The Edit

‘Why Drag?’ An Interview with Photographer Magnus Hastings

Why Drag? Photographs by Magnus Hastings, Foreword by Boy George. Published by Chronicle Books.

‘Why Drag?’
Photographs by Magnus Hastings, foreword by Boy George
Published by Chronicle Books

Recently, we held a super glamorous drag event at our flagship, Beak Street store for the Carnaby Style GQ event. We had a fantastic evening and throughout the night we were also running a competition to win a signed copy of ‘Why Drag?.’ This is a new photographic series by the widely respected Magnus Hastings, a renowned Photographer within the drag world. There is barely a drag artist on the planet who hasn’t heard of, admired or met Magnus and he loves it. We couldn’t resist taking 10 minutes of Magnus’ time to ask him some questions about his fascinating career and life.

Hi Magnus, we cannot keep our hands or eyes off your new ‘Why Drag?’ book – We’re hooked on your work! Starting with the start of your book, how did it come around that Boy George would write the foreword for your book?

I was booked to shoot George for a cover a few years ago and he then asked me to shoot some press shots for him and we just enjoyed working with each other. I asked him then if he would , when I finally did my drag book that I had in my head, write the foreword. And he agreed! Then a couple of years later I emailed him about the project and true to his word he sent me back the complete foreword within a week. I am very grateful to George. He was also my first experience of res blurred gender lines and this book is very much about that, it’s not just men in women clothes.

You appeared as a guest Celebrity Photographer on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, how does it feel to be the go-to Photographer on the drag scene in many peoples eyes?

It’s always nice to be recognized for what you do.. and I really put my heart and soul into my drag work.. so the answer is it feels great!

You must have seen some very awe inspiring make-up creations in your career, is there any make-up techniques that you have witnessed that you could share with us? After all, some of the best make-up techniques originated from the drag scene!

Well you have Mathu Anderson’s ombre brows that all the girls do now. There was a lot of that very cut cheek contour happening with the younger queens especially in Chicago, Trixie Mattel does an exaggerated version of that. It is always exciting when someone arrives with some incredible creation on their face or emerges from my hotel bathroom or wherever I am shooting… drag is so much fun.. why do you think I shoot it!

Your career has prospered and stems from a personal experience from when you were a child, do you have any other aspirations that you would like to achieve?

I didn’t aspire to be a drag photographer, I just can’t help myself, it’s a world I totally understand and feel at home in. I always say I am a participant not an observer. I shoot from within if that makes sense. Working the way I have on this book is my favourite way. It’s all down to me , I answer to no one, no client or boss and thats the way I like it… so I want to be able to keep doing what I do the way I want to.

Why Drag?

©Magnus Hastings – Trixie Mattel and Kim Chi

Magnus Hastings

©Magnus Hastings

“Drag queens are like fancy chocolates, you have to break through the tough outer shell to reveal the creamy soft centre, and once you do they are delicious!”

Why Drag?

©Magnus Hastings – Bianca Del Rio

Why Drag?

©Magnus Hastings – Maddelynn Hatter

If you were to step into a pair of stilettos yourself, what would your drag name be?

Hmm , I have a few it’s my favourite game, but I forget them as fast as I think them up. There is Lazy Susan after a trip to Mykonos! Amber Lynn because it makes something historical and grand sound like trailer trash so it makes me laugh, and my current favourite Dolores Always-Open

The drag world has come on leaps and bounds with the likes of Ru Paul’s Drag Race storming the globe. Have you noticed a shift in attitudes towards drag acts in recent years?

I kind of think drag is saving the bar scene which has been decimated by Grindr and scruff etc. But people come out to see drag shows and it make the night more of an event sometimes. I mean don’t get me wrong; bad or sloppy drag shows are the worst and really boring but when its good its completely magical.

You must have met hundreds of vivacious, sassy and beautiful drag queens, is there anyone who really stands out in your memory and why?

HA! Loads of them of course .. I live my life in a sea of drag queens, it’s easier to pinpoint the lifeless ones. That being said Courtney Act, who graces the cover of Why Drag, has been my friend and muse for years and I adore her, Bianca del Rio is a super funny class act who has been very good to me , Lady Bunny is hysterical, Maddelynn Hatter is a crazy fabulous friend, Glamamore is a legend and an amazing soul and person ,but drag queens are like fancy chocolates, you have to break through the tough outer shell to reveal the creamy soft centre, and once you do they are delicious!

Is there anyone that you would really love to get your hands on to photograph?

Without blowing my own trumpet if i want to get my hands on someone in drag world I can usually make that happen.. there are a few I missed out on getting into the book because of scheduling conflicts and also there are new exciting queens popping up. but there is one queen in LA who I failed to shoot called Glen Alen and she is just the most incredible make up artist and has such imagination.. we will shoot soon for sure but i wish she was in the book.

Thank you so much for your time Magnus, here at Illamasqua we are huge fans and will be watching your work.

Thank you 🙂

– Magnus Hastings

Why Drag?

This book is definitely a coffee table stable here at Illamasqua – We love it. If you love all things drag, are a Ru Paul fan or appreciate colour intense photography, this is the book for you.

You can purchase Magnus’ book ‘Why Drag?’ at Chronicle Books now.

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‘Why Drag?’
Photographs by Magnus Hastings, foreword by Boy George
Published by Chronicle Books


Govinder Rayt

Govinder Rayt

Writer and expert