RuPaul’s Drag Race UK: North East queens fighting for crown

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All three finalists in RuPaul’s Drag Race are from the North East

It is almost time. Tonight we find out the winner of series five of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.

North-east England already has a reason to celebrate though – all three finalists are from the region.

Ginger Johnson, from County Durham, Tomara Thomas, from Hartlepool, and Michael Marouli, from Newcastle, are all battling it out for the crown.

“It’s the most amazing representation of the North East because we are so different,” Michael said.

Inspired by North East women

The region’s sense of humour – as well as its women – have inspired the queens.

Lanchester’s Ginger Johnson has said the North East is the “cornerstone” of Ginger’s character.

The 34-year-old got into drag after writing, and starring in, a radio play that was based on an older woman from the region.

Ginger, who uses he/him pronouns out of drag, said: “She is absolutely based on the women that ran the Red Cross shop in my village, the woman that ran the newspaper shop, the dinner ladies at school, all of these women that were around me, and of course, the women in my family as well.”

The character of Ginger Johnson has been inspired by North East women

He added: “When I came to London and I’d come from the North East, that became a bit of a cornerstone of who Ginger was… because it set me apart from everybody else.”

During drama school, Ginger was forced to lose his accent because he was told he would “never get a job”.

“And now I spend my entire professional life putting on the accent that was beaten out of me,” he said.

Tomara Thomas was encouraged by his dance teacher

Tomara Thomas hails from Hartlepool and describes the town as supportive.

“If you are successful, in whatever it is, people are going to be behind you,” Tomara said.

Tomara started doing drag as part of dance competitions at the age of 14.

The 25-year-old, who uses he/him pronouns out of drag, said his dance teacher encouraged him to try it and gave him the name Tomara.

“My dance teacher really did open my eyes to drag because my dance teacher was like, you would be such a fabulous drag queen and I was like, really?,” he said.

He was successful but stopped doing drag while going to stage school and working as a professional dancer on cruise ships.

It all changed during lockdown when he moved back to Hartlepool and started experimenting with different make-up looks.

“I’ve only been doing drag for two years now,” Tomara said.

“It’s crazy because it’s all happened. It’s just meant to be, I feel.”

‘Fell in love’

Newcastle’s Michael Marouli, 39, started doing drag at the age of 22 after seeing a show for the first time during a holiday in Gran Canaria.

“I was like, what? There is a world where people get paid to do this and be who you are? I just fell in love and never looked back,” Michael said.

It led to 17 years living and performing on the Spanish island, with a homecoming gig becoming a goal.

Michael, who uses he/him pronouns out of drag, said: “I’ve always been proud to be a Geordie and to fly the flag. I just think we have that inherent, daft humour.”

He added: “We’re very patriotic in Newcastle as well. We like to see our own doing well.”

Michael Marouli discovered drag on a holiday to Gran Canaria

Getting to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race alongside two other queens from the North East was “so nice”, Michael said.

“It’s the most amazing representation of the North East because we are so different and we’ve each got our own thing.

“But we’re all so confident and so happy in who we are as people, that it’s just magic.

“That’s the beauty of the North East – it’s different, something for everybody.”

The final of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is on BBC Three at 21:00 GMT on Thursday 30 November, and on iPlayer afterwards.

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28 September