Move over Ru Paul! Teenage drag queen, 14, reveals he spends three hours doing his make-up before donning body padding, tights and wigs to create a feminine look
Life is anything but a drag for one teenager – who became so inspired by a popular reality show that he has followed his passion to become a drag queen.
Sam Carlin, from Edinburgh, Scotland, who is better known as Cherry West when he steps on stage in his glamorous hair, make up and shimmering outfit, first became interested in drag performance while on holiday aged 10.
When he subsequently watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Sam knew he wanted to follow in the well-heeled footsteps of other performers.
Aspiring drag artist Sam Carlin, 14, from Edinburgh, as his glamorous alter-ego Cherry West
Sam was inspired to become a drag artist after watching reality show Ru Paul’s Drag Race
Fully supportive: Sam with his encouraging dad, also called Sam, 46 and mum Karen, 47
The determined teen has been fully supported by his father, Sam Carlin, 46, and mum Karen, 47.
Sam said: ‘After I watched my first drag show with my parents on holiday, I thought it was hilarious, especially the men wearing dresses.
‘I didn’t think about it much after that until I started watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I loved it so much and I decided that was going to be me.
‘I watched the show for about a year before I did anything about wanting to be a drag queen and then at the age of 13 I started looking at wigs and different drag styles. And it all just snowballed from there.
Festive and fearless: Sam rocks holiday spirit with Cherry West’s Christmas-inspired outfit
Sam says he spends around three hours preparing his make-up, outfit, hair and body padding
The teenager says he has ‘always been into performing’ and was previously in a boy band
Sam said he worried about how his parents would react, but said they are very supportive
‘I have always been into performing. I’ve been singing since I was eight-years-old and I was previously in a boy band.
‘I’ve performed at Edinburgh International Festival, busked on the Royal Mile and on Princess Street and if I went on holiday I would always get up on the karaoke. Music and drama are also my favourite subjects at school so I think it has all led to me doing drag.
‘When I first told friends and family, they were shocked and didn’t believe me. They thought I was winding them up.
A bit of sparkle: Sam says he loves plenty of glitz and glamour for Cherry West’s stage look
The young talent said he has improved his performance by watching other artists on stage
‘I was mostly concerned about what my parents would think, but they have been so supportive from the start. Especially my dad who is my taxi to all of my gigs.’
Sam says that it took him a while to come up with his stage name, before finally settling on Cherry West, the Redberry from Edinburgh.
Sam added: ‘I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing with make-up when I first got into drag, but I’ve definitely improved over time and by watching other artists.
‘It takes me around three hours to get my make-up correct, and then I have the body padding, all the tights, the outfit and then lastly gluing the wig on.
Wardrobe wonderland: Sam, as Cherry West, with his collection of hairpieces and dresses
In the pink: Sam describes his alter-ego as ‘very high camp and [with] over-the-top make-up’
‘People don’t realise how long it actually takes drag artists to get ourselves ready.
‘So far I have been receiving very positive comments and I have been getting great feedback on my performances.
‘I thought I would have got a hard time at school for doing drag once other pupils found out, but I haven’t really experienced that at all. In fact, I’m going to be performing in drag at the performing arts show, so I am really excited about that.
‘I hope that one day I can appear on Ru Paul’s Drag Race and win it. But I will have to wait until I am 18 before I can even apply.’
Sam says that Cherry has a high energy personality and is very bubbly.
He added: ‘I describe Cherry’s style as very high camp. I love massive wigs and very over-the-top make up.
‘I also love big hips, so I used lots of padding to create that look for Cherry.
Hair we go: Sam applies the finishing touches to his outfit by donning Cherry West’s red locks
The inspired teenager said it has taken time to perfect his look and his make-up technique
Sam’s parents said they did not realise at first that he was serious about becoming a drag artist
‘It’s quite comfortable to wear too. I feel like I am sitting on a couch when I am wearing all the padding which is good.
‘I love glitz and glamour for her style. Anything with sequins is amazing. When I am looking for outfits for her that’s the first thing that always catches my eye.
The inspired teenager enjoys rocking a retro 60s look as Cherry West, his drag queen alter-ego
‘I shop through small businesses on social media and even in charity shops. You’d be surprised at what you can find.
‘Now that I am doing more gigs and performances my parents are supporting me financially too.
‘My dad, who loves art and fashion, has recently bought a sewing machine so that he can help me make my own outfits. It’s going to be a huge family effort with us all working together.’
Cherry West’s wardrobe is sourced through businesses on social media and charity shops
Sam’s dad, also called Sam, says they knew that their son liked drag, but laughed it off until they realised how serious he was about it.
They were worried about his peers at school finding out about it as they didn’t want Sam to be bullied.
He added: ‘I was aware that he liked watching Ru Paul’s but I never thought anything of it until Sam had left the band and told me and his mum he wanted to do drag.
‘I think we both just laughed at first, but then we realised he was serious.. From that moment we supported him, but we were reluctant about other people knowing in case he got bullied.
He’s got the look: Sam shows off his full outfit – complete with a feather boa – as Cherry West
Born to sing: Sam says he loves performing karaoke and has busked around Edinburgh
‘As he progressed we could see this was Sam or Cherry and something he was really good at.
‘It seemed to make him very happy so I told him just to tell everyone and we would support him and deal with it.
‘He is quite new to the drag scene, but I think he has done so well and built up quite a big fans base already.
‘He’s getting better with every gig and he seems to be a perfectionist when it comes to his setlist or style that he is going for.
‘There was a mix of reactions when people first found out about him doing drag, but now everyone just accepts what he wants to do and knows he really enjoys it.
‘He puts his heart and soul into every performance and people can’t believe he’s only 14 when he performs.’