The man, the drag queen, the legend. You may know him as Shane Jenek, or her by the stage name Courtney Act, but either way we’re willing to bet that if you’re a member of the LGBTIQ+ community, you know who we’re talking about.

First bursting onto screens in 2003, Courtney made it to the semi-finals of the premiere season of Australian Idol; bringing her style, gender fluidity and talent into Australian homes. 

Since then, she has continued her global rise, appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Celebrity Big Brother UK and Dancing with The Stars (AU) as well as hosting the UK’s first bisexual dating show, E!’s ‘The Bi Life’. In 2014 she released her debut EP Kaleidoscope; with her online videos amassing over 40 million views and released her own original stage acts including 2017’s sold out The Girl From Oz, which appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and 2020’s FLUID. 

Now, teaming up with long-time best friend Vanity, a talented performer, master wig stylist and famed legend in the drag scene, she’s recently launched a new podcast on the Nova Podcast Network, called ‘Brenda, Call Me!’. 

The podcast sees best friends, drag superstars and sisters in crime, Courtney Act and Vanity catch up on what’s got them fired up each week. Chatting all things drag, what’s going on in their lives and in the world around them – so grab a cocktail and get ready to dish! As for Brenda? You’ll have to listen to find out who she is…

A Modern Gay’s Guide caught up with Courtney Act to talk all things ‘Brenda, Call Me!’, Sydney Mardi Gras and what’s next for her.

MGG: Tell us about ‘Brenda, Call Me!’ – when did that all begin?

Courtney:  Yeah, so our new podcast ‘Brenda, Call Me!’ has just been released, with a new episode to come each Thursday, which is super fun.

It’s been in the works for a while – we filmed a teaser last year sometime…sorry, I was in lockdown in London, so the days all blend into one! 

Originally we thought that we would be on other sides of the world recording the podcast. But then as it all panned out, we got to be in the same room, which was super exciting.

(Vanity and I) have been friends for 20 years, so we’ve got lots of stories – some things we’ve done together, but also there’s lots of things that the other person doesn’t know about or wants to know more about. My friends and family (also) wanted to know more about parts of my childhood. So we’re just sort of exploring different topics and things each week.

MGG: So, how did the friendship between you and Vanity begin?

Courtney: I first saw Vanity perform in the year 2000. I was 18 and going out watching the shows on Oxford Street (Sydney) and I just thought she was a magical creature. I was actually at Stonewall and she was with somebody that I knew, who said they could introduce me. So, I sort of tapped her on the shoulder and she was in drag – I think dressed as Baby One More Time (Britney Spears) – and as she turned around there was absolutely no spark, nothing magical whatsoever. It was a basic fan interaction. 

But then, over the years our friendship just kind of blossomed and now 20 years later we’re BFFs hosting a podcast together.

MGG: Other than hosting the SBS broadcast, what are your Mardi Gras plans?

Courtney: Mardi Gras is always a really hectic time of the year – in a really good way!

Plans around Mardi Gras are usually just like, head-down, bum-up, in broadcast preparation – finding out about all the floats, meetings, and then this year I’m also filming some other packages that will be cut into the broadcast. So I’ve just been researching and reading about everything and trying to make sure that the other interviews and things that I do this week will all make sense!

I do want to try and see some of the Queer Screen Film Festival events. 

The night before Mardi Gras, my friends are having a Chromatica themed boat party, which might be the first time that I get to dance to Chromatica on a dance floor!

MGG: Are you excited for RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under and are you at all involved?

Courtney:  No, I’m not involved, but I’m definitely excited to watch it! Obviously, I’ve heard all of the whispers as many of us have, about girls who have been on it and what’s going on and I’m super excited to see Australian drag showcased. I am fascinated to see the characters that everybody chooses for snatch game and the ways in which Australia and New Zealand culture is represented on the runway. 

I’m super excited to see Aussie drag showcased, because I think the US drag and the UK drag and the Dutch drag, Thai drag, Canadian drag etc. have all been showcased, so I’m excited! I just want to see that unique flavour from Australia and see what Michelle and Ru and the judges make of it and see what the audience makes of it when it’s on TV as well.

MGG: After the craziness of Mardi Gras passes – what’s next for you?

Courtney: I’m trying to finish a book, which is going to be very hard to do over the next few weeks, because everything’s so busy. But yeah, after Mardi Gras, I’ll be finishing my book – my memoir – which will be coming out later this year. 

Then I’ve got my show FLUID which I started in Sydney and in Darwin last Mardi Gras. I’ll be doing the show in Brisbane on the 18th, 19th and 20th of March at the Powerhouse. The plan is to do more shows around the country, but things are still not quite safe to make interstate plans, just yet. So just waiting, waiting to see how things sort of firm up. 


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About Author

Nick Aldrich

At the helm of it all, meet Nick Aldrich - Editor-at-large here at A Modern Gay's Guide. Nick is immersed in all things LGBTIQ+ culture, a lover of late nights out, a true socialite through-and-through and proud as punch to be able to write for a publication dedicated to the LGBTIQ+ community.

Nick writes predominantly on LGBTIQ+ events, arts & entertainment, travel and special interest pieces.

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