Desperate divas

Are we picking our own icons? JOSH DARE investigates.

If the foundation of an economy is supply and demand, then the gay market is in demand. Promoters and publicists nationwide are counting on the gay market to pick up the divas the rest of the country is refusing to, and to make sure of that, we’re copping their selected artists ad nauseum.

Counting her recent ANZAC weekend performance, Inaya Day has performed in gay Melbourne venues three times in the last twelve months. Tina Cousins, who has performed twice so far, has another performance coming up this month. And for months it was hard to turn your head in the gay press without seeing Katie Underwood, let alone attending GayAZ or Miss Melbourne Drag’s final. Following in their footsteps are a myriad of comeback queens (Melissa Tkautz, Bardot girls, Renee Geyer) and self-proclaimed ‘divas’ (any woman related to Australian Idol). So when did appealing to a gay audience for instant acclaim become de rigueur?

You can’t appeal to the gay masses without recalling the always-touted ‘gay icon’ status of stars like Madonna or Kylie or Judy. They achieved their iconic status through revealing turbulence in their personal life, or proving a successful run in showbiz. The new breed of stars being force-fed to our community have neither.

The harshest thing Inaya Day has been through is having to admit she was the vocalist on Mousse T’s ‘Horny’. Although Tina Cousins had a quiet spat with Sash!, the only thing she’s had to endure is the endless flights back here from here home city of Essex (as she’s not found the same level of popularity at home). So how did our community become viewed as a gateway for mainstream success?

Gay culture has always been celebrated, either correctly or falsely, depending on your opinion, for capturing the zeitgeist. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy taught the world that we hold an exportable commodity, although it’s something that people like Madonna have been flouting for years. The current crop of cutesy popstars haven’t found anywhere near as much success.

Melissa Tkautz, hot on the heels of a performance at Xchange, peaked at number 31 on the ARIA chart with her comeback single, a cover of ‘Glamourous Life’ (this was hindered by the fact that almost simultaneously, another of our desperate divas, Inaya Day, covered the exact song in a similar style. The confusion wasn’t bolstered however, by the fact that both artists are represented by the same company in Australia, who tried their best to distinguish the two by censoring all questions on the topic.) Meanwhile, Tina Cousin’s single ‘Wonderful Life’, another cover, reached number 16 on the charts, which while her album Mastermind topped at number 46. Contrast this with recent no-brainer Australian number ones such as Lee Harding, who’s never been offered to the gay press, and you can see that the gay-friendly method may not be as effective as record label’s publicity may hope.

The notion of a gay following has some currency, as it is true that a lot of us do like our disco pop. Everyone knows the gays kept Kylie afloat, and they’d love to see that replicated with their new, struggling artists. It’s not hard to feed the gay community scraps when the gay community, in terms of recognition, is sitting on the floor with the dog. But it’s a publicists job to oversell, even if one of them let their guard down recently and did both; “She has a huge gay following... In fact, I think it’s her only following.”

Just like the rest of the desperate divas, her only appeal of adoption is that because she agrees to perform in our venues, we should accept them as a fully fledged, bone fide icon. Talent notwithstanding, it would be easier to grant the iconic status they crave if we were given a bit more credit, and treated as more than bankable launch pads.