Interview: Aaron Carty from Britain’s Got Talent

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This year’s Britain’s Got Talent (BGT) has once again proven that if there’s anything we Brits are good at, it’s sheer talent, wackiness and a great sense of humour.

Round after round I have watched countless acts deserving of the coveted winner’s title with some shocks and turns thrown in for good measure. None shocked me so much as performer Aaron Carty – a sentiment also shared by his Nan waiting in the wings, with a gasp on her face. It’s usually the acts that shock and surprise us that tend to get much further in these show genres and make them unforgettable. I was most fortunate to catch up with the amazing Aaron myself, to speak about how the competition has impacted on him and life before Beyoncé

It was a bit of a shock for your family at the BGT audition, how did you manage to keep your performing such a secret?

I think any of my family members would agree that I am definitely someone who goes against the grain, I’ll always do something different. I honestly didn’t think they’d see it as such a shock. My Nan however was in total shock! She had seen a photo before, but I don’t think she actually registered that it was me, so it was even more of a shock for her, to see in the flesh. It was hard to keep it a secret – my mum did actually catch up at our hotel, in the morning rehearsing, on the day of the audition and she had tears in her eyes – they were tears of joy. 

How long have you been performing for & what has been your best experience of it so far?

I have only been performing as Beyoncé for 10 months. It all happened very quickly, after my first performance at Sitges Pride June 2014, when I performed ‘Grown Woman’ in front of a crowd of almost 10,000 people. However I’ve been dancing to Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child ever since ‘No No No’. I remember coercing two friends into dancing at our local club as Destiny’s Child, performing to ‘Lose My Breath’ (obviously I was Beyoncé). My best experience so far has to got be going on BGT. The second I stepped onto the stage the audience roared in celebration. It was such an amazing experience, because it was the first time I’d performed in front of a large audience in the UK – I felt they’d instantly accepted me. 

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Working in the police force did you ever feel like you needed to keep your “secret hobby” so to speak discrete?

I was a black, gay, police officer, I never came across any prejudice with the Police Officer’s I worked with. It was more about, if you could do your job, you were accepted. I’ve always been a dancer and a performer. I remember during police training I performed ‘Hammer Time’ in front of 300 people and during my first Christmas Party I did it again. I never felt the need to keep it discrete, I’m not the type of person to be discrete, I am going to do what I want to do. If you don’t like it, it’s your problem.

Were your work colleagues supportive, through your new career and do they continue to show support?

I have been overwhelmed with the support I have had and I think this comes from me being a very open person. I am very happy to talk about my dreams, failures and successes. This helps when people know what you are trying to achieve, so that they can support you. My work colleagues have been so supportive with Beyoncé EXP – especially my business partner Darrel Eve. He’s taken a lot of time out to help me with photography, videos and social media. I’m the boss – but it’s nice to do something with the people you work with, on more of a personal level. It’s kind of a team building exercise for us, especially when we were filming the Single Ladies Music Video and I was ‘popping out’. I had two colleagues on ‘pop out’ duty. 

Can you give us at VADA and our readers a brief history of your careers and how you got to where you are now?

I decided very early on that University wasn’t for me, because I hadn’t decided what I wanted to focus on and I was put off Media, as a career at my school. I secretly applied for the police and didn’t tell anyone until I had actually been accepted, at the same time I was going through the motions of going to University. I was in the police for almost four years, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Being a Police Officer at 19 was certainly a ‘J’ curve in life experience. However it very quickly became repetitive, blue light runs, arresting the same people for the same offences. I started using my days off to come to London and help out (for free) on anything media based. Events, Music Videos, TV programmes, anything! I started to build a network up of people who could see I was thoroughly enthusiastic. It got to the point where I was having to take days off to work freelance in Media. I decided to resign – without a job to go to, in order to pursue my dream of working in Media.

I started working for a financial consultancy within sales, whilst I began planning my career – however a year into the role I become one of their top consultants and ended up starting a financial consultancy firm with a colleague, which I still work with today. This gave me the initial funds to start Carve Productions – a digital media production company, which specialises in video production and social media for businesses. It certainly wasn’t easy, I had times where Darrel and I hadn’t paid ourselves for months on end, had times where I genuinely didn’t know where our next project was coming from and at one time was made homeless. Fortunately I had a lot of support and had friends I could stay with, otherwise it would have been a very different story. Carve Productions is now in its sixth year and we can boast some very impressive clients. 

Do you think there’s still a stigma amongst not only straight, but gay communities, when it comes to female impersonation and if so how do you think this could be reversed if it all?

I absolutely think that there is a stigma around straight and gay communities, when it comes to female impersonation and I would go as far as saying, I used to be one of them. I think this is because in the UK ‘drag’ as a whole is seen as a very low quality performance, in some dingy pub corner, drinking, swearing and then getting up on stage. This isn’t the case – and with Ru Paul’s Drag Race it has shown how so much work, creativity and energy goes into the visual and the performances. 

Part of going on Britain’s Got Talent was to test how the UK public would react to a drag queen that lip-synced, and didn’t look so traditionally ‘panto’ and over the top. I have been inundated with people praising the performance as ‘ballsy’ no pun intended, brave and different. I want to champion diversity, especially when it comes to female impersonation. There is always a stigma attached to things people do not understand, as I said. I was one of them. I go to Sitges Pride most years, which is probably the most inclusive, no hassle, accepting place I’ve ever been to. You have families, straight, gay and drag communities of all kinds coming together. Spending time with people you otherwise wouldn’t and going to new places to experience a different type of night out can change this.  

How many people knew about your Beyoncé alter ego and what did they think?

No one knew I had a Beyoncé/Sasha Fierce alter ego, until I performed at Sitges Pride last year and I didn’t even tell people I was doing it. It wasn’t until one photo was put on Facebook, that people realised what I was doing. It was a great feeling to surprise people, I was ready to challenge people who didn’t quite get it, but the response was one of support, praise and love. The most comments I get are about my legs and bum, if it wasn’t for them I probably couldn’t pull off Beyoncé. 

You were brilliant on BGT & you certainly caused a stir on social media, what did you hope to get out of the experience?

Thank you very much – I auditioned for the show not even thinking that my audition would be shown, I originally went on just for the experience of performing, as I still hadn’t performed in front of large crowds at this point. However as soon as I got there I thought to myself ‘I want this’, I want to win. I am dealing with the stigma of female impersonation and homophobia (especially on social media) but I do feel I can stand up to negative comments and hopefully lead the way for others to come out, with their secret hobby and show people. The stir on social media was so overwhelming, 99% of the comments were positive, and it spread world-wide very very quickly. I had over 20,000 friend requests on Facebook within the first week and had some great comments from people saying that I had inspired them, to change their job and try and do something with their passion. I would love to get to the semi-finals and show a different style of Beyoncé, represent the LGBT and drag community and entertain everyone with bigger heels, more hair and smaller outfits. 

I know you can’t say much about how far you have gotten in the competition, but what’s next for you after BGT?

Before I decided to apply for BGT I was putting together a full Beyoncé show, which I hope to have ready later in the year. I also plan to do a lot more performances in the UK and we’ve had some amazing interest overseas also. I believe in always growing and developing your talents, I love performing so much – you’ll see much more of that. There will also be some collaborations to look out for! 

 You can follow Aaron on Twitter under @aaroncarty & @BeyonceEXP