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This Free Life

Courtney Act Looks Ahead at What's Next

Courtney Act Looks Ahead at What's Next

The Drag Race alum on the new tobacco prevention campaign This Free Life, Pride in the wake of Orlando, and the importance of taking a stand. 


Courtney Act, the saucy Aussie queen who redefined “fish” during Drag Race Season 6, is a lady on a mission that goes beyond drag. Between running around the world from Pride to Pride, and kicking off her latest show The Girl from Oz in Fire Island, Courtney (née Shane Jerek) took some time to hang out with YouTube star Steph Frosch to discuss This Free Life, a new tobacco prevention campaign aimed at the LGBT community.

Courtney Act

We caught up with Courtney on her way to the Pines to discuss This Free Life, the aftermath of Orlando, and the importance of getting angry.

PRIDE: What are you working on right now?

CA: I have a brand new show, it's called The Girl From Oz. I'm kind of excited/scared because it's the first show I've done in like, three years, three-and-a-half years. I've been doing my old show for such a long time and it kinda got chopped and changed and altered and then I put together this show. There are all of these costume elements and prop elements and tracks and videos. I went to P-town last year and saw what P-town was—it's such a fun, fabulous place, people are out to dinner and drinking and having a good time. And they really love a lot of color and movement, so I put together a show called The Girl from Oz, which, it looks Wizard of Oz-ish, but it's actually exploring all of the Australian music [that have been] big hits in America over the past two decades. And there's a lot more—even I didn't realize that a lot of this music was Australian. 

Like what?

CA: AC/DC, Helen Reddy, obviously Olivia Newton-John, INXS, Air Supply, The Bee Gees, Natalie Imbruglia, Gotye. I mean I knew that most of those were Australian. I didn't know Helen Reddy—“I Am Woman”—I didn't know she was Australian.

What sets this show apart from other shows?

CA: Usually my shows have been autobiographical— Boys Like Me was all about my sex life. But this show is just a lot of fun. There's a lot of music—all the songs are hits that you know and love. And there are costume reveals and props and I tried to up the production value. And there's some really funny sketches in there. I'm looking forward to the show being finished so that I can put it on YouTube because I know people will love it. 

How and why you got involved with This Free Life?

CA: I've always been a non-smoker. My dad is a naturopath and a Chinese herbalist and nutritionist—my family's always been focused on health and so have I. Smoking just seemed like a strange thing to do to compromise your health and your well-being and the way you smell. I see so many young people starting smoking now and I feel like we know the negative effects of smoking, so there just doesn't seem to be any reason to smoke. I just wanted to put myself out there as someone who is tobacco-free and hope that maybe other people will take notice as well.

Do you think smoking is still a big part of queer nightlife?

CA: I think it is, and queer people smoke at a much higher rate than non-queer people. It just doesn't make total sense, battling forward with all of our human rights issues, but then not taking care of ourselves health-wise.

Why do you think queer people smoke more than straight people do?

CA: I can imagine a kid in school, let's say a boy in school who's gay and sort of ostracized as such, and then smoking has this cool image. It's often glamorized in Hollywood. There's nothing sexier than Kate Moss with a cigarette and smoke oozing out of her mouth. It's really sexy, but it's also really harmful. So I think there's that cool Hollywood image of the lone wolf smoking a cigarette, and especially when you're younger it's something you're not supposed to do. So it's an opportunity for people to rebel. It's challenging getting the message across. Just saying you shouldn't do this because it's not good for you, that's one of the reasons people who start smoking start, because it is something you're not supposed to do.

Do you think a smoke-free generation is within reach?

CA: The good thing about a smoke-free generation:  we don't have to cure anything, it's just about changing people's attitudes and changing people's understanding. So I think that it's definitely in reach, especially with campaigns like This Free Life, utilizing people like Steph and Miles Jai and Julia Nunes. We care about our audiences, and we like to create fun content that we hope they enjoy watching.

What was it like meeting Steph and hang out with her?

CA: It was cool! I live in West Hollywood, and I am guilty of living inside a certain part of the gay bubble, and I'm always trying to reach out beyond my echo chamber and connect with new people, straight people, lesbians, etc., just trying to actively broaden my horizons, because it's so easy just to get stuck in your own little rut. So it was cool to hang out with Steph and talk about lesbian things and get her dating tips. She has an obsession with sloths. She was like obsessed with sloths, and somebody recently at a gig gave me a sloth teddy bear—they said they couldn't find a koala teddy bear so they brought a sloth instead. But the sloth teddy bear has actually traveled with me and it fits inside my wigs to keep the shape of the wig, so it's called Wig Sloth. I'm gonna send a photo to Steph because I know she'll appreciate my Wig Sloth.

With the events in Orlando and recent police shootings and now with what happened in Dallas, how do you remain positive? What's your message to the LGBT community in these tough times.

CA: I think you have to acknowledge what you're feeling, and acknowledge your emotions, because things like that are so shocking. We feel all these emotions and sometimes those emotions are anger, and I'm told not to feel anger, but I really feel like it's not about the anger. It's what you choose to do with the anger that is important. I think people need to be angry, people need to be activated, people need to speak up, people need to take action. Because there's a lot of "pray for Orlando" Facebook sorts of things like that which are obviously an important part of the grieving process, but if it goes no further than changing your profile picture, then it's not really—what is it, "Evil happens when good men do nothing?" So I believe that we need to be actively participating in solving these problems.

There was this thing after Orlando about people getting out and going out and not letting that terror affect them. I feel like the queer community rallied so strongly, and the energy of this Pride has almost increased because people are getting active now, and that's cool to see, but they need to just not stop.  And also look further than your own backyard. Everybody gets passionate about Orlando, obviously which is important, but look into other movements that are supporting other minorities because we as the queer community should know what that means and stand in solidarity and take action as well.

Walking through the streets of New York and in Times Square, learning more about the actual stories, and coming to learn how I can be more of an ally with such a small part of the last few years living in America has helped me. I think people need to be active, look beyond their own backyard and really get angry, get passionate, and speak up, act up.

For more from Courtney, check out her This Free Life interview with Steph here: 

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