Ginny Lemon Provides Tonic For Britain’s Ails With New Album

The legendary drag artist shares how spiritual alignment and their working-class upbringing has influenced their music, and opens up about the dark underbelly of reality TV for queer performers.

PHOTOGRAPHY Emma Jones

In the malaise following two years of COVID restrictions and global uncertainty, it’s safe to say we’re all tired. Counting the cost of living crisis, increased inflation and the government’s recent break-down-shit-show-extravaganza (for lack of a better term), it would seem Britain’s lemon trees are bearing far more fruit than we can handle. Times are rough and house music is making a comeback, meaning a recession is imminent.

One artist turning Britain’s lemons into lemonade is drag performer and musical artist Ginny Lemon. With 2 single releases under their belt already and their debut album Tonic on the way, Ginny is giving the girls, gays and theys something to dance their pain away to this summer. Ahead of the album’s launch, BRICKS sat down with them to talk music, queer representation and “dancing with the devil” that is reality TV. 

Most will be familiar with Ginny Lemon from season 2 of Drag Race UK. Although season 2 had many iconic moments – dare I mention the taboo H&M dress? – Ginny’s surprise self-elimination during their lipsync against Sister Sister remains one of the most gag-worthy. Despite speculation from the fandom around why they left, Ginny maintains it was the right thing to do for the character. “It’s either seen as quite controversial or I’m seen as a quitter, giving up this amazing opportunity. And I think well, no, actually I had the opportunity and I did exactly what I wanted. I wanted people to remember Ginny,”they explain. And remember we do. Through “a bit of great television”, as they quite rightly describe it, Ginny was able to solidify themselves as a TV star.

I had the opportunity and I did exactly what I wanted. I wanted people to remember Ginny.

Ginny Lemon

If Drag Race UK was not enough of a feat, they also appeared on singing competition show X-Factor in 2017, and more recently Celebrity Coach Trip alongside castmate Sister Sister. They’re quick to tell me the latter is one their favourite experiences filming a reality show. Aside from drinking champers with Leslie Joseph and “smooching” Linda Robson in the pool, Ginny touched on the experience of being treated as a professional in your own right: “I think for the first time, I was viewed professionally as a participant and not a reality TV contestant. The world of television and the opportunities for queer people is that it only seems to be in a competition or kind of documentary format.” 

As all artists will know, getting your work seen means putting yourself out there. Although social media sites like TikTok and Instagram are being well utilised to launch creative careers, no one can dispute the efficacy of TV in bringing fame and fortune. It’s no secret that a short appearance on a TV show – take a quick coupling-up on Love Island, a brief appearance on Bake Off or even a stint on Storage Wars, for example – can increase your online following exponentially.

However, for queer artists and drag performers, TV opportunities often come in the form of competition-style reality shows like Drag Race, or programmes laden with traumatic storylines that leave viewers dissatisfied – insert a moment of silence for Killing Eve. Despite providing some insightful and important representation, these two categories within television often don’t leave enough space for pure queer joy and creativity. The competition format of Drag Race can sometimes omit the deep comradery, care and solidarity that exists within the drag community. 

For Ginny, reality TV was a necessary evil in pushing their art as a drag performer: “I always call it dancing with the devil, you kind of dance with this idea. To get one’s art out there, you have to expose yourself in a sense. And I think part of the process that I was going through at the time was, in order to be able to create this character, I had to face that devil.” 

So, how do we evolve queer-centred television like Drag Race for the betterment of queer performers? Well, expanding the parameters through which LGBTQIA+ individuals can tell their stories would be fantastic start. “I feel like the best thing that we could do now is go ‘thank you Drag Race, that was brilliant. What have we got next?’ It’s created this network of costume designers, wig makers, makeup artists, visual artists, like where do we all go? We need something out there which is celebratory of all queer people and all queer performance, not just drag artists, specifically, male-born female impersonators.” 

We need something out there which is celebratory of all queer people and all queer performance, not just drag artists, specifically, male-born female impersonators.

Ginny Lemon

Truly living in the spirit of ‘what’s next?’, Ginny has forged a career for themselves outside of television. As well as touring with Bimini Bon Boulash – fellow Drag Race season 2 icon – for The Ginimi Project, and doing a West End show with Tuck Shop, Ginny is also a singer-songwriter with their debut album Tonic releasing August 5th.

If familiar with Ginny’s current discography, you’ll know that the artist’s music is just as vibrant and beautifully bizarre as their aesthetic. In late June the single ‘Ding Dong’ released, a vocally layered pop song evoking the same electrifying buzz as your morning alarm clock. Alongside the single is an equally transfixing music video featuring the work of animator Jordan Fallas. Drawing from their real life experiences working admin jobs, Ginny makes a commentary on capitalist work culture, featuring the lyrics “But we do it, every day / Cus we need to, need the pay / We take the bullshit, take the crap / Take the wankers lapping their trap.Ding Dong’s’ message of Fuck British Capitalism follows the motif of some of Ginny’s earlier tracks like ‘I Am Over My Overdraft’ and ‘I’m So Offended.’ 

Working class struggles are not the only topic of Ginny’s tunes, however. ‘Ding Dong’s’ predecessor ‘Burnt Pizza’ showcases the light-hearted absurdity of Ginny’s character and is nothing short of a banger fit for summer. Apparently causing some confusion, they clear up the songs’ meaning. “I’m literally just telling a very mundane story of how I had a circumcision,” they explain. “A couple of days later, I put in a pizza and then thought, basically, ‘I’m going to try and have a wank’ and it hurt. Then the pizza had burned because I was trying so long.” Evidently there is a breadth of conversation to be had on this album, with Ginny’s sheer unpredictability making it all the more exciting. “Music can just be fun, it can be thoughtful, it can be fabulous at the same time.”

Music can just be fun, it can be thoughtful, it can be fabulous at the same time.

Ginny Lemon

Collaborating throughout the pandemic with their husband and album co-creator Jack Collingridge – aka Some Little Cakes – Ginny was able to “channel some of that locked down negative energy into the album and kind of go wild with the music.” 

The writing process for other artists may be different but for Ginny, inspiration emerges from the everyday: “What gets me in the mood is when I hear somebody say something – which triggers something in my brain – that I think sounds extremely lyrical. Like my husband yesterday, we were having a discussion about gender, and he said to me ‘it’s pink, blue, or yellow.’ And I thought, you know, pink, blue or yellow, that’s got a beat to it.”

Citing Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Bjork and Enya as musical inspirations, it’s no wonder Ginny Lemon’s music takes on an alternative pop sound. Their sister, who passed away in 2016, introduced them to this world of music and is a heavy influence in their drag. 

I had this connection that I didn’t really have before, it was this outlet. And by forming this outlet, I was able to get an inlet of kind of spiritual energy, feeding me the lines and the stories and the concepts and all this sort of stuff.

Ginny Lemon

Most musicians will have a stage persona, but very few to the level of artists like Ginny. Adding the element of drag performance to creating music is a skill they’ve mastered, their drag character opening up a channel through which creativity and self-expression can flow. They said I had this connection that I didn’t really have before, it was this outlet. And by forming this outlet, I was able to get an inlet of kind of spiritual energy, feeding me the lines and the stories and the concepts and all this sort of stuff. So, I feel like my spiritual alignment with Ginny has enabled me to transfer my sort of everyday lived experiences.”

So, what can eager fans expect from Tonic? Well, as the name suggests, a remedy in musical form. The album takes all the collective adversity faced these past few years and merges it with Ginny’s personal experiences of queerness, disability and being working-class, resulting in a thought-provoking pop creation. “A lot of it is kind of my observations of life really, and my stories to tell through the character of Ginny. There are some absolute bops and there are some songs that make you think and hopefully people can relate. That’s the goal with everything that I try and do.” 

There are some absolute bops and there are some songs that make you think and hopefully people can relate. That’s the goal with everything that I try and do.

Ginny Lemon

Undoubtedly, the album’s visuals will match Ginny’s signature acid-trip aesthetics. They joke, “Am I tripping out? Is it somewhere between drunk and awake?” Alcoholic or not, we can’t wait to sip on this Tonic – with a slice of lemon, of course.

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