Tour de force Baga Chipz talks Drag Race, lockdown, splashing out and coming home. Shelley Carter listens…
Photography by Tom Wren
Twelve years ago in Brum when a mate suggested getting dolled up and performing Amy Winehouse, little did Baga Chipz know that by 2020 she’d be a household name. On the back of a stellar run on Ru Paul’s Drag Race in which she came third, Baga has rocked TV shows like Masterchef and Celeb Karaoke as well as having a packed diary of live shows which commanded a tidy fee before Covid put the kybosh on that of course.
Next year looks big for Baga. There are collaborations, more TV shows, music and commercial deals on the horizon, so you’ll be seeing a lot more of the self-styled tart with a heart. Baga began her career performing every Monday night for £100 at venues like the Nightingale and the Village before moving to London where she took to the stage at the Two Brewers in Clapham and bagged a residency at the Admiral Duncan.
POT TO PISS IN
The name, Baga Chipz was born in Brum. She explains: “I was having a drink in a pub in Birmingham when this fella came up and started flirting with me and my mate. I said: ‘Why do you want a burger when you can have me, prime steak on a plate?’ And he said: ‘Prime steak? More like a bag of chips!’ Well, you can’t get more British than a bag of chips can you?”
It sums up Baga’s style of drag perfectly – more kiss me quick and all the lols than slick make-up and production, which is one of the reasons why auditioning for Drag Race was a bit of a punt that she didn’t really think would come off. Baga got the call from the show’s producers to say she’d earned a spot on the legendary show while watching her beloved Corrie. She recalls: “I was in total shock. I’m more Lily Savage than Ru Paul, so I didn’t think it would happen.” She adds: “I’m working class, I’m from a rough council estate. We didn’t have a pot to piss in when I was a kid, so my act and my character is rough as arseholes.”
FANCY A BREW
Baga made friends for life on Drag Race and regularly works with fellow contestant and ultimately the show’s winner, The Vivienne. From their hysterical podcast, Fancy a Brew, and Netflix YouTube series, We Like to Watch, to their joint nationwide tour show, they’re infectiously naughty. The Vivienne describes their partnership as ‘the Ant and Dec of drag’ and most nights they were performing or filming pre-Covid.
Coming third on the show was the ideal for Baga. She says she got all the exposure of being in it for the long haul without the pressure of winning and she got much further than she ever thought she would. “I thought I’d be on for a week, maybe three max. Every week was a surprise. I was just myself and I’m an absolute tit, so that helps.”Obviously 2020 has been impossible for live performers and Baga reckons she’s lost roughly £250,000 through cancelled shows and projects, but she’s not grumbling. She says: “I can’t moan. There are people who haven’t got jobs.” Baga knows what it’s like living from paycheck to paycheck. Before Drag Race, that’s the situation she was in.
LOLLY FOR LOUBOUTINS
“I used to live off what I earned. Drag Race changed things financially. “I’ve bought a house in the Midlands and I’m not worried about money.” Baga admits she got carried away when she first began to earn a bit. She says: “I went a bit wild at the beginning. I went from no pot to piss in to buying Louboutins. I spent £8,000 in Manchester then went to Harrods when I got back to London. Oh, I got it all. I’ve calmed down a bit now.”
As comfortable in a nice adidas track suit as full drag, Baga says she’s ‘basically a common as muck trollop’ whose make up is more middle-aged woman than a three-hour stint in front of the mirror. She’s all about the entertainment and lols and says being a performer is the most important quality for a drag queen, that looking good isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd or make the audience howl.
Look out for Baga on your screens in the new year. As we write, it’s a we-could-tell-you, but we’d-have-to-kill-you scenario, but keep an eye on Channel 4, ITV2 and BBC3. She’s busy.