Meet the queen of Drag Syndrome: The artist that sees more than just a disability
By Wiktoria Walkowiak
Otto Baxter did not find his powerful inner character through Shakespearean plays, documentaries or films, but through the use of hair clips, makeup, fake eyelashes and a boa “of course”.
It’s a Friday evening, and the sun is shimmering through the thin glass of the world’s most leading performing arts venue, The Royal Opera House, a place where creativity and inspiration have no end.
Crowds begin to gather as a group of glamorous Drag Syndrome kings and queens push open the glass doors and head over to their reserved table in the corner of the venue’s cafe.
“Horrora Shebang” also known as Otto Baxter, an actor that has long performed in film productions, documentaries and theatrical performances approaches his table in a steady cat walk after he strokes his gentle feather boa amongst a fan’s face and delicately whispers: “I’m a very flirty one I am.”
Then gets into position to mark out the ballet routine for the upcoming Drag Syndrome gig in front of the crowd and excitedly says, “I love some competition,” whilst glaring directly at the drag king.
It is Horrora’s first appearance, and, if anything is for certain is that she is for sure a sassy and flaming drag hit that adores a sprinkle of competition.
Otto Baxter, 31, is part of a small performing troupe called “Culture Device” which was established in 2010. They choreograph, promote and produce cultural events and projects that involve major artists with Down Syndrome.
Over recent years they have produced 15 projects that have allowed uncovered artists with Down Syndrome to express their creativity and talents in a spectacular manner.
Daniel Vais, the events creative director of Drag Syndrome set up the group’s first show in East London in March 2018 where crowds of fans were “screaming” and that’s when Otto Baxter also known by the drag name of “Horrora Shebang” stated that he felt “truly appreciated on stage”.
Soon after their first performance, the group reached over 2.5 million people which inspired the group to push the boundaries of choreography, improvisation, and costumes and their troupe began to grow.
“It allows me to release my inner character and the power that I have within me.”
Drag Syndrome began to renew the image of disabilities after being majorly underrepresented in the arts. It allowed hidden talents to grow and as Otto Baxter said, “Drag allows me to release the inner character and the power I have within me.”
The showcase began to grab huge press coverage and criticism began to rise but the troupe knew exactly how to handle the hate.
“Being part of this group is incredible, we face haters but they should learn from us because this is what we do, people with Down Syndrome have the right to do drag and if you have a problem with that, think again.”
The project faced challenging stereotypes, and some even claimed to feel uncomfortable with the “drag” idea. Otto commented, “People with Down Syndrome should have the right to do what they love, so let us and support us.”
“The freedom to express”
Around two babies are born per day with the condition of Down Syndrome, that’s approximately 40,000 people in the UK, according to the Down Syndrome Association.
This condition affects people from all ages, ethnicities and economic situations. Although, people with Down Syndrome share similar characteristics, their personalities and abilities are different just like ours in which they also live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Drag Syndrome puts a huge emphasis on the hidden talents and opportunities that people affected by the condition may have. Otto Baxter clearly stated that drag gives him the opportunity to express emotions that are trapped within him.
“I want women’s attention and when I’m a drag queen it gives me the freedom to express that.” Otto has become a huge inspiration for many people not only drag queens and kings but people that also have other health conditions.
“That’s me, the sex machine”
After an interview with Otto Baxter, he confidentially described his drag life and how he became the first drag queen of Drag Syndrome.
“Drag allows me to express my emotions and feelings that I don’t show daily, it lets me be part of an incredible group - Being sexy is my profession, being a queen is even better to show that”. He does it to “shine the passion, amazingness and focus”.
Otto revealed that his drag name “Horrora Shebang” is inspired by the idea that he adores horror, villains, flirting and describes himself as a “sex machine”. When he was young he would continuously watch the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” in which he incorporates some of their ideas into his own dance routines.
"It's extremely powerful"
Around all of those interesting facts about Horrora Shebang, she also likes to be recognised through her incredibly shiny “purple tinted feather boa” that supposedly increases the “sex appeal” for her and her flirtatious inner self.
As a character Horrora Shebang aims to reach out to people with learning disabilities and inspires them to open up. “You should try out drag, it builds upon your confidence and makes you feel the power.”
Otto sees drag as a way to “rock and roll” the disability that he has, he would like to further continue working on being “THE BEST DRAG QUEEN IN THE WORLD DURRR” and hopes to allow people to see potential not only in his work but the potential behind people with the condition of Down Syndrome.
“The starting point is the art not the disability - Learn to enjoy, love and express yourself.”
This article takes you back to 2019, check out @DragSyndrome for their spectacular updates!