Linda Gold and Dys Alexia: dynamic duo bringing FunnyBoyz’s drag queen glamour to Preston

Back in the mid-2000s, Linda Gold was living a different life. Working as an estate agent, Linda had a family and wasn’t even Linda yet. But he had just started to come to terms with a reality which he had previously kept hidden. Deep down, he knew he was someone different. Someone real and someone more.
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“I was married with a family before I came out as gay,” says Linda, 47. “The prospect of coming out when I was 18 or 19 in the ‘90s was unthinkable - it was just not something you’d even consider doing, so I stayed in a hidden life for many years until I was over 30. It was around that time that I discovered drag and came out as a drag queen, too.”

But stumbling across drag was entirely accidental. After coming out, Linda moved to London, landing a job as a cleaner in an LGBT club. “I suppose everyone’s got their own story,” says Linda. “Personally, I almost had drag lumped on me accidentally when a drag queen didn’t turn up for work and the manager told me I was filling in.

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“I had to throw a dress on with a pair of sunglasses and a scruffy old wig,” says Linda. “That was 16 years ago and it’s all evolved from there.”

Linda Gold (left) and Dys AlexiaLinda Gold (left) and Dys Alexia
Linda Gold (left) and Dys Alexia

Now proudly reflecting on the outside what was on the inside, Linda felt that pang of belonging and fulfilment which had previously been missing and which he had sought for so long. He took his first tentative steps in the domestic UK drag industry and fell in love, soon diving deep into the welcoming yet underground nature of the subculture.

But, whilst revelling in the fun-filled community-fuelled highs of living a life centred on self-expression sated Linda’s desire for a place to fit in, his life was far from incident-free given prevalent negative attitudes towards drag queens - archaic views which still persist to this day.

“The abuse I suffered was horrific, but not as horrific as it would’ve been 20 years before,” says Linda. “I ended up in drag purely as a fluke, but for most people they do it because they were born to do it and it’s all they’ve wanted to do. They start experimenting in their bedroom but some don’t even leave the house for fear of persecution, even in 2022.”

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Case in point: Linda’s own partner and fellow drag queen Dys Alexia, whom he met at Manchester Pride.

FunnyBoyzFunnyBoyz
FunnyBoyz

Born in Romania, Dys personal story is a harrowing one tinged in homophobia and intolerance. “Dys went through living hell,” says Linda. “School bullies, teachers, and the whole homphobic evil country forced her whole family to leave their beautiful home and get on a plane to move to a run-down council house in Manchester just to survive.”

“Being born in Romania, I knew exactly what it was like not being accepted and not having a safe space,” says Dys, 21, who tried to take her own life three times before she managed to escape the country. “I got into drag when I met Linda; in the first few weeks, he took me to his house and, kind of as an ice-breaker, explained that this was what he did.

“He was like ‘let’s get this out in the open now’. I’d never really heard of drag before that, so I was like ‘oh, that’s interesting’,” says Dys, emphasising the word ‘interesting’ with a glint in her voice. “That led me to go around all the drag events with Linda, initially as a photographer. When you spend so much time around drag queens, you end up trying it out.

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“That’s how I got into it and, from the very start, I was like ‘this is fun’.”

Dys AlexiaDys Alexia
Dys Alexia

A couple of years ago, Linda - now well-acquainted with the unstable nature of life and employment as a drag queen; all cash-in-hand, requests for sick pay unthinkable, and non-existent pension pots - decided to do something different with Dys’ help. They both wanted to do more for the industry and the community which had done so much for them.

The end result was Linda Gold’s FunnyBoyz, a drag queen collective born in 2020 of Linda’s despair at the fact that, while the UK had a world-class drag queen scene catering for profound interest in LGBTQI+ entertainment, the provision for safe spaces in which to enjoy and indulge in such entertainment was limited to big cities.

Away from the mainstream scene taking place at a handful of venues in Liverpool and the Gay Village in Manchester, Linda wanted to share the love, acceptance, and entertainment drag has to offer. FunnyBoyz has since grown to become Europe’s largest drag queen collective, with a presence in around 30 towns and cities, including Preston.

The impact the initiative has had can hardly be quantified.

Linda Gold (right) and Dys AlexiaLinda Gold (right) and Dys Alexia
Linda Gold (right) and Dys Alexia
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“We've got drag queens working for us who’d not left the house for years because they knew they’d be targeted for their long nails or hair or feminine features,” says Linda. “A lot of drag queens get called homophobic slurs or have stones thrown at them, so a lot of people are still in hiding. It was worse 30 years ago when I was hiding, but it’s still not fully accepted.

“When you see all these drag acts getting work and having the confidence to properly go out in drag - something which probably would’ve been impossible five years ago because you’d have been beaten to a pulp - it’s inspirational,” he adds. “FunnyBoyz at Baker Street bar was the breakthrough venue for making Preston a safer city for LGBT people.

“And for hetero women, too,” Linda continues. “Our venue is full of women who don’t want to go to the pub alone for fear of being groped or grabbed by sleazy men. They wouldn’t dream of going somewhere like Wetherspoons but they feel safe with us. Generally, there’s clearly an interest for what we offer in Preston, it’s just never been catered for before.”

Defined by their larger-than-life performers, cabaret shows, comedy games, lip syncs, and prizes, FunnyBoyz nights - including regular free offerings at Baker Street bar in Preston - are all about acceptance, cheesy tunes, and cheap booze. They also provide talented drag queens and performers with a steady and reliable income and benefits.

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And they’re attracting some of the biggest names in drag, too. Over the next few months, the likes of RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Pandora Boxx, Cynthia Lee Fontaine, Orion Story, Nicole Paige Brooks, Sum Ting Wong, and the cast of Drag Race Holland are all set to descend on the North West. Linda is putting Preston on the drag map and then some.

“I didn’t realise that there were no LGBT-dedicated venues in the city before we came here - how the hell do gay, lesbian, and trans people live in a city without an LGBT scene?” says Linda with a chuckle. “I’m literally still in shock! When I first arrived, I was like ‘where are all the gay bars?’ and Michelle from Baker Street was like ‘there aren’t any’.

Dys AlexiaDys Alexia
Dys Alexia

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, so we’ve created a cracking little space for people to be themselves and not have to hide away,” he adds. “That’s what excites me: creating a safe space. I’m so proud of the positive impact we’re having.”

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