As an established queen on the scene, I have seen a lot of lip-syncing. Drag is such a referential culture and plays a vital role in educating the kids on the art that shaped our community, so I’ve seen the big showbiz classics done to death. But no one does it like Grace Shush. Although she’s still a young thing Grace’s drag gleams with old Hollywood and Broadway magic; with such a distinctive golden-era style, it’s difficult to see her without a powdery and sophisticated sepia filter.
I am personally always a fan of a drag artist with a strong point of view. They take command and bring you into their world, striking back against the narrative that a sexy cut crease bodysuit is all there is and quite honestly, this makes their drag far more exciting. Grace is one of these artists.
When I first saw them trot out on stage at The Glory’s infamous Lipsync 1000 in a housecoat they whipped off to reveal a 1950’s beaded gown, I knew they saw things from a different angle. Over the years we’ve got to know each other well; sharing a stage, travelling the world and at one time living together. I had the pleasure (and frankly honour) of being with them when they got their first set of acrylic nails and the change in them was palpable. Their trademark stylized moves got even more finesse and their glamour-infused gestures were infused with an added tension and delicacy.
However, the change to their body out of drag was even more interesting and, dare I say, important. As non-binaries (or comically known between us as ‘the fairy non-bio’s) we’ve discussed over the years how foggy it can feel to be in the middle of the gender spectrum but appear to inhabit one of its polarized ends, especially when the glamour of drag is stripped away. For anyone who exists outside of the gender binary, dysmorphia manifests itself in different ways and to different extremes. As a counter to these feelings, nails offer a vital source of visual femininity when the other trappings of drag are taken away, allowing us to subvert expectations and express the reality of ourselves at times when other markers of femininity are scarce. Not all trans people need, want, or have access to surgery and Grace and I know just how deep a sense of joy is given to us through our nails, a way of expressing ourselves to the world.
Having said this, everyone’s style manifests itself in different ways. So, how does someone like Grace, who has such a clear vision for their look, choose a nail from the contemporary beauty industry that fits their golden-era style? I caught up with Miss Shush to find out.
- Who is your nail art icon?
Barbara Streisand, she always said she wanted her hands to look longer and that’s something I look to nails for. The nails she chooses make her hands appear so long and lean, it changes the form of her body and heighten her movement. Her rule is to always match the colour of your nail with the palm of your hand, just a little lighter than your skin tone. I’m in good company cause Adele & Cynthia Erivo also follow the Streisand nail method.
- Does this icon impact any of your other work or aesthetics?
Barbara in Funny Girl was just so relatable to me when I was young, it has shaped a huge amount of who I am as a performer. She was so funny, but no one understood her and that’s how I felt. It was so inspiring to see her be so commanding. My favourite will always be when she points her hands and they look like talons, they just demand your attention.
- If you could design one of our nails, what would you choose?
I always have to have a stiletto, so long and feminine, probably with my name spelt on them. My first name is 5 letters and so’s my last name so it’s like it was meant to be. I mean I AM the greatest star!
- What is your favourite thing about wearing nails?
The feeling it gives me, elegant and sophisticated. The full glam outfit is only complete with the nails.
- Being non-binary, how do nails help express your gender identity?
If I see someone else with nails on it’s a nice signifier of similar energy. A subtle expression that I can control.
- What is your top nail beauty hack?
If you’re only wearing them for a short period, paint your nail before and prepare the nail first by using rubbing alcohol.
Now for our quick-fire questions: NAIL IT!
Coffin or Almond? Almond
Red or Nude? Nude
Single-use or Reusable? Reusable
Polished or Matte? Matte
Customised or Plain? Plain
Chipped or Pristine? Pristine
And from our collection -
#K or #H? #K
#D or #RB? #D
Written and Interviewed by
- Margo Marshall