The latest in our series of interviews about personal uniforms and what we wear took us down a slightly different path when we met the fabulous Precious, aka Josh Masson. Josh started as a drag performer only in January, but since then has built up a following and wowed audiences at Her Upstairs in Camden. We met Josh to chat about what both he and Precious like to wear and how their individual styles are portrayed.
Hi Josh! Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
Hi! well, where do I start! I’ve studied and worked in menswear design for most of my life, the most recent being Tommy Hilfigers headquarters in Amsterdam. I usually sit at a Mac and play on Illustrator or Photoshop for the most part. However, I’ve recently had a career change and started doing drag, born from the desire to step out from behind the computer and get back to being more hands on with my creativity. I’ve been learning make-up and started performing. My go-to is comedy, but I’m dipping my dainty toes in many waters right now. I enjoy interacting with people and taking a little weight off their day for a few moments and the joy of drag is that the reaction is instant; I don’t have to wait a year until I see the final product for sale, I am the product, I guess I’m for sale!
Let’s start with Josh. What does he tend to wear?
Probably high-waisted trousers and a t-shirt or a sweat shirt with dungarees. I’m very consistent.
What type of clothes does Precious wear?
When creating Precious I wanted to take reference from the traditional style of drag: the Dames we used to see growing up and then mix that with my knowledge of fashion. I’ll always love a rhinestone, a feather and sequins but I like clean silhouettes. I like the idea of my hair, make-up and even shoes being more of a runway inspiration, but then decorating that with quintessential drag additions to add that level of sparkle and appeal when on stage, I also love a suit when I’m in drag, I think theres something really strong visually about a drag queen in a suit. I always said my dream in life is to wear nothing but Gucci in and out of drag but I know that will never happen! I am a drag queen, though, so I think being a little delusional is important.
So how was Precious born?
I only started drag back in January this year, so I’m still a very new queen. In all honesty, Precious was born from depression (I had a pretty rough 2016) and I felt like I was lacking creativity in my work life and joy in my personal life. After years of repressing parts of myself to fit in, I felt vacant and like I had lost myself. Precious was a way to reintroduce those traits of camp, humour and femininity: the traits that make me unique and that make me and others smile. They are the traits that make me… Precious, and that’s really how the name came about. Since January I’ve been doing all I can to conjure up a reaction from an audience, she’s my therapist so her goal is to make you feel something, usually that something is laughter. The other side to my drag is trying my best to curate quality content online (@thatpreciousqueen) and hopefully one day that’ll lead to reintroducing myself back into the fashion world. I’m taking my time with drag, its an art form that I love and I’m very dedicated, but for me it’s never been about how many likes or how many gigs you get, its about producing something authentic and to a high quality standard. Who knows what I’ll end up doing!
Does what you do out of drag influence your personal ‘uniform’?
Being in design for so long certainly has an effect. I don’t personally follow trends and I’ve always very much marched to the beat of my own drum, but I have a big knowledge of construction and fabric now, so its hard not to fall into that production set of mind when buying. When I buy things nowadays to wear whether I’m in or out of drag I often start by thinking of the piece I want and then the type of fabric I’m looking for. I also look for anything that has an interesting colour or with unique trims; I guess I have a very menswear mindset in that respect.
Where do you shop? Where does Precious shop?
As Josh I’m a savvy online shopper, if I can get a discount code I bloody will! I also find online shopping has more options than where I live. As much as I love London, slugging myself around the shops for a t-shirt and some trousers doesn’t really appeal to me. I do have an appreciation for designer, but for now I mainly shop online at places like Weekday or ASOS. When it comes to Precious I’ll find an outfit wherever you put me: charity shops, online, custom made by my own hands: it doesn’t really matter to me. I would have to say 90% of anything I buy, I will embellish or customise myself, because its hard to find clothing to fit my body how I’d like it to or that will work on stage the way it needs to. I’m not the most petite person either so I’ve never been a queen to rock some fishnets and tape with nothing else! I have corsets, underwear, tights and stretch marks to conceal so I am very much a make-do-and-mend queen.
How has your personal style changed over the years?
You name it, I’ve tried it. I use to be an emo when I was young, then I went through that awkward transition phase of being an edgy kid into mainstream fashion. That was a rough patch: studded belts and sweat bands don’t look cute with bootleg jeans and polo shirts. When I started university I loved tailoring and would wear a suit or shirt with smart trousers practically every day! The mere thought of even wearing jeans was not for me, but as the years have passed I’ve moved into this stage of wanting to be comfortable over anything and finding a balance between tailoring and wearing fun, sporty pieces. I’m a big fan of dungarees, sweatshirts and boiler suits right now. I think the ease and comfort really appeals to me most. I tend to buy my clothing now firstly looking at the fabrics, followed by colour and print. I’ve also tried to buy the things I need rather than the things I want; I think this comes from having to buy for two people.
The drag scene in London is booming. What do you make of it?
I love it, everywhere you go there’s a new queen popping up on the scene and I think that’s wonderful! Hell, I’m a new queen popping up so I can’t say anything. Drag has always been a part of British culture, but the popularity of shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race has opened peoples’ minds to drag. In the UK pre-Drag Race, it was hard to sell lip-syncing as an art or talent, which is why most girls did comedy or sang live. Now people are willing to give all forms of drag a chance and I think that can only be a good thing. Do I think some people do drag for the wrong reasons sometimes? Yes, it shouldn’t be a fad or trend, and it shouldn’t be done with hopes to be famous or on TV. I also think its important to have a little knowledge and history, not just of general drag but also specifically British drag (because we have a history of British drag). As long as you’re passionate about what you do, and you take the time and effort then I’m all for it. I’ve never understood the concept of jealousy regarding others success; if what you curate is authentic and original to you then nobody will take your opportunities because you’ll be the only one able to fill them!
Who do you admire or take inspiration from for Precious?
If we’re talking my personal inspirations, then Joan Rivers and Don Rickles will always be up there: harsh and comedic roasts have always been my favourite style of performance. I also love Jennifer Coolidge, and fashion icons like Iris Apfel.
Who do you admire on the drag scene?
If we’re talking Local drag, I have to start by giving a shoutout to meth (@MetheDragQueen), one of the best known names on the scene. Her Upstairs in Camden gave me my first platform to perform. The resident girls there are also great: Ruby Wednesday, (@mxrubywednesday) a PHENOMENAL performer, Tayce (@tayceszuraradix) an up and coming super star, truly mesmerising. Herr, (@herrthequeen) who is goofy, adorable and hilarious. Cheryl Hole (@cherylholequeen) my longest surviving friend, that in itself is an art.
Two of my favourite queens are Myra Dubois (@myradubois), a working class superhero of drag, a wit quicker than potentially any queen in England and as someone who loves comedy, I love that. And Pi the Mime (@pi_luttley) a mime artist who has the ability to make you scream and cry without giving you the option, one of my favourite performers. There are so many but I feel like these gals are a good place to start!
For more info or to contact Josh/Precious, visit his Instagram page.