A London-based photographer has given friends and peers a makeover inspired by the legendary drag queen and actor, Divine.
Born in Australia in 1966, artist Darren Evans’ childhood was split between Australia and the UK. He moved to the England full-time in 1987. He lives in London with his husband and is a successful hair and makeup artist for the film, television and fashion industries.
His photographic exhibition, Everyone Is Divine, runs for two weeks at London’s Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury. It’s part of the Pride in London Arts Festival. In the show, Evans gives 50 people a makeover inspired by the legendary Divine. The images were all shot over the last two years.
The show includes a diverse range of participants. The youngest is his ten-year old godson, Felix!
Divine, born Harris Glenn Milstead in Baltimore, Maryland in 1945, became a cult star in the 1970s for his starring roles in the underground movies of his friend, John Waters.
He scored hit singles on the dance charts in the 1980s with hi-nrg tracks such as You Think You’re A Man.
In the late 80s, he looked set to achieve crossover success. He starred in Water’s biggest movie hit, Hairspray, and signed up for a role in a new US sitcom, playing a character out of drag. Sadly, he passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 42, just before filming of the sitcom commenced.
When did Evans first become aware of the drag legend?
‘I first became aware of Divine in the early 80s through her hi-nrg disco music,’ he tells GSN. ‘She came to Australia when I was about 18 and performed in this rough music venue called Bombay Rock.
‘She burst on to the stage in this tight lime green leopard print dress with a shock of bleached blonde hair. I was mesmorized. At some point these group of guys started to heckle her and she totally annihilated them with razor sharp wit and total confidence: “You think you’re a man but you are only a boy!”
‘Divine was a punk and a rebel. Despite growing up as a bullied overweight kid from Baltimore she found her tribe. The films that Divine and John Waters made together resonate with many outsiders and their work gave the freaks, queers and gender rebels a voice.
‘Divine never cared what people thought. To quote John Waters “She wore things fat people should never wear.” This beautiful pride and confidence in her body is completely inspiring, especially now in these body fascist times we live in.’
‘I don’t think will ever stop photographing people as Divine!’
Evans’ long-standing admiration for Divine led to the makeover project.
‘I have been working as a freelance hair and makeup artist for over 25 years and have always had a passion for photography. Three years ago I bought a second hand Pentax camera. I started to photograph my friends, a lot of whom are performers.
‘I had an exhibition called My Mates From the Pub which was a celebration of people I had met through the then recently listed Vauxhall Tavern. During shooting that show I was doing all the hair and makeup as well as the photography and then thought how great to do a series of pictures all inspired by Divine. The iconic makeup, originally done by Van Smith, is instantly recognizable.’
Is it an ongoing project or does the exhibition brings the series to a close?
Someone asked me this the other day and I said “I don’t think will ever stop photographing people as Divine!” The whole experience has been so rewarding and strangely emotional.
‘It’s particularly fabulous to makeup someone up in full Divine drag who has never really worn makeup or is maybe quite shy and suddenly see their reaction to their picture. I am also thinking about doing another series as well, a celebration of wondrous talented Drag Kings.’
Everyone is Divine by Darren Evans runs at the Horse Hospital in London until Saturday 14 July 2018.