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This drag queen moved from the UK to Gran Can and her Brexit views are fascinating

This drag queen moved from the UK to Gran Can and her Brexit views are fascinating

Liza May headshot

As Britons continue to weather the never-ending storm that is Brexit, one expat is watching the storm from a considerably safe, sunny distance. If anyone’s a poster girl for the benefits of freedom of movement, it’s Liza May.

Liza – a Liza Minelli tribute act, also known as Mark Edwards – moved to the sun-drenched gay hotspot of Gran Canaria 11 years ago.

Now, along with her civil partner Kevin, the 58-year-old former antique dealer lives a fabulous life of sun, sea, sand and song.

‘These last 11 years have been among our happiest,’ Liza tells GSN from her home in Las Palmas. ‘We certainly have no intention of leaving.’

Here, she reveals all about life in the LGBTI capital of Spain, as well as her views on the country she left behind, as it prepares to separate from the European Union…

How did you get into drag?

I often fancied dragging up, but never actually followed it through. My first foray was five years ago during Gran Canaria Pride, and I loved the attention!

Later, I tried dressing as Liza, one of my favorite artists. The reaction was astounding. Liza had more fans than I realized! And I do have a resemblance to her, even if I say so myself.

Then a friend asked me to pop into his show-bar as Liza. The reaction was very positive. He then asked if I’d consider performing a couple of numbers. I initially declined – I didn’t have the confidence – but after he asked a few times, I finally agreed.

I rehearsed bloody hard… Being a fan of Liza, I knew all the words, but I’m a perfectionist. The night finally came, and as soon as the music started, it was like a light switch had been flicked. I loved it. It sounds corny, but I had finally found something I loved to do.

I started to perform a regular spot over the next year, slowly expanding my repertoire. From there I joined my partner Kevin, who has an amazing voice, and we formed a touring show called LEGENDS.

Over the years, it’s grown into a well received two-hour tribute show. I now perform as Liza, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Dusty, Sandie Shaw, Bette Midler… The show is constantly evolving. We’ve won awards both individually and as a tribute show. We are performing in Germany, the UK and all being well, in the fall of 2019, we are hoping New York. 

How did you come to live in Gran Canaria?

I had a really bad car accident in the UK that resulted in me fracturing my spine. I also have a hereditary spine problem. My specialist offered a rather scary operation on my spine, and failing that, suggested I move somewhere warm, which would slow down my spinal deterioration.

Luckily my partner was coming up to 50 and was offered early retirement. I cashed in most of my private pension and we moved here. Health-wise, it is the best thing I have ever done. The warmth here enables me to do so much more that I could do in the UK. In fact, when I go back, I’m in more pain and my movement is less flexible.

What do you love most about your adopted home?

The weather and the fact it’s a very liberal island. You aren’t judged. I’m happy to walk into Playa del Ingles on my own, get a taxi and so on, and nobody bats an eyelid. Apart from the occasional guy shouting ‘GUAPA!’ Which is very flattering to a 58-year-old female impersonator!

And finally, the people. We’ve made some wonderful, life-long friends here, all different nationalities, from Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, the USA and more. 

Did you vote in the Brexit referendum?

Both my partner and I took part in the Brexit vote. We felt very strongly that we should remain in Europe. I was very shocked to see how the vote panned out.

I’m a firm believer of being part of a family. Although I appreciate it wasn’t a perfect relationship, together we are strong.

Our European friends think we are crazy leaving. Some have even taken it personally. Following the Brexit result, my partner and I decided to ensure we had full residency in Spain. When we applied, it was relatively easy: you just had to prove you were self-sufficient, had a contract of employment and son on. But each day the criteria was changing; each time making it a little harder. It didn’t seem to be the same for the Germans, French… Just the British.

How do you feel about the possibility of a second referendum?

I’m in two minds. The part that voted stay says yes, yes, yes! I do believe people were misled when given the pros and cons, so a revote would correct that issue. But my other side says it is a democracy and any decision should be honored – we can’t keep reciting until we get the result we want.

Do you have any worries you’ll have to come back for some reason?

I don’t. We are fortunate to own our own home and are fully autonomous and tax registered, so unless something drastic happens, I feel secure. Not everyone feels the same, however.

You can never say never, but Brexit hasn’t changed our feelings. We are proud to be residents of the island. As we are taxpayers here, our health care shouldn’t change. It is very good, and on the whole, works extremely well. I can go online in the evening and make a doctor’s appointment for the following day. Waiting lists aren’t very long… So even though people are negative about the health system, it has worked very well for me.

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