creating a costume.
Robyn Withawhy is a bit of a rock bitch, a JD-fuelled, fetish-loving, pole-dancing, filthy rock bitch from hell. So whatever I create to wear usually comes with a healthy dose of latex, fishnet, and leather. The outfits that I make are usually part of a bigger story, a little fantasy that I’ve cooked up in my head. I started making a load of Photoshop collages recently which try to paint out the wider scenario that my outfits are a part of. So, for example, when we had a “Church of Sink the Pink”, I thought to myself, ‘Imagine if Robyn found herself trapped in the body of a nun,with all of my kinks battling against her desire to remain pure, the wonderful filth bursting through into her outfit as she eventually succumbs to temptation’. So, I created a thigh-booted latex nun, where my entire clothing was nothing more than black electrical tape wrapped around me trying to confine me.