TVocalizers — La La McCallan/Tia Anna

| Jul 18, 2011
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Some months I have to scramble to get this column in on deadline.  Often, that involves practically begging an artist to return answers to interview questions on time, or even getting them to acknowledge that they’ve responded to my press inquiry in the first place.

Then, there are months like this.  Maybe it’s because of the summer, but there’s a lot of cool stuff going on the trans music world at the moment.  So, accordingly, this month’s installment has more than one featured artist, plus the usual smorgasbord of new material mentions.

First off is international diva La La McCallan, who was first featured here in February and March, 2010.  She has recently participated in a truly extraordinary event for her career, and is gracious enough to offer us some details.

And this month, we also feature Irish performer Tia Anna, who has a slightly different take on drag showmanship than what most of us are used to.

Lala McCallan

La La McCallan

La La McCallan lives and performs in Italy and back in April, auditioned for the national TV show Italia’s Got Talent.  Unlike the show’s American or British counterparts, Italia’s Got Talent presents only 6 episodes, but each is 2.5 hours long.

“I had auditioned for the writers of the show a little less than a year ago, in July 2010,” La La said.  “The producers called a few days after to say we had been chosen to tape our audition before the actual judges of the show in September.  Since then, they kept calling more or less every couple of months to tell us that the taping had been postponed, and that they were going to do it a little later.  We had all but lost faith it would ever happen when they finally called in March to tell us to report to Rome for the show.”

This show is one of the biggest hits on Italian TV, with the judges being the most popular television personalities in the country.  Each episode won its ratings time slot with a share varying from 24% to an unbelievable 44% for the finale, what was watched by a peak of 7,600,000 viewers.

“We approached this experience full of doubts, terrified of what the outcome may be,” La La said.  “Contestants can be helped by the final editing, or they can be totally trashed and made fun of.  While our theatrical success gave us confidence, we could not be sure of what the writers had decided to make with us until we saw the first show.  We were thrilled to see the kindness they showed us….and they fully understood who and what La La is.”

Go to La La’s website, to see videos of the show.  For those of us who don’t speak Italian, there are English subtitles.

“I was shocked to be selected for the semi-finals, and even more elated to be voted into the final episode, one of 12 finalists chosen among 10,000 applicants,” La La said.  “I was a bit disappointed at the writer’s choice for my final performance.  I wanted to so something based on vocal skills…but I was given the ‘glamour spot’ instead.”   (Check out the video and you’ll see what La La means.)

“Television is of course an incredible medium,” La La went on to explain.  “While some fans of my theater show would think this a weird choice, the fact remains that the ‘Got Talent’ format is the only one allowing an artist who doesn’t fit any mold to show what they can do without prejudice.  These videos were uploaded on Vimeo because of copyright issues existing with YouTube.  Do feel free to drop us a line and let us know what you think.”

Tia Anna

Tia Anna, a.k.a. Mary Harness

Recently in our Perpetual Change companion column we featured a trans musician from England.  Now we’re going back to the U.K. to introduce a performer by the name of Tia Anna.  In Ireland, she goes by the name of Mary Harness.  There’s a reason for the different name in Ireland . . . and it doesn’t involve hiding from the authorities. Anyway, she does offer an explanation.

Tia Anna was a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009.  Along with her drag act, she incorporates comedy, magic, mime, and meet-and-greet characterizations into her performances.  There are videos on MySpace and especially on YouTube that seem to promote the more comedic side of Tia Anna. Her presentation,  and sometimes even her perspective, can change from performance to performance. But all in all, it’s part of who Tia Anna/Mary Harness is and how she wants the world to see her.

TGForum: If you don’t mind, could you share some of your background?

Tia Anna: I was born in Wallingford, Berks, England, but have moved around a lot, first to London while at school, then to Southampton and Sheffield for University.  I have an interesting background . . . myself and my tow younger brothers have an Irish mother and a German-Jewish father. We were brought up Catholic, so we had all this high religious, church every Sunday and Catholic schooling background.

TGF: Any formal music or theatrical training?

TA: Not really any. I was a free spirit for many years, not having much direction, although I was hellbent on a career as an archaeologist and managed to get a dipoloma, a BA degree and finally an MA postgrad degree in Archaeology, and worked in the area for a while but there was little work and even less job security. Did a lot of odd menial work. The only arts training is what I had a school and a few short courses.

TGF: How old were you when you first started doing drag? How did you get into it in the first place?

TA: I was about 38 or 39 when I first put on a dress for a student charity night and have never looked back since. Although I wish I had started when I was 18, I seem to have made up for the lost years through an amazing amount of opportunity and hard work.

TGF: How often do you perform and at what type of events/venues?

TA: I am a “Meet and Greet” drag queen at one weekly event in Chesterfield. I do paid performances when I can get them.

TGF: What criteria do yo use in selecting material and songs for your act?  Is there anything you won’t use or do on stage?


TA: Basically anything goes. However, when planning shows, I bear in mind that if the audience includes children, I take care to avoid any explicit numbers. As far a preferred songs, I choose whatever I particularly like to sing, but also it has to be a song which the audience will like, hence a lot of rock and roll classics as well as disco numbers, Eurovision hits, dance music, etc.

TGF: Probably your most famous moment was your appearance on Britain’s Got Talent.  Care to share a bit about your experience?

TA: When I appeared on BGT, it all passed very quicly when I was actually on stage. I had to pass through two previous stage of auditions before I got to the televised stage, which was the Manchester Heat. This was filmed in early 2009, and involved a whole day of waiting/preparation, so I was totally absorbed making myself look and sound as good as I could. When it came to the vote, I was really surprised — two no votes but also two yes votes. The Manchester Heat was also unusual in that it had four judges rather than the normal three. An act had to get 3 yes votes out of 4 in order to proceed. I would definitely enter such a contest again as and when I have another great song or performance.  Next time I might do it as part of a comedy group or something like that.

TGF: What kind of response do you get from including magic in your act?

TA: I like performing magic, which is manly card tricks. I often do card tricks ‘close up’ to indiviual groups of people at tables.  My card tricks are almost universally enjoyed, and sometimes people show me their own tricks, which I appreciate as well.

TGF: Do you ever intertwine, or use all or some of each performance element, during the same gig?

TA: Yes, I often do.

TGF: You’ve said that the “Mary Harness” name only works in Ireland.  Care to elaborate a bit on that?

TA: “Mary Harness” is a name I invented when I first started doing drag in Ireland at the same time I started in the U.K. It is a pun on the name of a really frumpy Irish politician called Mary Harney, who everyone in Ireland knows and people often lampoon in various ways. However, as she is a minor politician in a neighboring European country, she is virtually unknown in Britain, so no one gets the joke of the name Mary Harness in Britain.

TGF: Having never been to the U.K., are there differences in how drag is done, and how it’s received between Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales?

TA: I am not aware of any outstanding differences between parts of the U.K. or difference between the U. K. and the U. S.  The U.K. drag scene very closely is inspired by the U. S. scene. Scotland and Wales and regions of England often have a vernacular twist on the main London/Manchester drag scene.  In northern Ireland, the drag scene is part and parcel of the Irish scene, which is centered in Dublin. Northern Ireland increasingly has an Irish rather than just British cultural feel to it these days.

TGF: What advice would you offer to anyone starting out as a drag entertainer?

For more info on Tia/Mary visit her website. There are links to all manner of Tia/Mary’s performance skills.)


Weird Al Gaga

There are some new videos (besides those of this month’s featured artists) that are now available, as well as new music.

First off, I’m going to assume that most of us have seen, if not heard about, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Lady Gaga parody video, Perform This Way.   All I can say, if you’ve not see this, go to Al’s website and check it out.  Personally, I think it’s one of his all time best videos.  The guys a comedic genius.   Al’s a little scary in drag, but what the heck, his first name’s “Weird.”

Calpernia Addams has a new video of her singing Is That All There Is.  Check out her website, and also YouTube for a whole boat-load of other Calpernia videos.

New dance music

Natalia Kills

Natalia Kills Mirrors/Wonderland EP, contains 11 cuts of remixes of these tunes.  Listen on her website.

Jessie And The Toy Boys  Jessie Malakouti’s new project, Show Me Your Tan Lines, EP with 5 dance tracks and one remix track of Push It. She is part of the Femme Fatale Tour this summer, with Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, and Nerov.

A second single by Eva, called Ashes is also available as an eight song remix disc. Check out Eva’s website.

Wynter Gordon has released an excellent R&B flavored dance EP called With The Music I Die.  It contains both album versions and extended dance tunes from her recent project.

If Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson had a love child, it would Porcelain Black.  She describes her sound as “…industrial, dark, danceable, pop.” Don’t be surprised if you see some Goth folks on the dance floor when her material gets played. Her website has videos and pix.

Well, folks, that’s it for this month.  Thanks for your indulgence.  Now get outside while the weather is still good.

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Category: All TGForum Posts, Music

Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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