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Courtney Act: “My first Mardi Gras”

As she prepares to dance the night away as we celebrate 40 years of Mardi Gras, Courtney Act reveals her low-key entry into the night that has made history

Performing as Courtney Act all over the world, she’s made a huge career in drag. But before breaking into public consciousness thanks to a stint on Australian Idol in 2003, just like many others Act was preparing to make a splash on a very different stage.

“I’d only just started to do drag and so I decided just a few hours before the parade I was going to go in drag,” Act tells Marie Claire.

“I went to Lincraft, I bought some fake plastic leaves, some hot glue and glitter and a nude G-string and bra and attached them all together. I put on some big hair and went as Eve – as in  Adam and Eve. And I had a wonderful night … although it’s safe to say I have very few memories of it!

“It was magical because Mardi Gras brings out a very diverse range of people. Obviously, everybody comes out to watch and celebrate the parade, but at the party afterwards it’s one of the few few times the queer community comes together and you can be in the same room as twinks and bears and lesbians and straight allies and drag queens and circuit boys. All different parts of the community celebrating together.”

Mardi Gras
Courtney Act at Mardi Gras in 2007 (Credit: Getty)

Not too many years after that first dizzying entrance, Act was asked to perform officially at the event in 2002.
“I was in a showcast called Diva-stated at the Midnight Shift club on Oxford Street with Ashley Streep and Vanity Fair,” she recalls. “We put on a show at the after-party at 4am. We had 40 dancers and made costumes. It was this huge epic production show and it was a lot of hard work, but it was really fun.”

Having been appointed the official Mardi Gras Ambassador three times, Act believes part of the parade’s continued importance is in recognising a unique – and momentous – part of Australian history and our culture. 

“Events like Mardi Gras really brings people together in the community. You get to learn a little bit about the 78ers who marched down Oxford St and up William St and were beaten and arrested by the police, you learn about these different icons of the community. And you also get to focus your attention outwards.

“While things are fabulous here in Australia and we have marriage equality now, there are queer people fighting for their lives in other parts of the world. So, it’s also a chance for us as a community to think, ‘How we can help other people who aren’t as fortunate as us?’”

Ann-Marie Calilhanna
Mardi Gras 2017 (Credit: Ann-Marie Calilhanna)

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