Shortlisted for the 2021 BBC New Comedy Awards, Lady Bushra is the stand-up, alter-ego of British Asian comedian, Amir Dean. Originally from Bradford, Lady Bushra has taken her witty one-liners and ingenious lipsync to audiences around the world and is now back performing in her current home of Manchester as part of Queer Contact 2023. She talks to Quays Life about drag, her first full-length, solo show and why it’s important not to take life too seriously.
How would you describe your drag act?
“I would describe my drag act as ‘Bollywood meets Vicky Pollard. I’m a British Asian stand-up comedian who does drag therefore bringing my unique perspective to the stage”
What does drag mean to you?
“To me drag means freedom of expression. Drag is political and it can be thought provoking. We are the story tellers of society, reminding everybody, including myself, to not take life too seriously”.
What is the inspiration for your look?
“My drag aesthetic is inspired by the South Asian subcontinent. My drag is a love letter to South Asian and women who inspire me the world over”.
Why is facial hair an important part of your character? Do you see your political at all?
“Having facial hair is important to my character as it helps me to state my political point of view. Growing up I was often told to ‘be a man’ to the point where I began questioning what it even meant to be one. I’m happy identifying as a man, wearing makeup does not make you less of a man and I’m certainly not evading my masculine self by doing drag. My beard is a subtle reminder to those who need to see it. That said, if a certain role required me to shave it off, and the money was good, then I’d get rid of it in a heartbeat.”
You were an internet sensation during lockdown. How important is a digital audience to what you are doing now?
“I believe as a new starter it’s vital to begin creating an online presence, particularly as a person of colour. These days social media gets a bad rap however remnants of it existed even decades ago. You have the power to reach a wider audience through digital means, such as rural parts of the world and you can also gain better access to those that you want to attract, for example, brands and entertainment organisations. As humans, we are social beings therefore in person interactions shall always trump virtual. This is why I always aim to convert my digital audience into a physical one.”
How has been shortlisted for the 2021 BBC New Comedy Awards influenced your career?
“Being shortlisted for a BBC New Comedy Award helped my career immensely, with more people being interested to see what I had to offer. I’m grateful for the opportunities it bought my way, now here’s to actually winning an award sometime!”
Why did you choose to live in Manchester?
“Me and my husband chose to live in Manchester due its cosmopolitan nature as well as its increased visibility and acceptance of the LGBT+ community. It’s important to feel safe where you live however, that’s not to say that there isn’t work to be done! Particularly around racial biases”.
There has been a lot of discussion about a need for more South Asian drag queens on Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK. What do you think about that? Can you see yourself on the show?
“I’m a huge fan of RuPaul for what he has done for our community, he is a beacon for anyone who marches to the beat of their own drum. The prospect of the first British Asian drag queen on RuPaul’s Drag Race excites me and my message to those who want to apply is this: be so incredible that the franchise wants YOU and not the other way round”.
Can you tell us a bit about your show Lady Bushra: Robbed? What can people expect?
“Lady Bushra: Robbed is my very first fully fledged stand-up comedy show that I’m debuting at Contact Theatre Manchester. It’s the tragically hilarious tale of a South Asian starlet. What could she have been? Who could she have been had it not been for everybody else’s fault? Expect a political message steeped in humour with lights, music and a projector screen. Grab your tickets as they’re selling fast!”
What can we expect from you over the next year?
“Over the course of 2023 I also have my Drag Comedy Cabaret that I will be bringing to London, Manchester and Cardiff. All information can be found on my website. Also keep your eyes peeled for a few special shows in Birmingham as well as a Pride performance – or two! Lots more to be announced…but for now come and see Lady Bushra: Robbed!”
Lady Bushra Robbed is at Contact on 17 February as part of Queer Contact 2023. See website for details.