- 15 May 20
Aaron Macdonald, AKA Faux Joli, has been carving out a reputation as the brightest young spark on the Irish drag scene. As it happens, the 19 year-old is pretty good at sewing too! By Kate Brayden
“My name is Aaron Macdonald, but in drag I am Faux Joli.”
Thus does the young star who, at just 19 years of age, is blazing a trail in Dublin’s drag world introduce herself.
Born and raised in the capital, Faux is currently on a gap year from fashion design in NCAD. Before lockdown she worked full-time in retail, but did drag twice or three times a week. Unlike many queens, her personality is pretty much the same in and out of drag.
“I am always laughing," Faux says. "I tend to never take anything too seriously. At the end of the day, I am a guy that plays dress-up and dances on stage, so if I wasn’t having a laugh doing it, I think there’d be something wrong!”
Having begun a general art course in NCAD two years ago, in 2019 Faux decided to specialise in Fashion Design. The drag artist had been teaching herself pattern-drafting and garment construction since 2017, so that she could create her own costumes. She had presumed the Fashion Design course would have a practical emphasis. Disappointingly, it is overly conceptual for Joli’s liking.
"I started designing through online tutorials,” she explains, "and it put me at a huge advantage when it came to working in college, because I knew a lot about sewing already. I am so bad at drawing and art, and my strengths are sewing and garment construction – so I was raging that the course involved so little sewing. After six weeks, all I had gotten the opportunity to make was a hideous calico skirt, so I decided to drop out!”
Faux was originally inspired to perform in drag after watching RuPaul’s Drag Race at the age of 14, obsessing in particular over Manila Luzon in Season 3.
“I watched each episode over and over again,” she recalls. “Then, when I was doing my Leaving Certificate in 2018, I began to teach myself how to sew. I got a super-cheap sewing machine and I would stay up all night watching tutorials and creating super-basic outfits. I practiced makeup and hair and I began to feel more confident with my look.”
Fellow drag queen Veda, who hosts ‘Witchy Wednesdays’ at The George, gave Faux a slot in her show on 20 June 2018, just five days after she finished her Leaving Cert. Everything took off from there. Two years later, the queen remains a professional artist on the Dublin scene. Faux has certainly grown up since walking on stage for the first time – but so has the art itself.
“I always cringe when I see photos of me in drag when I was starting out,” Faux says. “Though I felt stunning, I looked like a mess. All of the aspects of my drag have changed. My costumes are much more polished now compared to when I was starting out, and I have learned how to do my make-up properly. I have learnt a lot about wigs and styling hair. I’m always looking out for ways to evolve and change my look, so I can keep it fresh and polished.”
Aaron’s “boy style” is fairly simple. But he uses drag as a creative outlet, and Faux as a means of channeling both his designer skills and his love of women's fashion.
“Drag means everything to me! I have learnt so much about the nightlife industry through doing drag, and it has given me the opportunity to work alongside some of the queens I’ve been idolising since I was 15.
"I think fashion has become a bigger part of drag in recent years,” she adds. "Social media is now an important aspect of being a drag performer. In my opinion, queens now have to put a lot more time into their overall look to make an impression, especially because a lot of bookings are now done through Instagram and Facebook.”
As it turns out, Dublin and drag are a surprisingly good fit. The capital has been witnessing a steady increase in popularity for queen performers like Faux. Who else on the scene does she admire?
“I think Anziety would be one of the best up and coming queens in Dublin. She has brought out a side of drag that Dublin has never seen – androgynous and fashion-forward. She has amazing performance abilities and the creativity behind her makeup blows me away every time. She would definitely be my best friend on the drag scene here in Dublin, and she hosts a monthly R&B/disco party called SIS, which I have been working at since the very first night, in June 2019. That was my 19th birthday!”
Whether the emphasis is on alter-egos, otherworldly personae or just mirroring your own personality by switching to the other side of the conventional gender divide, a sense of escapism is undeniably a huge part of drag performance. Faux describes the feeling as a “release” from the stress and pressures of everyday life.
“It's like being able to change into a different person,” she explains. "I feel empowered when I am in drag because not only do I live to entertain, but I get to model and display my creations. The design side of my drag is my favourite aspect and I feel empowered when I get to wear my own creations. It's as if I change from a Kelly to Beyoncé. It’s like living in this fantasy world, like being a celebrity.
"Before starting drag I was always the loud crazy friend in the group and I was always doing crazy stuff for attention. I just really enjoy entertaining people.”
Faux has an interesting perspective on the fashion industry, especially in relation to inclusivity and sustainability.
“I would love to see more diversity in the models in the fashion industry,” she says."LGBT designers like Jeremy Scott, Christian Cowan and Marco Marco have been pushing transgender models and drag queen models to the forefront of their shows. As an audience member, I would much rather watch a fierce queen strutting down a runway and owning the stage, rather than watch the usual lineup of models (laughs)."
With fashion houses like Moschino now including drag queen models in their shows, Faux thinks it’s only a matter of time before other designers join in the fun.
“I am a huge supporter of sustainability in fashion – although with drag, I find it really hard to shop sustainably, especially because I make my own costumes.”
A lot of the boy-clothes Aaron wears are picked up in second-hand shops – but it is harder to find ‘pre-worn’ gear suitable for drag!
"I have a few things that I have gotten second hand, but I much prefer to buy fabric and make the look myself,” Faux says. "I would love to try and be more sustainable with my drag wardrobe, but I think it might be hard to find PVC catsuits and assless chaps in Oxfam!”
In the future, Faux hopes to open her own online costume store, specialising in dance wear and drag queen essentials. It’s a business that might even work in lockdown!
“Over the next while, I want to further my tailoring and pattern-drafting skills, so I can continue to do custom designs for both myself and other entertainers,” she says. But my goal is to move to Brooklyn, where I will find a balance of both designing and performing in drag. There are endless opportunities in New York, and I have dreamed of living there for years – so once I am 21 in June 2021, I hope to be able to move over.
“I really want to develop my career as a drag artist. The feeling I get when I'm on stage is like no other.”
Feature image credit: Rebecca Fahey