Olivia Jones: "Hamburg is colourful, tolerant and cosmopolitan"
Hamburg bids to host Europride 2020
Even the most exotic parrot pales by comparison with Olivia Jones. A dazzling Hamburg figurehead, the two-metre-tall drag queen not only heads several establishments in St. Pauli, but leads packs of curious visitors around the legendary Kiez entertainment district every week as well. And despite having been as much at home on the Reeperbahn as in German show business for decades, Olivia rigorously pursues a socio-political mission on the side: equal rights for the LGBT community in Hamburg and everywhere else.
Olivia Jones is proud of her colourful Hamburg, but critical when criticism is called for. We visited Germany's most popular drag queen at her Show Club on the entertainment mile and talked about queer protest, rainbows, and Hamburg as the potential venue for Europride. The LGBT scene's big-gest international festival has been held in a different European city every year since 1992 – Ham-burg has entered the bid for 2020.
Olivia, the Elbphilharmonie flaunts rainbows, colourful flags hang from many of Hamburg's balcony win-dows for Christopher Street Day – is Hamburg colourful?
Hamburg is colourful, and really totally lives up to its image as the gateway to the world. And we all work day on day to keep it that way. Because of course our city still harbours discrimination, exclu-sion and eternal yesterday's men and women who would love to turn the clock back. But of course we're not going to put up with that. (laughs)
The Reeperbahn is a mile of sin. What history does the LGBT scene have in Hamburg?
A scene developed very early here in St. Pauli, and produced key activists and figureheads. That's one of the themes of our Kiez tours, by the way. Queer protest is something we've traditionally done particularly well in St. Pauli, and still do: colourful, strident, different. Drag queens led the way in Christopher Street, New York in 1969 in the high-profile protest against discrimination. They stuck their necks out for us, got beaten up and then posed for the photographers in handcuffs, with heads held high. Those pictures went all around the world. The event stirred up so much publicity that a global institution in the battle for equal rights grew out of it: Christopher Street Day with its colourful parades. Far too many people forget that these days.
You're an integral part of the scene. What would be your personal wish for the Hamburg rainbow community?
My wish for our Hamburg rainbow community is that we don't let ourselves be divided by intellectual incendiaries whose business it is to play minorities off against each other. We need more fire-fighters. And I see that as a particular challenge for the scene. We have to stick together and stand up and be counted. Not just for our own minority.
What to-dos do you recommend to visitors wanting to take the plunge into the Hamburg scene?
I recommend the queer epicentre – Lange Reihe in the St. Georg district with its bars and cafés. Or St. Pauli where there's the Piccadilly, the oldest queer bar in Hamburg. And the Wunderbar and, of course, my colourful Bermuda Triangle in Große Freiheit, with the Olivia Jones Bar and Olivias Show Club leading the way.
Why is Hamburg the perfect venue for Europride 2020?
Hamburg is the perfect venue because our city is colourful, tolerant and cosmopolitan. And because it's not only of historical importance to the queer movement, but still has an active scene today that we can be very proud of. I would like to show that to the world with Europride 2020 in Hamburg. As a kind of shining example in the far too dark times we're sadly faced with today.
Thank you, Olivia – we'll cross our fingers for 2020.
Outro photo: Christian Spahrbier