Spotlight: Yshee Black



GURL:  Introduction challenge: describe yourself in exactly 20 words?

Yshee: Yshee Black is Loud, passionate, caring and always knows how to create a loving, energetic space and she’s #bookedandblessed! YAAAS!

GURL: That hashtag is slightly sus as one word….but we’ll let you off 😉

GURL: Where does your passion for drag originate from?

Yshee: My passion for drag comes from the arts, I’ve always been a performer, director and loved telling and listening to stories, especially queer stories. I’ve never wanted to be a drag queen, I wanted to be an actor/performer so falling into drag for the first 2 years was ‘fun’ but it wasn’t a career choice or anything I wanted to stick with.

I say drag chose me and it didn’t let go. It has all the elements of performance that I love and what I trained for, but the world we live in (even the creative world) doesn’t recognise drag as the art form it is. Which is why it’s never seen as a career choice so I didn’t think it would be for me.

GURL: I think we can say that everyone is very glad you stuck with the drag and pushed forward as a fabulous performer. Drag may be a tough world, but it’s so fun and brings joy to many people.

GURL: Your name suggests there’s an element of political drive, is that right? 

Yshee: My name is 100% bigger than I thought it would be, it originally came from me wanting a comedy name, as a small child I always asked the question “WHY” to everything, and the sentence “Why is she” came to mind instantly and then Black just made sense & the name Yshee Black was born.

It wasn’t until a few years into drag that it clicked that the name means a lot more, it’s not only political, it’s a reference to black people who don’t have western names, I’ve been called many different names such as IShee or YeeShee and I’ve had to learn how to correct people which is something I have never experienced in my life as my muggle name is James. So, I stand in solidarity to the brown and black faces with names that aren’t western to fit in.

When white people say my name it can make them uncomfortable which is what I love, and the political stance is there in that uncomfortableness, and hopefully it can open up a conversation.

GURL: It’s a fantastic choice of name for many reasons and it’s one that is being increasingly recognised!

GURL: How has your experience been since the Black Lives Matter movement started to rightfully become bigger? 

Yshee: It says a lot about the fact that since Black Lives Matter I’ve experienced a lot of work, I turn to my POC (mainly black) performers who have lots of work since, that says to me 99% of the people managing and controlling the work given to POC performers have been white and that only since their eyes have been opened even wider have they felt the pressing need to have us on line up and look at diversity of their lines up, something others and I who look like me have been fighting for. I’m proud to say I made connections, hustled and networked before the movement and I’m happy to have the work after the movement, but I make it clear that I won’t be used as a token for anyone.

GURL: The progression is something we are very happy to see ourselves too, though it may take some polishing around the edges, the increased inclusion and exposure for POC performers is welcomed. Couldn’t agree more though that it needs to be done regularly and not just a token gesture to avoid controversy.

GURL: Are you part of a drag family?

Yshee: I’m not part of a drag family but I do count the Birmingham Scene as my family, the scene is small and 90% of the acts started to grow and flourish around 2017. We all work the same events, in the same bars and supported each other from the start.

GURL: You’re a bit of a legend in the UK (and beyond), do you have any goals in mind to become an even bigger name in drag?

Yshee: Thank you, that’s a hard question because we live in a world where drag race is such a big goal and I’d be honoured to be part of the family one day as I’m such a big fan and UK drag race is ICONIC! My passion has always been in theatre and performance, if I’m able to merge my drag with theatre and sustain my life I’ll be very happy. Until then I’m going to hustle, jig, jive and shake my tambourine around the UK and further!

GURL: It’s almost a given that you’d end up being fan favourite at the very least should you end up on the old race of drag. Already picturing the iconic entrance with you in an embellished fruit hat shaking your tambourine for the masses.

GURL: What is your favourite kind of performance to do?

Yshee: I am a lipsync performer through and through, I’m able to put spoken word, comedy, horror, drama from any TV/Film/Radio source which is what I love, alongside the music I love, Stromzy to Patti Lupone, house to trap music, Solange to Linkin Park and of course gospel music.

GURL: We’ll absolutely take a Patti Lupone into Linkin Park moment with a shot of spoken word please.

GURL: Which of your looks do you feel represents you best?

Yshee: I am known for my church looks, tambourine in hand, large church hat but personally I’m still developing my look and my identity. I’ve never been a fashion girl because all the items I love come off a runway and I’m broke but I’m learning what works on my body and how I can best serve it.

GURL: It’s a look you pull off very well and let’s be honest, money ain’t everything, sewing skills are a winner.

GURL: Is there a specific track you’re dying to perform on stage?

Yshee: Before lockdown I had an entire 70’s/80’s disco performance I was working on, with costume changes, backing dancers the lot, so when I can get out of lockdown that’s the first performance I’ll be doing on a big stage!

GURL: Give us a random fact about yourself?

Yshee: Every year in school I would make a new catchphrase and say it nearly everyday until It got embedded into my years vocabulary.

GURL: That is fantastic, might have to start doing that ourselves…..

GURL: What has been your top Netflix binge during lockdown?

Yshee: Grace and Frankie has got me THROUGH it. I am Frankie and my flatmate is Grace, we love to hate each other.

GURL: Putting that straight on our watch-list for when we’re finished Superstore and the 300th re-watch of drag race!

GURL: Lastly, which 3 fellow artists would you like to shout out? 

Yshee: Dahliah Rivers – My super talented flat mate!
Black Peppa – The future of drag and current winner of my lipsync competition.
Mama Mamba – She is body beautiful, queen of the burlesque scene in Birmingham. EVERYTHING.

GURL: Thank you for the fabulous recommendations <3

Now why don’t you go follow Yshee over on Instagram

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