Jodie Harsh has a very strange sort of fame. Frequently hailed by the media as the UK’s emblem of the relentlessly self-promoting MySpace generation, she now finds herself in the luxurious position of making a living out of dressing up and going out. I’m just about to meet the ‘The Real Queen of England’ at artsy members’ club Shoreditch House, when I learn that there has been a hiccup of sorts and the location of the interview has been changed to Jodie’s flat.
The door is answered by a young man whose only seriously unusual characteristics are his lack of eyebrows and his big smile. ‘It’s me!’ he reassures. I am supplied with tea and a seat in Jodie’s airy sitting room and informed that in an hour we’re going to a party in Soho to launch a new gallery-come-concept store. Jodie Harsh isn’t enormously concerned with my 9am Restoration Literature collection, although, right now, neither am I. In her sitting room, Jodie has a selection of framed butterflies, a canvas of Che Guevara with no face and all manner of other trinkets; mementos from her climb to the top of her game.
For those in doubt, Jodie is not quite famous for being famous. She has run three London club nights (the popular, flamboyant night “Circus” being the remaining of the three), and she more than pulls her weight as a live DJ. “I tend to have about two DJ gigs a week. They can either be at a club-on a Saturday night I might DJ up North-or they can be at an event. I prefer to go out when I am also working. It’s better to go out and get paid to go out, rather than spend your own money on things!”. She is currently working on a range of remixes ‘for various people’ and other musical projects. Jodie puts on a song from the producer Larry Tee’s recent release ‘Club Badd’-‘Let’s blare it out and annoy the neighbours’. The song, ‘Agyness Deyn (feat. Jodie Harsh)’, is a witty take on Agyness Deyn and the way in which she succinctly embodies the second generation of ‘Cool Britannia’. The combination of Jodie’s comic timing and the stirring electro instrumental make for an excellent track.
I ask Jodie which music upstarts she has high hopes for. ‘Little Boots is cool,’ she replies. ‘VV Brown I think is really cool. People are into just really good music, now. I think Girls Aloud are great.’
Jodie tries to work out whether I am the first journalist to see her out of drag. Even if I am not, the experience of sitting and watching her create the public face is truly a fascinating one. The unrecognizable boy slowly morphs into a celebrity face over 46 minutes. ‘Oh my God, I’ve got green eye shadow in my nose.’ I ask what beauty tips she’d give a busy student who’s strapped for time: “To keep your make-up on, spray hairspray over your face. Gives you bad skin but fuck it, if you wanna look good when you go out! I shave my eyebrows off. I don’t think anyone at Oxford is going to want to shave their eyebrows off, though. It really is a look.’
Does anybody ever recognise the au naturel Jodie? ‘Not really. I got followed by a paparazzi once in the evening when I was with some friends, not in drag. And that ended up in The Sun and the London papers. I saw it and I was like, “Oh great. For fuck’s sake!” I wasn’t very happy because I think it’s nice for people to only see me in make-up. It adds an illusion and mystique to the character, if you like. Though I don’t think I am a character because I don’t act any differently when I am dressed up.’
There are no two ways about it, Jodie Harsh is a drag queen, but her look and lifestyle are a million miles away from the 40-year-olds lip-synching to Shirley Bassey, wearing sequin gowns in Brighton. I ask how much 21st Century, cutting-edge drag is really about female impersonation: ‘We have totally gone beyond that. I don’t look like a woman! There are attributes that might look feminine like lipstick and high shoes. But weren’t they both invented for men, anyway? What is ‘feminine’, after all? I’d say I was an exaggeration of what current society perceives as femininity. But I just wear what I like and I’d feel very weird if I had big ol’ false boobs in! I don’t wear dresses either, really. I tend not to just because I don’t feel that girly! I just feel like a boy that’s gilding the lily.’
Jodie’s cult fame is so rooted in London’s club and fashion circuit that I wonder if she would ever move to another city. ‘Yes, I could actually. I was thinking about this recently, I am probably going to stay in London for about another three years and then go to New York. London is the coolest city in the world but there’s just something about being in New York. Even if you’re just doing a touristy thing like walking into Times Square you’re like ‘Wow!’-everything is so much bigger over there! It really is a magical city.’
Jodie’s litter of A*-List friends, money-spinning ventures and innumerable public appearances might lead us to think she’s never at home but Jodie explains, ‘I can’t be out every night, like a Geldof. I think that’s just so boring. Because I have got better things to do, like hanging out with my real friends, watching DVDs or going to the theatre. Although I go to my club Circus every Friday. I am always there unless I am in a different country. I have had Circus for three years now and it’s my baby so I am quite hands-on with running it.’ But Jodie is all too aware that she needs to show her extraordinary face every once in a while: ‘You’ve got to go and get photographed to keep your profile up. For example me and Sienna Miller went to Matthew Williamson’s H&M launch on Wednesday and the week before that I went to a party for Barbie’s 50th Birthday.’
As Jodie ponders one of my sillier questions (favourite flower? ‘A buddleia’), her phone rings “That’s so our car.” On the way to Soho, Jodie speaks to Miquita Oliver about whether Lily [Allen] will be out at Circus later.
The crowd at the opening is what’s called ‘avant-garde’. Designers, club kids, editors, ‘performance artists’. Everyone has wacky clothes and connections (Kate Moss’ best friend, The Scissor Sisters’ stylist, etc.). Jodie knows nearly everyone, and absolutely everyone knows her. We stay for an hour but it’s soon time for Jodie to go on to Circus and for me, Selfridges. ‘Would you hail a cab, please?’ she asks. ‘They don’t tend to stop for me because I look a bit strange.’ We say our goodbyes and Jodie speeds off, back to Shoreditch. Somehow I don’t think that is the last I shall see of her.