Nothing drag about ‘showgirl’ Constantina

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Cabaret performer Kamahi Djordon King… “I sing live and I don’t play pubs. I want my character to be respected.”  Photo: Martin Ollman

“I’M a showgirl, not a drag queen,” says cabaret performer Kamahi Djordon King.

Determined to show Canberrans “who Australia’s real queen is on the Queen’s Birthday weekend”, he’ll be appearing at Tuggeranong Arts Centre in the persona of the singing artiste, Constantina Bush.

Like his alter-ego Constantina, he’s from Katherine in the NT.

“Constantina entertains audiences in song and dance, with comic songs about her life’s adventures in Katherine prior to moving to the city,” he says.

“Adventures like falling in love with an army guy from Melbourne who’s up in the territory for the Intervention… Constantina follows him to Melbourne looking for love.”

“I don’t go over the top about politics, but I don’t mind putting the boot into the Intervention, what it really was… I’m not just a pretty face.”

Far from it. He’s also a visual artist and while here, Djordon King will be presenting a free painting workshop in which he’ll take participants through his self-devised process of masking out areas with latex and working in negative to create works on canvas.

He also creates his own version of the camp dog sculptures initially made famous by Aurukun artists. “The camp dogs sell like hot cakes,” he says.

Studying in Perth in the Aboriginal Music Theatre Training Program, he later graduated in the first batch from Brisbane’s Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts. He played straight roles for years, including a stint playing The Fool in Malthouse Theatre’s indigenous remake of “King Lear” at the Barbican, London, during 2015 for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The transition to Constantina was somewhat accidental, he says. In 2008, someone asked him if he was interested in auditioning for a drag show and in a “why not?” moment, he did.

“But I was really bad… then I tried once again, this time singing live, she sang live instead of lip syncing and they loved it.”

Constantina, the leggy babe from the bush, was born.

Now she performs annually at “Outblack” in Melbourne, and has toured with Moira Finucane from Finucane & Smith’s burlesque variety shows.

“When it comes to being outrageous and tackling stereotypes of indigenous Australians, he says: “There are things you can’t say but as the naive Constantina Bush, you can get away with stuff”, such as talking about race and her Chinese boyfriend while clad in a sequined, sexy Aboriginal flag.

“I’m a showgirl, not a drag queen,” he says.

“I’m more like Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage.

“Because I’m gay, people think I’m a drag queen, but actually I’m a showgirl. I sing live and I don’t play pubs. I want my character to be respected.”

Kamahi Djordon King, free painting workshop, June 6, Hughes Community Centre (registrations essential). “Bush Reflections”, Tuggeranong Arts Centre, Friday, June 7. Bookings for both to tuggeranongarts.com or 6293 1443.

 

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Helen Musa
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