DETOX DETOX DETOX DETOX DETOX
Words Andrew Kelly Featuring DETOX Photography Mia Rankin Styling Kurt Johnson Hair Laura Spinney Makeup Colette Miller Motion and Video Stills Nathaniel Dunwell Styling Assist Millie Sykes
People are hard. People are complex. The nature in which we present ourselves to the world, the armour if you will, is something that each of us from our own personal traumas forge to be one the most impenetrable exoskeletons in the animal kingdom. We spend our whole lives building up our first impression selves to help shield our egos from the harsh mediocrity of existence. These curated identities aren't real - they are the sheeps clothes on the wolves of our own designs, reflections of our perceived realities. To then examine someone like my friend Mathew, is to see what could be, if instead of hiding behind the best, you created a new. An even more realised sense of self that the world interacts with.
Producing an identity that is more honest in its connectivity than the facade of most, and with it using them to both cope and heal from the simple experience of existing.
The first thing I always notice when I’m around Mathew is his smell, I don’t mean the manufactured scent of him when he is “working” I mean the smell of him sitting on our friend’s couch watching bad TV…that smell.
It comes in waves, first there is a swirling feminine chemical wash that seems to seep out after every loud, screeching comment or a fabulous high kick. It’s then followed by a musky and dark smell of quiet when he is still, it’s like warm skin under a blanket. He came to my new house in Melbourne recently and they both hung around my kitchen for days. Mathew isn’t an “androgynes” smell, it doesn’t even have a duality to it.
It’s two separate spirits traveling in the single vessel, and it’s as if it sweats out depending on who is at the wheel.
I met Mathew on the street, years ago. He is a frenetic ball of energy, like a magnet that affects the way the earth tilts so you can’t help to collide with him. It’s an organic kind of attention seeking, he pulls focus even if your focus is just walking up the street in a straight line. It’s this natural gravitational pull that has pulled the constellation of weirdos into his orbit. He is a leader, but his climb to be our source of warmth hasn’t been a cake walk. If Mathew is a person then by contrast Detox is, or at least must remain a God, and it’s never easy sharing a body with the divine.
Mathew has had to sacrifice himself at the altar of Detox. Not without reward but still a deity like Detox requires blood and sweat from somewhere to exist. I asked Mathew if he thought he ever had to sacrifice one of his dreams for one of detox’s and the answer was more complex than I was expecting. To be honest the relationship they have is more complex than I was expecting. It's intimate, supportive. It goes beyond a Ziggy Stardust stage persona because it permeates into more than just when they are on stage.
Mathew has gratitude for Detox, he is lucky in her success because Drag is an art form that exists for most of its history in poverty. It wasn’t until recent days that drag could buy you a yacht. This craft came from a completely organic place of needing to create, to perform, a deep-down guttural urge to contribute to an art-form for the alternative. Not born in a producers’ studio or curated by stylists, this is a self-made, self-funded often hot glued symphony of humour and ideas. So of course, sacrifices have been made by Matt for Detox to bloom, the very sacrifice of his male privilege but is that such a bad thing to discard at the foot of success?
As a maximalist art form, the common misconception is that if you peel back the layers of Detox underneath, we will find Mathew. As if she is a cocoon Mathew wraps himself in to project against the trauma of performance, public life or success. This, I believe to be false. While drag, like most masks, awards the power to commit acts you cannot do as a regular human, Mathew is not a wallflower. He is sweet, and kind and softer than Detox sure but his presence is still commanding and his response to the world and the people he interacts with has as much of a distinct and original and authenticity as Detox does.
If you removed her, wiped her face away, you did not leave with less just different.
Detox and Mathew are in harmony, she has allowed him to flourish, to grow and to be able to relax both with the world and into himself, after all it is he who enjoys all the fruits of her labours. She works a lot, she’s a working woman married to her career. Her feet hurt, she is expensive, high maintenance and demanding but what modern Mugler woman isn’t?
The concern would be that they both simultaneously can’t be happy but balance is found because the threads that stitch them together, the wit, the humour, the honesty and the empathy are what they both share.
Mathew is currently enjoying day 24 of his quarantine. His facial hair has never been longer, his feet ache slightly less than usual and it’s the longest amount of time he has been in his house since buying it 2 years ago. The current global situation has pushed Detox into the back seat, which in Mathews words has come as a blessing in disguise. It has forced him to sit down and renegotiate the terms of his and Detox’s working contract for fear of an imminent mental break down if they had continued the way they were.
“and I think, once we come through this, I’ll have a more thoughtful approach as to how I treat myself while navigating my hectic schedule” he said.
A common moral compass points them both. They are good people, producing great work. Drag is on trend sure, it’s having its moment in the hetro-normative zeitgeist but what Detox and Mathew are creating, have created, has a longevity and authenticity that transcends the best before dates of a current mainstream fancy. Their body work is funny, irreverent, impeccably curated and intelligently presented to a world in desperate need of both glamour and a big warm hug.
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