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All hail Kat Gilardi, queen of drag

Kat Gilardi, Cape Town’s queen of drag is helping other drag queens step into their power. Picture: Leon Lestrade

Kat Gilardi, Cape Town’s queen of drag is helping other drag queens step into their power. Picture: Leon Lestrade

Published Jun 26, 2022


Cape Town’s sassy Kat Gilardi is the queen of drag.

Gilardi’s claim to fame, or her story as she prefers to call it, started in the year of her reign when she was 32 and scored her own 2010 hat trick winning Miss Cape Town Pride, Miss Gay Town and Miss Gay Western Cape.

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On the local drag scene, these are the three pageants to win if you’d like to make a name for yourself.

She recalls when she and her partner, Errol Stroebel, went to the Pride office to enquire about being facilitators.

“They said they had enough facilitators, but if I wanted to help, I could enter the pageant as a drag queen,” she said.

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She added: “At the time, I had no idea what being a drag queen was, but my partner encouraged me. I entered as a novice and ended up winning.”

The Cape Town drag queen said she would never forget the first time she stepped into drag.

“It was a Sunday morning, and the auditions for Miss Pride. I wore shorts, stilettos and a bralette. I felt like a fish out of water being stared at,” she said.

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“That transformation process of looking at yourself in the mirror is what I love the most about drag. In the pandemic, drag was the only thing that lifted my spirits. It’s a grounding experience for me,” she added.

The multi-talented drag queen is the mastermind behind the Diva’s One Night Only show, which is celebrating its tenth year.

Gilardi said winning Miss Gay Western Cape could be likened to winning Miss SA, in that, in the year of your reign, you get to launch a passion project.

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“I fell in love with the art form of drag. When I was asked what I wanted to do, I said I wanted to shine a light on the entertainment section of drag,” she said.

She added: “I came up with the concept of seeing who the seasoned and upcoming queens are and giving them the opportunity to share the stage.”

Gilardi said celebrating one decade of Divas One Night Only means that the art form is thriving.

“This affirms that it’s still entertainment that people seek, which always leaves me in shock. It makes me so emotional to see people from all walks of life and all ages enjoying what we put on,” she said.

“Drag is not just about men in dresses. It’s an art form. I love being able to provide a theatre experience for the audience,” she added.

Divas One Night Only has been dubbed “the Grammys of Drag” by local drag queens and entertainment enthusiasts.

Drag queens, who have performed at the show in the past, have spoken about how the show has helped launch their drag careers.

Gilardi said hearing the impact the show has had in the lives of others left her speechless.

“The show aims to expose the talent we have in Cape Town. So we are on the right path if this is how the queens feel,” she said.

Gilardi’s first official job in her twenties running Cinema Nouveau and her second job as a guest relations manager paved the way for what she’s doing now.

“I can attribute my skill set to those two jobs. Looking after guests and events taught me everything I needed to know,” she said.

“I always want to make people feel happy and included, and that applies here too,” she added.

As Pride is being celebrated this month, Gilardi said she tried to live the spirit of pride every day.

“To me, pride means taking up space, telling the world I am here and I am just me.”

It was American drag queen RuPaul who said that to be a drag queen, you need charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. If the last 10 years are any proof, Kat Gilardi is all that and more.

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