Working For The Weekend: With Paige Frewer of Man Up

By Maya-Roisin Slater
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

VANCOUVER — Hot on the heels of a suburban childhood, Paige Frewer took their first cautious steps out of the sleepy municipality of Ladner in the messy-tender period of life we call early twenties. Frewer had started working at a now defunct queer nightclub in downtown Vancouver called Lick. With the room at their disposal they decided to throw a party for their 22nd birthday. It was this party that would introduce Frewer to Ponyboy, the drag king persona they’ve been performing under ever since. “I didn’t know much about the queer performance scene, much less about drag kings, but I knew I wanted to have a show, so the manager connected me to a local king and bar regular named Sammy Tomato to help me organize it.” Sniffing out potential like all good mentors do, Tomato dared Frewer to perform in the show as their very own drag king. “It was a challenge that I accepted and kept a secret from all my guests, including my girlfriend at the time,” notes Frewer. A surprise party that’s never ended, Frewer’s journey with drag has continued since that day. Now an event producer and performer under the name Ponyboy, Frewer has played an important role in developing safe and fun spaces where gender is irrelevant and dressing to the nines is necessary. Frewer’s main event is hosted monthly at the Cobalt, a drag king showcase by the name of “Man Up!” While the restrictions of society continue on their path of categorizing us as outsiders and insiders, Frewer rebels in glitter, taking all who will dance with them.

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Photo: Sarah Whitlam

BeatRoute: What does the day before a show look like for you, do you have a routine as you get into character?

PF: Lots of Snapchatting about how I’m so swamped with show prep that I don’t have time for anything.

BR: What is your favourite part about performing?

PF: Getting to be outrageously and unapologetically queer, and being celebrated for it. And in so doing, inspiring others to be fabulous and proud too.

BR: Do you have different music you like to listen to when you’re Paige versus when you’re Ponyboy? If so what are your respective faves?

PF: I can usually be found listening to R&B, hip-hop, psych, or synthy indie. Ponyboy’s faves are ’80s dance pop and glam rock, and late oughts Top 40.

BR: What is the most challenging part of your job producing events?

PF: Time management and saying no.

BR: How has the drag king scene in Vancouver evolved since you first got involved?

PF: Where to begin! Some of the highlights, of what I’ve observed or been a part of anyway, were the revitalization of the king scene (soon after my birthday show at Lick, Sammy Tomato and I started Man Up), the growth of drag that performs gender across a broader gender spectrum than simply masculine or feminine, and the increase in opportunities for new performers to get introductory gigs (such as Man Up’s Amateur Hour on July 24 at the Cobalt!).

BR: What’s the most important thing your years producing events for and performing as a drag king taught you?

PF: I’ve learned there are a lot of queer people who don’t necessarily feel safe in queer spaces, and that many forms of oppression (racism, misogyny, ableism, and transphobia, to name a few) are in fact perpetuated in queer communities. I’ve learned that unless you’re actively working to understand your privilege, center the voices of marginalized people, listen to feedback and implement recommendations, you can’t really call your event a safe space.

Join Ponyboy on July 24 at the Cobalt for Man Up.

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