Fourteen-year-old Lewis Bailey was excited to perform at his school’s talent competition.
He had been practicing his drag routine for weeks but just one day before the show, school officials in Dudley, West Midlands, blocked him from performing, citing “age inappropriateness.”
The boy was understandably distraught because he had been practicing his routine for weeks, all with the support of his family. His mother Natalie, 37, said the school blocked her son’s performance because it was illegal for those below 18 years old to perform drag acts.
Lewis had been inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race and was devastated by the school’s decision. He said he wasn’t being “accepted for who I am.”
Lewis’ stepfather helped him mix a medley of tracks that he was going to dance to, which included songs by Little Mix, RuPaul, and Ariana Grande. He had even gone to eBay to purchase a floral co-ord top blazer and skirt while his grandmother provided him with high heels. To top it off, he was also going to wear a long silver wig for the competition.
Lewis said that he had been pulled out of class on Monday so that school officials could inform him that he couldn’t perform in Tuesday night’s show.
He added: “They claim it’s because it is illegal – but I think the real reason is they don’t accept me for who I am.
“I’m heartbroken and confused. After all the effort I have put into it, it has knocked my confidence a lot.”
Natalie supports her son all the way. She says that drag helped her previously withdrawn son come out of his shell.
“There’s no law over impersonating a female and doing a dance. We can’t find anything anywhere that says that, and anyway it’s a school talent show, not a competition,” she said. “His act for the talent show was dressing as a lady and dancing. There is no swearing, no raunchy behavior, nothing over the top.
“The school is very multicultural and I think the school think some of the parents won’t like it. But people should be able to do what they want to do and be who they want to be. They have really knocked his confidence. They have knocked his confidence to zero.”
But Michelle King, the principal of Castle High School and Visual Arts College, defended the school’s decision.
According to King, “Castle is an inclusive school that celebrates diversity.
“With regard to the performance of our student Lewis Bailey at the end-of-term talent show; we made the decision that it was not age appropriate for either the learner and for the intended audience, his peer group, for Lewis to appear as a drag act.
“We understood Lewis wanted to appear in the style of RuPaul, whose style of performance is characterized by strong language and sexual innuendo.
“We invited Lewis to appear in the show as a singer and were happy for him to dress in any manner he wished.
“We regret we did not communicate this earlier but stand by our belief that it is not appropriate for young people to perform drag acts. RuPaul’s own TV show requires contestants to have a minimum age of 18 years old.
“Our decision was entirely made on the basis of age appropriateness, with sensitivity to both Lewis and to his fellow students.”