As one of the most widely known names to enter the Drag Race Down Under workroom, high expectations were set for Karen From Finance from both the fandom and her fellow competitors. Cracking the Top Four on the first season of the Down Under arm of the Drag Race franchise has positioned Karen for global domination. She has released a brand new single and video, and is prepping her tour Out Of Office the moment traveling is able to happen. We caught up to discuss her Drag Race Down Under experience, her unique perspective on drag in Australia vs. the United States, and what we can expect differently from this beloved performer post Drag Race.
Michael Cook: You were one of the most buzzed about queens to be cast on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, and many people knew you as a personality and a performer. What do you think it is about you as a performer that has made you so globally popular?
Karen From Finance: I think that people are always looking for something new, exciting, and difference in drag. When the blandness of the name “Karen From Finance” came along, it was something that people had not really heard before and they were really excited by it, so that was really cool and fun.
MC: When Drag Race Down Under came calling, was it immediate that you decided to do it? Or was it something you really had to mull over?
KFF: We heard whispers of Drag Race Down Under for years. Only very recently did it get real. I um’d and ah’d for a long time to see if it is something that I would do, but I settled on the fact that there was no chance in hell that I would ever say no, of course I would do it. Dare I say, the legend of Karen From Finance is sometimes just a name, rather than a full realized drag character. A lot of people just know the name and nothing else to do with her. It was a good opportunity to show the world who I am, as well as the person and drag behind the name. It is also a great personal opportunity for growth and an experience like no other. Of course I was going to do Drag Race, I could not wait.
MC: What do you think you leave the Drag Race Down Under experience with that you did not walk in with?
KFF: Everyone kind of goes into Drag Race thinking that it is the time to showcase their best drag, but it’s really not about that. It’s about RuPaul taking you out of your comfort zone and creating some vulnerability in you putting you in circumstances where you have to think on your feet. I think that is something that is really important for me to take away from Drag Race. I am such a control freak, and love having control over Karen From Finance’s output if you will; because she is such a character, and so different to the person that I am in my everyday life. I think my takeaway from Drag Race is maybe finding a way to insert a little more Richard into the character of Karen From Finance and maybe myself more vulnerable through the character rather than replacing her is really important, and I am looking forward to doing that in my upcoming projects.
MC: So many of your castmates knew each other and were friends in one way or another have told me that the country might be large, but the drag scene is small. What was that like?
KFF: They are right to say that. It is a huge country, I will include New Zealand in that, it is a huge area of the world but a really small scene. It is not necessarily that we are friends..no shade (laughs)….it is just a very new concept for drag queens of our ilk to be able to travel around and work in other cities and meet each other; its a very fresh thing. We are all excited by what we do and we are all on a level where we can similarly do that.
Being able to go into Drag Race with some of the Sydney girls like Maxi Shield, she is my drag icon. When I want wigs made or costumes made, I send reference photos of Maxi Shield. To be able to be in the workroom on Drag Race with someone like her is just so much fun. Someone like JoJo Zahou, she and I have known each other and worked together for a couple of years, but never in such a tight format like Drag Race. Doing something like that with her was just so cool. I actually could not not imagine going in and doing it and not knowing the girls already, I think that would be a much different experience.
MC:You have performed significantly in the United States and have relationships and are admired by many performers here as well. Is there anyone that might have given you some advice on how to tackle Drag Race from their perspective?
KFF: Not as much as you might think. I think what I can share is probably the common thread that was shared to me before I went in, and that was just to have fun. it was to forget everything, leave your ego at the door, and just go in there and have fun and make the most of every experience that is offered to you there. There is some other advice that I would have preferred to have gotten (laughs), but it was some good advice nonetheless.
MC: You probably know drag outside of Australia and New Zealand arguably more so than anyone in your cast. What do you think is the starkest difference between drag down under and drag in the States?
KFF: I think that it is not to say that drag in the states is not like this, but in Australia it is extremely referential. It’s like when you go to a dinner party and someone is dropping names and making “in” jokes and you find it very frustrating, I think that is what watching Drag Race Down Under was for the rest of the world. Drag Down Under is extremely referential; it is very camp, it is very silly, it is very fun. We get a lot more kicks out of more the campery than the glamour sort of thing.
MC: The world is finally opening up, and you are finally able to start planning the next phase of your career. What do you want to do post Drag Race Down Under?
KFF: Well, ever since I got home from Drag Race Down Under, I have hit the ground running. I’ve got a really fun camp and video out called ‘Out Of Office’, I am about to announced a huge tour around Australia and New Zealand of my one woman show, also called Out Of Office which is very exciting, I cannot wait to bring that to the world when the world opens up. I’m already deep inside working only my follow up show which I will be touring with next year. I have lots coming out, lots of cool stuff to work on. Once this world opens up, I cannot wait to get out there and see everyone, I miss it!
MC: Now that we are emerging and going back into the world, what do you think the lesson is that you are taking back into the world that you have learned during this time?
KFF: I think that this is probably something that I have always done but that I am focusing on more now as I write during the lockdown. I like to instill a form of hope and escapism in my performances. I want the fantasy to not just be within me and the fantasy that I am performing, but I want it to be within the audience also; If it is a one-hour show, I want them to be transported. I think including hope and escapism in that transportation is going to be more important than ever. I think that is something that people can expect when they come to my shows. And I hope that they get a real kick and some real enjoyment out of it.
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