Courtney Act is the drag alter-ego of Shane Gilberto Jenek. Born in 1982, Shane is an Australian drag queen, pop singer, entertainer and reality television personality. Courtney Act came to the spotlight after competing on the first season of Australian Idol in 2003 and became the first queer contestant to openly appear on a reality TV talent show. In 2014, Courtney was one of the runners-up in season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race where she became one of the most famous drag queens ever of the show and the same year she became the first drag performer in history to sing live with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
In September 2014, Courtney Act, along with Willam Belli and Alaska Thunderfuck 5000, were the first drag queens to become ad girls for American Apparel and they formed the ultimate drag-queen group under the name “AAA Girls”. Additionally, Courtney appeared in Single AF, MTV UK in October 2017, while in January 2018 she appeared on Celebrity Big Brother UK and ultimately won the series with 49.43% of the final public vote.
Now, Courtney makes everybody talk about her once again as she is the front person of the new bi-sexual dating reality TV series “The Bi Life” on E! Entertainment that premiers 25 October 2018 in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Needless to say, Courtney is always ready to support the rights of LGBTQ+ people and is committed to tackling sexual racism in all its forms. She is not scared to claim that RuPaul is “in line with conservative politics” and to defend her opinions with strength and courage.
Read the exclusive interview of Courtney Act to YASS Magazine below!
What shall we expect from the new reality series “The Bi Life” that you are hosting?
Sure. it is called “The Bi Life” and it is a bisexual reality dating show where we take a group of single bisexual, pansexual and questioning-sexual British folks to Barcelona in a villa where they live all together and they go on dates with other people. The reality is really refreshing because there is a lovely supporting environment between the members. it is the first UK series to focus exclusively on bisexual dating. This is wonderful. There are a lot of dating shows on TV like Love Island, but this show is the first one that focuses on the bi community which is very unrepresented in the LGBTQ+ community. In pop culture and media we see a lot of narratives about trans people, gay people and lesbians, but we rarely see things about bi people.
The show will be on E! and I am very excited about it because it is reaching a really mainstream audience and young people, so don’t expect a documentary that you would see on BBC. The show has a sweet, heart-warming vibe and it will be about dating and relationships, and people going on dates with people. It is king of a bisexual Dawson’s Creek spring break in Barcelona where the show is located.
Do you feel that there is still sexual racism nowadays?
Yes, i think the racism and more specifically, the sexual racism is a big issue. In the queer community you see now that apps like Grindr are taking steps to stop racism. I recently tweeted about it, as i grew up in Australia in a hetero-normative white world where I was never shown examples of non-white beauty and there were no example of people of colour in the pop culture. So, you end up thinking about all these white people you consider beautiful, sexy and desirable and you wanna marry them, but you are never shown any examples of people of colour, let alone queer people of colour or Asian people in the pop culture. I think it’s getting better now but the sexual racism needs to be more examined. We have to think twice twice before swiping very fast on location-based dating apps and get rid of our subconscious bias. I started doing that myself as a personal exercise to break down these socialised constructs. it is interesting how quickly all fell apart and i realised I am attracted to people irrespective of their skin colour.
How challenging was to present and to be the front person of the show?
The cool thing about “The Bi Life” is that I am not a traditional presenter saying “Hello, I am Courtney Act and welcome to “The Bi Life””; I am more like one of their friends and offer moral support, as most of the cast are in their 20s and some of them have not even been on a date before with a guy or a girl. It is so heart-warming to be there and watch it and support them, it feels a bit like watching a high-school drama on the TV.
Who is the host of the show? Courtney or Shane?
A bit of both, actually! Courtney makes an appearance in 3 out of 10 episodes, and she usually comes out at night!
How would you define yourself?
I identify as pansexual. I am attracted to the same gender and other genders. I have had experiences with men and women and trans people and my sort of attraction really depends on the individual, and that’s sexual and romantic. Most of my attraction is for men, but i have had and will have experiences with people of different genders.
How did the experience in “Australian Idol”, “Rupaul’s Drag Race” and “Celebrity Big Brother” shape you as a person?
Each one impacted my life quite monumentally. After “Australian Idol” I went from working in gay clubs in Sydney to being on television and having a contract with Sony and touring around Australia; “Rupaul’s Drag Race” took my career from gay bars in West Hollywood to gay bars and bigger concert venues in America and all over the world. And “Celebrity Big Brother” has been epic, it broke through the pink glass ceiling, and now I am getting to exist in the mainstream without having to make self-deprecating comments or comedy to make other people feel comfortable. I get to talk about Brexit and NHS and queer topics on morning news programs. This is so cool. When I was 21 on the “Australian Idol” I was the only visible queer and out person on the Australian television, and now, 15 years later we have a show on the E! channel that is dedicated to the queer thing!