Drag queens love big jewellery – and they do not come much bigger than the chain of office.
It was the perfect accessory as the mayor of Littlehampton unveiled his drag alter-ego at the Love Littlehampton Festival on Saturday.
Billy Blanchard-Cooper introduced Miss Daniella Dream to hundreds of revellers at the festival, which showcased performers and artists from the south coast.
The 34-year-old, who has performed as Miss Dream for 15 years, dressed up to show ‘how accepting Littlehampton is’.
He said: “So many people were loving it and coming over to take photos with me. They were saying how nice it was to have a mayor who is in touch with the 21st century and is being true to himself.
“Every councillor does it their own way, but people said it was nice to have a mayor that isn’t in a suit for every occasion and is happy to be himself, and represent Littlehampton in a very different way.”
Having grown up watching Danny La Rue at home, Billy’s first experience in drag was at Brighton Pride in 2002, shortly after he came out as gay.
He spent 26 hours in heels that day – and despite his ‘absolutely throbbing’ feet, he loved every minute.
In his drag career, the former retail manager has hosted karaoke nights at various bars and was a panto dame for the Littlehampton Musical Comedy Society.
He described Daniella as a mix of old Hollywood ‘glitz and glamour’ and drag icons like La Rue and Lily Savage – with the mannerisms of his grandmother Sylvia Underdown thrown in for good measure.
Among the looks up Billy’s sequined sleeve is an Elizabethan dress which he has worn at the Littlehampton Bonfire Society’s annual celebrations.
He said drag is different to wanting to be a woman, saying it was more like being a clown. He explained: “It is partly performance and partly drawing on the femininity inside of you and releasing it in an explosion. It is an out-of-body experience. It is escapism; embracing a part of you that you don’t normally put out.”
Billy also explained his decision to dress in drag as mayor. He said: “This was a festival of love for Littlehampton. It is about art in its many different forms – which drag is one of – and embracing the community, which is what I was doing.
“I understand it isn’t necessarily ‘the norm’, but what is normal these days?”
Billy’s partner Chris, 42, loves Daniella – so much so that she made an appearance at their wedding in Butlins in 2012.
Chris said he was very proud of his partner: “He has done so much in the community. He mixes with so many different people of all ages – he is such a social chameleon.”