Culture

Meet Australia’s Youngest Drag Queen, Miss Verity Von Queef

Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent.

Miss Verity Von Queef

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Leanne Jeffs couldn’t be prouder of her son, Cullan. He has just turned 15 and may well be Australia’s youngest ever professional drag queen. Her name is Miss Verity Von Queef.

“He’s always been exactly who he is, and has never tried to be anyone else” Leanne says.

Cullan has been “dragging up and dressing up” his whole life, but in the last year, aged just 15, he’s given two professional performances as a drag queen on stage to an adoring audience.

“I was very nervous” he says. “It wasn’t about remembering the words — I’m good with lyrics — it was more about slipping over in 7 inch heels and making a fool of myself!”

Luckily, that didn’t happen.

When asked about her son coming out, Leanne says she can’t remember a time when he was ‘in’, so it wasn’t something he had to go through at home, or at school.

“He’s never been picked on or bullied. He’s very charismatic, confident, kind and well-liked throughout the school” she says.

Leanne remembers Cullan wearing her shoes or his older sister Erica’s dresses ever since he was young. “He’d put on shows all the time. He loved dressing up and singing to P!nk. Whoever was in the house at the time had to watch!”

Becoming Miss Verity Von Queef

The family lives in Canberra, not exactly known for being a gay mecca. But then one day Cullan saw a poster that would change his life. It was for “gender bender bingo” at his local pub, and two of Sydney’s biggest drag queens would be coming down to host it.

Cullan could barely believe his luck. “I said omigosh, mum, please can we go. I just nagged her!”

By this point Cullan had been dressing up as Verity for about two years.

“He went to the Queer Expo in drag when he was 14 and loved the meet and greets with the drag queens from Ru Paul’s Drag Race,” Leanne told Junkee. “He’s always buying wigs and trying new faces — he has a natural talent for make-up and art. Every night he comes home and sits in front of his mirror and does his face. I’m the complete opposite – I’m the non-make-up-wearing mum!”

Penny Traition and Verity Von Queef

Although Cullan’s parents are divorced, he still sees his dad, who occasionally gives him money to buy a new wig to match a new look he has dreamt up.

When the night for gender-bending bingo arrived, Cullan was “very nervous” as he walked in. “I’d never seen Australian drag queens in person before” he says. “I thought, ‘oh God, I hope they like me’.”

That night, one of Australia’s biggest drag queen stars, Penny Tration, was hosting the glam bingo night. Cullan remembers how he felt the first time he saw her: “When Penny walked out, I was a bit afraid of her! She was so tall and glamorous and had this big fluffy coat on. I was a bit nervous to speak to her — so mum did for me in the break!”

Penny, (aka Daniel Floyd) remembers his initial reaction upon seeing Cullan. “’No kids allowed!’ was my first reaction. I said I’m doing my normal show, I’m not stopping swearing!”

“Whether it’s a girl or a boy, I’ve always loved it. It makes me feel powerful”

Cullan remembers this too: “She’d turn to me every 10 seconds and say: ‘block your ears, kid!’”

Leanne remembers asking if it was ok if they stayed: “Cullan was 14 at the time, and the bingo was in a bar. I went over to Penny during the break and asked if she’d have a chat with my son,” she says. “I wanted him to know there’s nothing wrong with what he likes doing, and these are good people.”

Penny laughs as she remembers being told there was an up-and-coming drag queen keen to chat: “When I discovered how old he was, I said, does he look like a kid? And he was tiny, the opposite of me. His mum explained she’d been taking him to Ru Paul’s Drag Race events and would it be alright if he talked to me. That first night, I remember I got quite emotional about how supported he was and how confident he was as a result. It shocked me.”

Cullan and his mum came back every month. “We kind of became their stalkers” Cullan says. They became friends with a trio of Sydney’s top drag performers — Vanity Fayre, Carmen Geddit and Penny — who hosted the bingo together.

Creating A Drag Family

Then one night five months later, Cullan made a life changing phone call.

“Cullan rang and asked if it’d be alright if he came in full drag,” Penny remembers. “He said, ‘I don’t wanna show you girls up’. I thought don’t worry love, you won’t! He was very nervous, co-ordinating the time of arrival and we referred to him on the mic a few times.”

“Then it was coming up to our Christmas show and I said, you should do a number. It was his first spot number. He was doing death drops, the lot, I think the crowd thought he’d fallen over!”

“Beforehand I said to him, have a drink if you’re nervous then realised, oh no, he’s 14!”

“The night they asked me, me and mum stayed up till 1am choosing a dress,” Cullan told Junkee. “On the night, it took me forever to get ready.”

“Then they asked me a second time, but by the end of that song I remember running out of dance moves and thinking, when is this song gonna end?! But I had more fun with it the second and third times.”

Penny remembers the performance fondly: “He did the full 6 minutes 30 seconds version of Holding Out For a Hero and I realised we need to chat to him about cutting down songs!”

Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent.

Cullan has always loved dressing up: “Whether it’s a girl or a boy, I’ve always loved it. It makes me feel powerful. I’m obsessed with Tim Burton so have loved dressing up as his characters like Edward Scissorhands. I’d live my life as these characters from the moment I got home from school to the moment I went to bed.”

“Mum doesn’t know who she’s gonna get when she comes home from work — a son or a second, drag queen daughter!”

He adores Penny, Carmen and Vanity: “They’ve mentored me — Vanity has taught me how to look after wigs and Penny and Carmen have taught me how to stay polished. They’re amazing.”

Penny baulks when asked if this makes her a drag mother: “That means these little fuckers are going to steal your job one day! I grew up in a different era — you didn’t give your secrets away — you taught yourself, or if your sisters gave you tips you got a leg up. You didn’t reveal how to cover your eyebrows.”

“With Verity it’s different — we’re helping him find his confidence. Australia has its own rich drag history with its own vernacular, which is under threat of erasure from the popularity of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I’d love to see Verity continue keep that proud Australian tradition alive.”


Gary Nunn is a professional freelance journalist. He writes for Australian and UK media outlets including the Guardian, BBC, ABC and the Sydney Morning Herald. Twitter: @garynunn