The school and teenage years can be a daunting time for many, but for east Hull-born Regina, the years of relentless bullying left him awkwardly shy and with poor mental health.
After being bullied for “being different”, Regina took to musical theatre to overcome his shyness and to eventually pursue something he was passionate about – drag.
Now, the Hull local – who goes by the name of Regina Sparkles – performs as a vivacious, outgoing and bubbly character throughout Yorkshire.
The performer began pursuing drag as a career in 2017 after securing a business mentor from The Prince’s Trust.
Since then, Regina Sparkles has worked full-time in Hull, Leeds and Manchester and regularly attends LGBT+ events in Yorkshire to help spread the message that it’s OK to be you.
But, it hasn’t always been so smooth sailing for the 7ft drag queen.
‘People think it’s OK to grab my boobs or bum – it isn’t’
“I get a lot of people grabbing me by the boobs or the bum and they think it’s appropriate to do things like that,” says Regina.
Regina isn’t the first drag queen to experience sexual assault either, or harassment, but the issue often goes unnoticed outside the community.
“I had a really nerve-racking experience at an event. A person came over and said, ‘you’re really sexy’ and you know, you just play along a little bit but I knew not to cross the barrier.
“But, then they said lets go have sex. I kept on saying no, I don’t want to but they just kept on questioning me, even after I said I was engaged.
“Then, they grabbed me on my shoulder, near my neck. He said, ‘if you don’t come with me, I’ll beat you up’.
“I pushed him out the way and just had to excuse myself from the rest of the night. It was the worst experience I’ve ever had.”
Unfortunately, Regina says some people feel entitled to touch him inappropriately because of the provocative shows – but stresses there is no correlation between the two.
“Just because we’re in drag, it shouldn’t change things. We need respect just as much as other people.”
‘I am who I am’
Regina initially started dressing in drag at the age of 18, when he would dress up for fun for nights out with his friends.
The passion for drag came out of doing performing arts at college, and he still involves musical theatre within his drag shows.
But when he first decided to dress in drag, he says his new character wasn’t understood by several people close to him.
“I don’t know if it’s a generation thing, there’s people out there who just don’t understand it.
“When I first started doing drag, my mum was a bit worried. She thought maybe I was going to transition into becoming a woman but I told her it’s just a character. It’s just a persona that I wanted to pursue. And, that’s all it is.
“My folks sometimes don’t like me being feminine, but I think it’s just more my acting side that comes out. I am who I am.”
Now, Regina’s mum is described as his biggest support and the drag queen says sometimes it just takes time for people to come round.
“It took them a while to come round to it, but when I started doing Pride and getting money through performing, then they realised how much I enjoyed doing it and that it was going somewhere.
“My mum is my biggest supporter. She goes around with me everywhere and watches me perform.”
When asked what advice he would give to people interested in drag, Regina says: “I think it’s surrounding yourself with other drag queens, or just people who are quite accepting.
“Tell close friends and just wean them in and explain it to them. Show them photos. We’re in the 21st century, 2019, everyone should be able to be who they want to be and do what they want to do.”
Regina also praises the support of his closest friends Charlotte and Jo and other half Eddie, suggesting that their support has allowed him to be his true self.
“My friends love it [Regina Sparkles],” he said.
‘My friends knew I was gay before I did’
Before starting drag, the well-loved performer came out to those close to him as being gay. Thankfully, he instantly received support from family and friends who just ‘got him’.
“They knew before I did,” he confesses.
Now, Regina has frequented many Pride events throughout Yorkshire and says a highlight was performing at Pride in Hull this year.
“I performed in the parade and I taught several women from a charity close to my heart a dance and we all performed together,” he said.
“When everyone was getting ready, I was getting my face on, I just started crying. I got really emotional about it all.”
When speaking later about LGBT issues, Regina finishes our conversation by saying, “I just don’t understand the world, when it comes to wars and fights over LGBT right. It should just be easy and simple. It’s 2019.”
Follow all the latest news by Sophie Atkinson
Sophie Atkinson is a community reporter for Hull Live and the Hull Daily Mail. She is responsible for covering news in the east Hull area.
You can also call her on 01482 315 235 or email [email protected]
Follow Hull Live
Our daily newsletter – To get the latest headlines direct to your email inbox every day, click here .
Follow Hull Live on Facebook – Like our Facebook page to get the latest news in your feed and join in the lively discussions in the comments. Click here to give it a like!
Follow us on Twitter – For breaking news and the latest stories, click here to follow Hull Live on Twitter.
Follow us on Instagram – On the Hull Live Instagram page we share gorgeous pictures of our stunning city – and if you tag us in your posts, we could repost your picture on our page! We also put the latest news in our Instagram Stories. Click here to follow Hull Live on Instagram.
- ‘Kinky Boots’ spurs drag queens in China to walk tall
- ‘Drag Queens’ Boycott Library to Block Feminist’s Free Speech
- With books and jewels, drag queens teach children tolerance
- What the queen of drag queens can’t travel without
- Library’s ‘Drag Queen Story Time’ postponed indefinitely
- Netflix faces conservative backlash for upcoming superhero drag queen show, with nearly 20,000 signing a petition against it
- Thai drag queens hope new TV show brings LGBT acceptance
- Donald Trump once stuck his face into Rudy Giuliani’s chest for a drag-queen comedy skit — and the video refuses to die
- Drag queen to be star performer at Brazil’s Carnival samba parade
- Marvel Comics’ newest mutant is a drag queen with a folding fan