On the week of her 84th birthday, Toronto drag queen Michelle DuBarry received one of the highest honors of all—a Guinness World Record for officially being the World’s Oldest Performing Drag Queen.
DuBarry, aka Russll Alldread, sat down with the Toronto Star after receiving confirmation of the accolade and explained that she never even set out to be a drag queen in the first place. It would have been difficult, ya know, since drag wasn’t even a thing when she started out.
“It was all underground,” said Alldread, explaining that he first started dressing as a woman as a theater and ballet performer, back when he moved to the city in the 1950s. He says he continued wearing women’s clothes after his gigs in defiance of police.
“Michelle represents an era that I grew up, the Dynasty era, because she’s all furs, gowns, and diamonds,” he said. “That’s what set her apart.”
And DuBarry’s luxurious look is still what sets him apart from younger performers. Asked what he thinks is different about today’s drag scene vs. the scene of yesteryear, he says it’s definitely the “weird” makeup.
Well, I guess time changes everything. It’s a different feeling. Not so many as put-together shows, there are more individual stars on their own. Like, in my day, we had women’s names, like I was Michelle. It was easy to remember. A lot of them don’t have real people’s names. And their makeup is sort of weirder, to me, now. They do extreme eyebrows, and extreme lashes and everything extreme. In my time, we tried to look very real. We performed as Barbra Streisand or Marilyn Monroe, and we tried to look like the person.
The brief interview covers everything from his supportive parents to the woman who inspired DuBarry’s look. “Doris Day, all the old singers,” he said.
“It’s quite an honour,” he said of his new Guinness World Record. “I wake up in the morning. I don’t live yesterday, I don’t live tomorrow. I wake up and count my blessings because I’m very, very lucky. I’m very healthy. I’ve lost pretty well all my special friends now. They’ve all died on me. You know, because I’m old. It’s your attitude at living every day, I think, that counts. I’m an old drag queen, but I’m still very young.”