Australian Diva Courtney Act (aka Shane Jenek) is taking the United States by storm. We get the scoop on everything Drag Race!
LifeStyle YOU chats to Drag Race star (and series 6 finalist) Courtney Act on the phone from L.A - and gets all the behind the scenes gossip and news.
Hi Courtney! How are you?
I'm good thanks!
How does being a drag star in the U.S compare to being a drag star in Australia? What made you make the move to the U.S?
There’s a lot more opportunity here in America. LA is the entertainment capital of the world and there is so much television being made here. I was about to turn 30 and I thought 'what am I going to do for the next 10 years, will I do more of the same thing?'. So I came to America and I just thought it was a really great opportunity to challenge myself and take what I do to the next level.
How did you go about getting onto RuPaul’s Drag Race? Had you watched the previous shows?
I’ve seen every episode of every season and I’m friends with lots of the girls from the show. I auditioned for season 5, but they said my Visa wasn’t valid for the rules of their competition. In season 6 they actually changed the rules and allowed girls with working Visas to be on the show. When I got accepted it was kind of a 'pinch myself' moment because it’s one thing when you grow up in America and you're already around it all… but to be a little boy from Brisbane Australia in front of RuPaul and in front of the world, it’s a pretty amazing and cool experience.
Did you get any advice from any previous contestants?
There were lots of tips and pointers from some of my friends that were very helpful, but it was pretty much what I expected. Being on the show and recording it was so much fun. Drag is my passion and I love performing so I got to do what I love doing for over 12 weeks and at such a high level. It was everything I hoped for and more - I had such a great time recording the show!
How did you feel about the way you were portrayed on the show? I know you were subjected to quite a bit of backlash on social media from the American public.
You know it’s challenging because we’re making a ‘reality’ TV show, and I definitely did say all those things... (pauses).. but it wasn’t all that I said. Often what gets omitted tells the biggest part of the story. There were some moments that were edited that were a little bit… look, I think my blunt Australian honesty came across as being mean and was misconstrued on the show. At no time was I ever intending to be mean! Thankfully the Australian public know the real me and hopefully my 14 years of entertaining in Australia will stand for something when they watch the show.
I’ve always done my best to not be a bitchy Drag Queen. I like to lift people up and not put them down and I think it was honestly my Australian sense of humour because there were other queens on the show who were bitchy. Bianca is just a brilliant comic and she would say things that were horrible but everybody would be rolling around with laughter because Americans have a very different sense of humour.
What was it like meeting RuPaul for the first time?
When Ru walks into the room, you can feel his presence. We first met him as a man and he was just so tall, handsome and striking. He had this energy and you kind of realise why RuPaul is so renowned around the world. He’s a pretty amazing person.
What’s your favourite RuPaul song? We’re kind of obsessed with Sissy That Walk lately...
Sissy That Walk is really good! Every week that was our runway song. And so over a year ago we started hearing it, so whenever I hear that I’m just taken back to that runway.
When you perform as Courtney Act out of the show do you like to sing live? Do you find it hard to lip sync seeing as you have such a singing background?
Yeah well I don’t lip sync at all. It was nerve racking when it came to the lip sync live on the show. I didn’t want to ruin it for anybody. I always sing live. And somebody was like maybe you should just lip sync, the microphone isn’t that good. It’s not that I don’t think I can lip sync but I just don’t do that. It’s kind of like asking… I don’t know what it’s like asking. But I don’t lip sync I only sing live.
And apart from being on RuPaul’s Drag Race, what was one of the highlights since moving to America?
Umm… there are lots of really cool people hanging around! I just love the atmosphere in LA.
You were also in a Lady Gaga lyric video clip?
Yeah for the lyric video ‘Applause’. Hanging out with Grace Jones in her hotel room in Chateau Marmont was also amazing. It’s funny how normal it is in LA to see these massive celebrities just walking amongst us. It’s pretty cool... superficial, but it’s cool.
Now I want to throwback to the early Courtney days - do you have fond memories of your first single (Rub Me Wrong - 2003) that you released straight after Australian Idol?
I remember closer to the time I looked back and thought ‘oh God’ because I was young and I didn’t quite know exactly who I was. I had a record company who was giving me their opinion about stuff and I kind of wasn’t completely happy with the product in the end so I cringed for a while. But now I look back at it and I love it and I realise it’s just a lot of fun. People seem to really love it.
Are you going to be doing more music?
Yeah, I’ve been writing an album actually and working with some really cool people. So that’s going to be coming out later in the year.
Can't wait! Now, we love beauty and fashion here at LifeStyle YOU, do you have any beauty or makeup secrets or tips you can share with us mere mortals?
Well one thing I learnt living over here, I used to use this eyebrow plastic thing to cover down my boy eyebrows so I could paint on the pretty girl ones. But I learnt everyone's using a glue stick now, it’s so simple and easy. There was nothing worse than arriving in the city and realising I had forgot my eyebrow wax but now, if I've forgotten my glue stick I can just pop down to the news agent and buy a new one.
What are your favourite beauty products as Courtney and what are your favourite beauty products as Shane?
I love coconut oil. I use it to moisturise and gloss up my skin before I go on stage and I also use it to take off my makeup. Most drag queens use baby oil which is not very good for you at all because its petroleum based. So I use coconut oil which is really natural. Drag makeup is a little more industrial than your regular makeup so using coconut oil will leave you clean as a whistle. It's my universal tip for Shane and Courtney!
What’s next for Courtney Act?
My next stage is taking all that exposure from Drag Race and turning it into a career. I’ve got the music, I’ve got my live show ‘Boys Like Me’ which I’ve toured around the U.S and I’ll be bringing back to Australia. I'm doing a 6 week season of that in New York over the summer, which is really exciting. It’s on 42nd street, which is pretty cool, just off Broadway and I'll just keep on doing live shows and all the other opportunities that come along the way. I’m just making the most of every minute of it.
To learn more about Courtney's upcoming events, visit courtneyact.com