viva labang

rainbow activist

when viva labang enters the room all eyes fixate upon the her. not just because she’s the belle of the ball, nor that her makeup beckons a bygone era, but because labang packs a political punch few can fathom. she’s simply the hottest drag activist on the block…

sydney-based labang fights injustice: perched at the front of the protest march, founding the rainbow army and on the anti-coal seam gas picket line. and all the while labang never misses a beat on the fashion side, rocking stunning frocks, glamorously applying lippy and giving everyone within reach the darndest eye-candy experience they’ve had in who knows how long.
interview with i.t.a.

check the viva labang fashion shoot

viva, oh my heart’s all a-flutter speaking with you. i often wonder how you manage such glowing style, while at the same time taking such a hardline activist stance. welcome to powder.

Thank you for having me, and I'm very lucky, I have an amazing team of minions to help me, as well as fantastic advisers that I would be lost without, but even with help it's not easy, it's forever a struggle to balance Work, Activism as well as family and personal life and still find time to get ready, I continuously feel like I am neglecting something.

so let me see, of late you’ve been out in the countryside protesting the use of coal seam gas. can you tell us um, laypeople a little about this. what’s the problem with coal seam gas? and where have you been protesting?

So far I have protested in Sydney and on the front lines at Gloucester, but I'm very interested in going to other communities to help fight this. The reason I have been protesting is because I was seeing so much about it and like everybody else I had no idea what it was so I researched it, I watched a film about it called Fractured Country on YouTube and what I saw scared me so much I immediately got involved in fighting it. Most simplest explanation I can give to CSG is that Coal seam gas is an unconventional gas found much deeper in the ground, they use Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking to extract the gas. The process involves a high pressured injection of sand, water and chemicals into the coal seam gas well. The problem is there is so much risk of contaminating local water supplies, it's a common occurrence that happens where these frack sites are located, there is a range of toxins, some which are carcinogenic. They get into water sources and contaminate the vegetation so animals such as cows eating it become contaminated. We drink the water or eat the animals or vegetables and they make us sick. In towns where this is taking place, people are become majorly sick, children and the elderly are most venerable. In Narribri for example, a water aquifer was contaminated with uranium. Santos were fined a piddling $1500 for this but an elderly woman protesting them doing this was fined much more. Governments and the gas cartels are only interested in the money they can make from it, but financial benefits from the employment, mining royalties and the export of coal seam gas must be offset against the damage to agriculture, food exports, tourism, soil, water and air quality, and human health and well-being.

and aside from coal seam gas, what other three political issues do you think are most pertinent at present?

Equality, Social Justice and Welfare, and most important is the amount of corruption we have been seeing lately. People have lost all faith in the system. I feel like the ICAC should just investigate every politician.

you’ve got a special place in your heart for the current prime minister of australia, tony abbott. if you had a few moments to sit down with him over a drink, just what would you say?

For the love of all that is decent in the world please buy a pair of board shorts! A tee shirt would be nice to, there is nothing worse then tuning on the TV in the morning and seeing him in his speedos. No really, I would probably ask why he is allowing the gas cartels to turn this country in to the next Qatar.

reverend fred nile, he’s another you have an affinity for. in fact, you’ve been having some run ins with him (and his wife) over the last couple of years. for those powder readers who aren’t clued in to who the reverend is, what’s your beef with him? and what have been the highlights of the run ins?

Now Fred is the one that I really do want to sit down and talk to, and with all the actions I have held against him I have never come face to face with him. Fred Nile for those that don't know is the longest serving NSW MP. He is the head of the Christian Democratic Party and he is a Sexist, Racist, Homophobic Bigot! My beef with him is that he represents the fact that there is no separation between church and state. I worry about what effect his hateful words have on our LGBT youth. He currently serves as Assistant President of the New South Wales Legislative Council, as well as many other Parliamentary committees. This is the crackpot that comes to Mardi Gras every year to pray for rain and is responsible for making decisions that affect the governing of the state.

Highlights of the run-ins so far are his wedding, where my partner and I turned up with a group of activists. We completely shattered his argument against marriage equality then staged a wedding demonstration in front the church. My other favourite action was his 80th birthday/33rd anniversary of being in parliament. He had cops waiting for us when we got there then snuck through a back entrance to avoid us. I have another action against him this week I'm hoping I get the chance to talk to him this time.

you founded the rainbow army. what are you all about? and what are you fighting for?

We believe in equality for all, but we are mostly fighting for LGBTQI issues. We have two aspects we work on. We believe that homophobia kills and queer pride saves lives. We fight all forms homophobia and bigotry, plus we promote pride and encourage all to be proud of who they are and in the tradition of Marcia P. Johnston and the Stonewall Riots, we have Drag Queens Leading everything we do.

the army was founded in honour of cameron vella aka wildcat, can you tell us a bit about who he was?

Cam was a male dancer and choreographer. He was dance captain in my show. Like so many other LGBT youth he was bullied through school and found himself homeless at 16. He started an organisation called the Rainbow Brigade to help others going through the same thing, but like so many others, Cam suffered with depression and he took his own life at the age of 21. I think about it all the time, he had so much talent and so much potential, as well as having the most beautiful soul. You just looked at him and he made you smile. He could have gone so far. That’s why I formed the army. I was inspired to finish Cam's work for him. He inspired me so much. I often feel like he is guiding us.

in august, the rainbow army headed down to melbourne to protest the world congress of families. just who are they? and how’d the protest go?

The World Congress of Freaks as we have come to call it, is an American right-wing Christian hate group. They’re against abortion. They praised Putin when Russia brought in the LGBT propaganda laws. Just hateful people really. They spoke in Melbourne, and the action held against them was grassroots coordination at its finest. Venues kept pulling out of hosting the event. All the politicians that were booked to speak started to cancel, till finally the only speaker they had was Fred Nile, and the only venue they could get was a church in an outskirts industrial estate. I didn't get to make the protest myself, I slept in and when I finally got there it was all over, but my team was there and I was so impressed with how the day went. Every group involved with organising did an amazing job, everybody knew what they had to do and did it. One of the Rainbow Army people there was responsible for glitter bombing a photographer thinking he was a bigot. Somehow that photo turned into she glitter bombed Fred Nile. That’s still on the to-do list, and Heronymous Posch became my personal hero with the stunt she pulled on the day.

on a highbrow note, just which political philosophers have influenced you? and how would you describe your brand of politics?

Does John Lennon count as a political philosopher? If you excuse the punt, I've kind of been dragged into it but I have never really studied politics. I’ve learned things as I’ve gone and continue to learn as I go. I guess I'm still building my brand. I just do my thing to help. I have learned to be a good spokesperson and I use that skill to help causes I support whenever I can.

and a bit more daintily, in your opinion, is it mac or napoleon?

Well I'm a make-up junkie so if you look in my kit you will find a bit of every brand, but I do prefer Mac over Napoleon.

as a drag performer, who are your major influences? and who should we keep an eye out for on the scene at present?

Major influences to me are Trixie Laumonte, Pandora Box, Lady Bunny, RuPaul. I love queens that have done more than just drag but have actually taken it further. When I was just starting out in drag I saw Pauline Pantsdown. She showed me there was more to drag then just drag. I saw that I could use drag to make a difference. I was lucky enough to have her help me with the action at Nile's birthday. It was so good to see she lived up to the image I had come to idolise. Same thing with Trixie she is exactly what I expected her to be. I have so much respect for Trixie Laumonte she paved the way for all of us. As for queens to watch, Madani Tranny has talent to boot and I am just in love with Felicity Frockaccino. They’re defiantly my two to keep a eye on.

and what’s a night like out with viva labang? where are your favourite haunts and what’s the poison for you?

Well it normally starts with waiting an hour or two for me to finish getting ready, and I must confess I don't get to go out as much as I would like… but it normally starts at an event or fundraiser, after that its usually on to Oxford street, Stonewall and Arq, although I live for the shock horror of drag, so quite often you find me hanging out at Star Bar, the Metro or anywhere I can cause a commotion in the city. My poison, as much as I love a good cocktail, it's tequila and coke for me.

labang, you’re certainly one of the most delectable characters we’ve had to speak with here at powder. we’ll be paying you a nod at the next day of action… solidarity sister!

Looking forward to it and thank you.

like the house of labang

like the rainbow army