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a person is smiling in front of three portraits of their drag king alter ego

The Rise of Zack of all Tradezzz – Amelia Gaughan

Words by Dale Hurst
Photos by Amelia Gaughan, Rachael Adams, Matti Arti


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Make-up alum Amelia Gaughan may have found their feet in prosthetics at AUB, but it’s also the birthplace of their alter ego and a burgeoning career as a Drag King…

“I’ve always liked changing appearances. As a child, I’d go to my friends’ birthday parties and do face painting on other kids.”

It’s the love of changing appearances that brought Amelia Gaughan to AUB, to study BA (Hons) Make-up for Media and Performance in 2017. They’d already been cosplaying for a few years by this point. But one day, in their halls of residence, Amelia found the name for their alter ego, Zack of all Tradezzz. Not exactly a Drag alter ego, at first, as Amelia admits:

“I’d been dressing as a man for years. Even though I call myself a Drag artist, I guess I’m more a performance artist. It’s so ingrained in me that it’s less like a completely different persona. I’d been dressing up in my halls, and I remember thinking, ‘What’s a good name of all this? I want something like Zack of all Trades’. And then I thought, ‘That’s a brilliant name! Why don’t I do that?’”

For the first year of Zack’s life, Amelia just did photo shoots, all the while developing the make-up and overall aesthetic for the persona. But they soon decided that the performer in them wasn’t getting any fulfilment, while doing make-up on other performers. Which led Amelia to take Zack to the public in early 2019, when they won a lip sync competition at DYMK in Bournemouth and were rewarded with the opportunity to support Drag Race star Latrice Royale.

Amelia describes Zack as “everyone’s emo heartthrob crush from 2007 come to life.”

“He’s a massive edgelord… very angry a lot of the time. It’s a very specific aesthetic, but with a sense of irony. The emo subculture is fantastic – I love it. But there are a lot of negatives to it, a lot of toxic masculinity. Zack is almost like a supervillain in a sense. Think of JD in ‘Heathers’… any sort of emotionally unstable teenage boy. They’re not very nice people, but they do look cool, even though the things they do are horrendous. There’s a lot of eyeliner, skinny jeans, a lot of ‘my parents don’t understand me’. Even though, in real life, my parents are lovely, and they love what I do.”

The image and persona of Zack of all Tradezzz has been well clarified and refined. But just how common is it to find Drag Kings on the ever-popular Drag scene?

“A lot of my career, I’ve been the token Drag King,” says Amelia. “There’s nothing wrong with that; in the last year or so, it has expanded a bit more, and I’m grateful to be around other Drag performers in general. Drag Kings are out there; people just don’t know we exist. Shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race have done a lot for the community, but they’ve also been damaging, because it’s a very narrow-minded view of what Drag is, what gender identity is. It’s a double-edged sword – it did a lot of good, but now people think, ‘Oh, that’s what Drag is.’ People think you have to be a certain gender, shape, ethnicity or gender identity to be a Drag performer, which isn't true. It is so different. The London Drag scene, specifically, is so diverse. And shows like Dragula, which rival competitions like Drag Race, have had a lot of Drag Kings on. Landon Cider, who won Dragula, is a huge Drag King now.”

Since creating Zack all those years ago, Amelia has achieved a number of successes of their own. Reaching international levels; most recently appearing in a show in Japan.

“My parents lived in Japan before I was born. I love Japan – I’ve got a lot of friends over there, it’s really fun to visit and I love the culture and everything. I’d been planning to go back for quite a while, and last year, my partner and I decided we’d go for an entire month.

In the October, I was curious about what the Drag scene was like in Japan – specifically in Tokyo – so I had a look on Instagram and found Angel Heart, a Drag Queen who works in Shinjuku. I messaged her, explaining that I was planning to visit and was curious about the scene. She was so lovely and helpful, and basically asked me, ‘When are you here? We’d love for you to be part of our show’.”

April 2023 arrives, and Amelia and Zack of all Tradezzz are part of the line-up to appear at Club SCIENCE in Shinjuku. It’s primarily an international Drag show, at which they held a unique honour.

“There were a lot of American and Swedish performers,” Amelia explains, “Plus a couple of Brits that I was chatting to. But everyone in the show lived in Japan, apart from me. Angel Heart told me, ‘We never have guests from outside the country.’ Even in rehearsal, the Drag Queen Endigo, who was on Drag Race Sweden, came up to me and said, ‘You’re the one from England, right?’”

Amelia’s performance at Club SCIENCE made a definite impression. Many told them they’d have them back as soon as they returned to Japan, while some photographers lamented that they weren’t based in Japan, wanting to work with them again.

These days, Amelia fills their time doing wig commissions for Drag and cosplay connections, among other things. Since leaving AUB, their credits include work on DC’s The Flash and Meg 2, and they’ve also been successful on the catwalk, as a professed lover of alternative fashion.

“I have so many different things going on in my brain – cosplay, wigs, make-up, fashion, Drag, film… it’s exhausting. I’m struggling to pick one, and I don’t really want to.”

With all these experiences behind them since graduating from AUB in 2020, our chat with Amelia ends with their one piece of advice:

“Don’t put yourself down one path. Don’t think, ‘I’m doing an animation course… or a make-up course… this is the only thing I can do.’ I got stuck in that at university, and then found Drag as my way out. Work hard, but also fulfil yourself creatively outside your degree.”

A section of the illustrated cover of the fifth issue of One Piece of Advice, the Alumni Magazine from AUB. The cover features a selection of motivational quotes and cute Y2K-inspired illustrations

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