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Bailey j mills 99 drag queen TikTok

Meme queen Bailey J. Mills is the breakout star of the digital drag era

TextDino Bonacic

The campy TikToker known for the belly laughing mix of drag and comedy talks about their early beginnings, beauty inspirations, and why they want to represent misfits everywhere

When RuPaul yelled at Joe Black for wearing H&M on the main stage of Drag Race UK a few weeks ago, the LGBTQ+ community echoed in distress. What’s wrong with high-street drag? Why didn’t Ru yell at some of the other queens for being boring and unfunny? Was she angry at the effects the high street has on the environment? When did she become such a bitch? While they might not have the answers to these questions, Bailey J. Mills is an answer within themselves. 

Hailing from Lincolnshire, the multi-talented performer is best known for their viral TikToks capturing the essence of bizarre British humour through the medium of drag and dressing up. Bailey first got the mass attention back in October when they uploaded a video of them paying a taxi fare while dressed up for a night out, completed with a Louis Vuitton Speedy bag and a harsh brown bob. The catchphrase ‘Laura, I’m paying,’ has now been heard around the world. The inexplicably funny video that just feels so familiar to anyone who’s shared a taxi now counts over 1.5 million views. Ever since, videos of Bailey embodying a rich arsenal of colourful personas with questionable hairlines have spread across all social media as they have become the uncrowned queen of lockdown entertainment.

From parodies of Nicki Minaj, Boris Johnson, and Scooby Doo’s Velma to a wide array of made-up characters like Cathy Lee, Susie, and Georgia (seriously, there are just too many to mention), Bailey dances, sings live, acts, and pulls some pretty legendary looks that defy the classic idea of drag promoted by Ru and his dolls. Here, Bailey J. Mills discusses their path from being bullied for being different at school and at drag shows to transforming their own autism into a powerful tool in entertaining the world via social media. 

When did you start doing drag? 

Bailey J. Mills: I started playing around with make-up when I was 16 and was doing hair and beauty at college. My tutor for beauty said we had to do make-up, and I knew nothing about it.  Obviously, I could have practiced on other people but I’d rather practiced on myself to understand the basics of a glam make-up. I remember going to Wilkos, and I robbed £20 worth of make-up – that’s lip gloss, foundation, and lots of brushes for 50p. The lip glosses from Wilkos are actually so good! I got this make-up, I played around with it and then started wearing it out. With my beauty teacher, she was quite open to it, but my hairdressing teacher was very old school.

At the end of the year, she told me I hadn’t passed and suggested I try performing arts. So I started doing it and really found myself. I could wear wigs as they were really open with me doing drag. My first show was a murder mystery where I played this woman who I gave the name Dana Darling. I always thought acting is serious, when it isn’t. You can make it whoever you want to be. And what I specify and do is comedy. So I thought I wasn’t good at acting, but then realised I am – in comedy rather than drama.

How did you continue from the theatre and into the nightclub? 

Bailey J. Mills: First time I was in a club, I remember going to the Scene in Lincoln. When you start drag, everyone has that bit of delusion where you feel like you’re the shit, even though you’re wearing hot pants. I remember walking in and there was this drag queen, we’re now really good friends – her name is Izzy Hard. I remember going on this little stage they had, and danced hard while flipping my hair, and then my wig fell off. She then took me into the toilets, duct taped my hair and showed me how to put on a wig so it doesn’t fall off. And then I was just flipping my wig all night… I just felt so confident. Then I went down again a few weeks later because I loved it so much, and I was out of drag. They asked me to become part of their cabaret which was for charity. Of course I wanted to do it. Even though I was travelling and then paying for a hotel every month which would cost me between £120 and £170. I still did it because I loved it. A lot of people, especially new queens, expect to get up in drag and to get a gig straight away. You need to work to get to where you are. You have to be at the bottom and work your way up.

Why did you decide to take your drag onto TikTok? 

Bailey J. Mills: I moved to Tenerife last January to work as a drag queen. The experience was fun, but the queens there were bullies and it wasn’t really for me. They weren’t just bitchy, they were horrible. I don’t want to sound shady, but a lot of them weren’t really drag queens. They were just actors who were in drag. So I stayed there until March, when everything with coronavirus started happening. Then I moved back to the UK and after that experience, I was thinking of quitting drag because it wasn’t really paying off. 

With TikTok, I used to think it was just for kids doing dances to Renegade, Renegade, Renegade… I did my first few videos but really didn’t know what the app was about. I did this video that got some traction. I shaved my head and had no make-up, and I put this green wig on. It was the one where I said: ‘We’re gonna have a party till 1am. Make sure to wash your hands shygirl69 – and your minge, here we go…” I did this silly dance, and carried on from there. It was really fun and the reaction was really good. And then the viral one with ‘No, Laura, no, I’m paying…’ blew up later. That’s when a lot of queens from the biggest cities like Barbs, Biminim and Tayce started noticing and sharing. I remember thinking – I’m a meme queen now! Now that I’ve reached 10k followers, people have been asking me to do another show. I did one online a few weeks ago and the response was crazy – I think I got £300 in tips from a 30-minute show based on my past videos. 

You have spoken a lot on social media about being shadowbanned by TikTok and the homophobia on the platform.

Bailey J. Mills: A lot of drag queens’ accounts are getting deleted because they flag it as sexual. I’ve been banned a few times because I was wearing a bodysuit even though you couldn’t see anything, but because people would report it as inappropriate. Or if I was sat here doing my make-up, it would get reported. I’ve even done a show where I ended up having 1.5k viewers and the amount of hate going on was horrible. TikTok is a platform where I do it to cheer people up. I started doing it because I thought it was super fun. But when more people got active, they started telling me how they had a really bad day and that I helped them, and I started doing more of it. So when I get banned it really upsets me. I bought so many costumes, but because I’ve been shadowbanned, I don’t want to post these videos because they won’t get the recognition they deserve. In most of them, I’m not mentioning sex, drugs, smoking, violence or anything like that. It’s just me doing a character!

Who are some of your comedy heroes? 

Bailey J. Mills: I grew up watching things like Little Britain, Mirandam and The Catherine Tate Show. I have them on DVD sets and whenever I feel down, I watch them. They’re so weird and funny, and people love them for that. When I was growing up, I was always known for being that weird kid, especially for being gay. School was hard. I remember this one guy threatening to hit me after school. And I had just dyed my hair bright red so I was thinking – he’s not gonna punch Rihanna! We were in English and I remember just throwing my book on the floor, getting on the table and just throwing myself into a split, ripping my trousers and whipping my hair while singing “Whip My Hair” by Willow.  And then they were all like WTF. I just found it so hilarious, because I had killed the bullying by being weird. 

You have done several parodies of Drag Race as part of your videos. Would you ever consider auditioning for the show?  

Bailey J. Mills: I definitely would. But I think it’s very predictable to put me on as I think I’d probably be the first one to go home. My friend said that if I ever got on, she would give me all the nice stuff because she wouldn’t let me walk on the runway in flares. But the thing is, if I wanted to go on the show I would want to be me. If I suddenly became super polished, people wouldn’t know who I am or what I do. I own corsets and pads, but I only wear them to show versatility and that I can do other things than just being funny. But when I go to the clubs, you’re gonna see me in this wig (pulls out blond pigtails) This is authentically me. Even though I have beautiful wigs, like this rooted blond wavy one. But I would probably do this one as a pisstake on RuPaul, not gonna lie. If it’s nice – mock it.

Where do you source your drag from? 

Bailey J. Mills: When I started drag, I started buying costumes on AliExpress. Then I grew to bidding on £50 sequin dresses on eBay. They would be second-hand old-school drag looks from queens who would be retiring. A lot of my drag is second hand, but I’ve only recently started buying custom-made things. Generally though, the cheaper the costumes, the funnier it is. The leggings I buy are like £3 and would come up to my calf and they’re see-through because they’re so cheap. I’m there to entertain you and to make you laugh. The people who usually dress like that are the people who are shamed on. So I wanna wear these things and then make people laugh. 

Who are your biggest inspirations? 

Bailey J. Mills: My friend Laura inspires me the most. In lockdown, we really reconnected after not speaking for four years. She treats me like an actual queen – she does my nails, she even shaves my fucking legs! A lot of my videos come with her help and are developed from the ideas she suggested. For example, she told me I should do Boris Johnson which ended up really hilarious. People also compare me to Baga Chipz and Ginny Lemon because they have a similar vibe, and I see that. I actually don’t mind being compared to them because they’re icons and they’re hilarious. And when it comes to the hair, I love pulling my wigs down to my brows which came from when I worked at MHT in Tenerife. This queen who was really mean to me always used to wear her wigs down to her eyebrows. Now I have this obsession with pulling them really low, like a bicycle helmet. 

“I want my drag to represent the misfits. People will be like – what the fuck is going on? But I’m in on the joke. It’s just stupid, and that’s what I’m known for” – Bailey J. Mills 

How would you describe your drag?

Bailey J. Mills: It’s weird because I started off trying to fit in. I was always always so nervous about releasing my inner freak and being weird and buying weird costumes. Ever since I started TikTok, I decided that if I’m going to do drag, I’m going to do it 100 per cent me. I’m gonna be weird and kooky. I actually have autism – I have Asperger’s. So, drag for me is a release of getting all that weirdness out. That’s where a lot of it comes from. And even if a lot of it doesn’t make sense, it’s still me. It’s the way of expressing myself and letting it all out. I’ve always been the odd kid and my mum has always embraced it.

Do you remember being in school and having those weird, smelly people in the corner with their magazines? That’s what I want my drag to represent – the misfits. When I go into a club, it’s very unpredictable – you never know what you’re gonna get. I can do glamour and it can be fun. But I’d rather go for the weird. I would wear a wrestling mask, long flared jeans, sandals, and just a normal top. And maybe just one green glove? And people would be like – what the fuck is going on? But I’m in on the joke. It’s just stupid, and that’s what I’m known for.

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