Cherry West is becoming a staple name in the Scottish and TikTok drag scene, becoming Scotland’s youngest drag queen at 14 years old. Now, West is putting most 16-year-olds to shame.
As West has recently left school, she is now achieving what most people don’t in a lifetime. From headlining her own sold-out one-woman shows and touring across the country to cultivating an avid TikTok following of more than 130k and over 2.2 million likes on the platform and owning her own production company, Red Presents UK.
Brig sat down with West to discuss growing up queer in Scotland, her new found fame on TikTok, and her experience within the drag scene.
“As soon as you look at me, you could tell I was going to be on the stage.”
West spoke about growing up in Edinburgh. It was very evident from a young age that she would end up on stage.
As an outgoing child, she was always singing and dancing to anyone who would listen. She reminisced about how she would busk on the pier of Portobello beach, always putting on show, out looking for an audience to entertain.
“People would call me gay even before I knew what the word actually meant.”
West spoke about her primary school peers’ naïve reaction to the outgoing performative nature of her character.
However, as school progressed into the secondary level and she came out as gay at 15 after one year of starting drag, her peers didn’t really care much about her identity and West felt far more accepted.
This shows the progression and accepting nature of Scotland’s young people via the small vacuum of a school environment – even if it was met with small disappointment from West due to the lack of dramatics that she might of hoped for.
Drag is not West’s first venture into the world of fame. From the ages of 12 to 14, she was apart of a Scottish boy band.
She chalks up her maturity and focused mindset to her experience within the boy band. As everyone around at the time was so much older then her, she felt a pressure to live up to expectations that were being set around her.
However, it’s clear that West was given no option to mature quickly. As she states, the boy band was an extremely tough environment which was fuelled with jealously, coupled with the fact that it was made abundantly clear that you could not be gay and be in the band.
Even though West hadn’t came to terms with her sexuality, let alone came out yet, she regards her time in the band as a toxic experience which impacted her mental health.
Cherry West and finding true expression through drag
Shortly after she left the boy band, she started drag in January 2021 at 14 during lockdown.
Drag was a passion that West had been harbouring since 2019 on a family holiday to Lanzarote, where at the age of 12 she dragged her family into a bar where two drag queens were performing.
During lockdown, West started doing makeup as a tool to channel her form of unfiltered self-expression. Coupled with her vocational love for performing, Cherry was born.
West describes herself as a queen as vocal powerhouse. The redheaded bombshell is taking those elements of her younger self’s performances on Portobello Pier and turning them into fully produced reality when you come to her shows.
West is living proof that connection with your childhood self can be brought into an adult occupation seamlessly.
What is unique about West’s journey, as due to her age and the majority of drag performances being held in 18+ revenues, she has had to forge her own path (which is quintessentially Cherry).
So, she turned to TikTok to show her journey of drag and find her following. She has gained more than 130K followers from videos of makeup evolution to performance clips. This has allowed her to expand her career in such a short space of time.
With this following, she has now created an events company Red Presents, with the name based on her iconic aesthetic.
Red Presents sets up private parties, shows and networks to build connections with other performers. Most notably Drag Race girls such as Electra Fence who she has had on her RuPaul’s Drag Race review show Red Berry Reviews on YouTube.
She is perfectly showing what Scotland’s young people can do with their own initiative, using their own resources available to them at a time of crisis.
West attributes a lot of her success to the support of her parents, who were initially a bit shocked when she told them she wanted to start drag. However they have been her biggest fans since day one, coming to every show and event.
Sixteen in the Scottish drag scene
As West is only 16 and the majority of drag is surrounded by bar culture, West has had limited experience in the Scottish drag scene.
However, she has performed at family friendly performances such as Perthshire Pride. West recounts overwhelmingly positive experiences she has had with the majority of queens she has met.
However, West spoke about the jealously she has experienced from some queens towards her success:
“Others queens have publicly tweeted questioning why I’ve been performing at certain venues just to tear me down… it makes me feel really downhearted that I’m putting so much effort into something just to have someone taint it.”
At a time where the queer community, especially the drag scene, is under a microscope of scrutiny by the Conservative government, it’s clear that this is not the time for infighting within our own community.
Authenticity over ignorance
West also spoke about the hate and negative comments she has received by just doing what she loves:
“When I was filming Britain’s Got Talent back in November, someone was commenting on my Facebook how what I was doing was sexualising myself and calling my parents sex offenders.”
West’s response was to invite the Facebook troll to her show to experience it for themselves, to see what her performance actually is and to break the stereotype and misinformation that drag is sexual when it’s all about the art of performance and having a good time. It is not inherently dangerous or unsafe for children.
Her advice to any other young person that wants to start drag is to be authentically themselves and to ignore the hate.
The only way you can achieve what you to want is to be the most authentic version of yourself, regardless of anyone’s jealously or ignorance.
“Remind yourself who you’re doing it for.”Cherry West
Featured Image Credit: Cherry West