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Gloria Viagra is ready to shine again

By: Filip Sandström Beijer

Photos: Guille Chipironet / Marta PR


World famous drag star Gloria Viagra takes us back to life in Berlin before the fall of the wall and tells us about how a blue pill on Ibiza in the 90’s changed everything.


Michel, also known as Gloria Viagra, has taken an involuntary break from the glamor and spotlight and works during the pandemic at a chocolate shop in central Berlin.


"I miss to laugh, have fun and to feel free. To not have to think all the time. Just go around kiss. And flirt. With this fucking mask you can’t flirt. I hate it. And just to be connected with people in a different way. In the summer it was beautiful. Getting drunk and nasty, that's what I’m missing.”


When we meet, it's Michel, but Gloria Viagra is always present. He himself makes no major difference between the two of them.


"When people say that Gloria is my art person, I always say I'm the same. Sure, I dare to do more stuff as Gloria, but I’m still Michel. I have the same way of thinking. The mood is different, and the courage but it's still me.”


“I dare to do more stuff as Gloria, but I’m still Michel”

As a child, he grew up in a small town in Germany and fled with his mother from a violent father. With the help of her sister, the mother took them both to West Berlin – at that time an oasis surrounded by the GDR. Michel and his mother moved into a WG in Kreuzberg and already at the tender age of six he opened his eyes to politics.


"As a six-year-old I went to my first political rallies against the Vietnam war, against Pincohet in Chile and Franco in Spain. For me it was always very political. This was just how we grew up”.


He describes West Berlin as a city strongly influenced by its alternative culture.


“It was really like an island because of the wall. Kreuzberg was half surrounded by the wall and it was a very alternative area where a lot of young men came because they did not have to do military service if they lived there. "


"It was also very cheap because it was this island in the DDR. People got a lot of money from the government to live and work there. It was always quite alternative and very artsy. A lot of people who tried a different way of life moved to West Berlin.”


He mentions his mother as his role model and the one who molded him into the person he became. She allowed him to sleep in dresses instead of pajamas and supported his childhood fashion shows in the long corridors of the typical Berlin apartment he grew up in. Michel talks about how activism was always present during his teens, both as a punk and a left-wing supporter, but that he took a short break from it when he came out as homosexual.


“For some years it was more important for me to discover my own sexuality and learn how to enjoy it. I knew that I was gay for a long time, but I did not want people to say ‘no wonder you're gay growing up like that”

“I was around 19 when I came out. For some years it was more important for me to discover my own sexuality and learn how to enjoy it. I knew that I was gay for a long time, but I did not want people to say, ‘no wonder you're gay growing up like that’.


“For six years it was important to discover my sexuality and then I went back to the political stuff. During that time, by being gay, either you were in hiding or you were politically out - fighting for the rights. There were still no rights for the gay and queer community.”


The starting shot for the alter-ego Gloria Viagra came in 1987 when Michel and a group of friends decided to try to convince a local TV channel to start a drag show, which got accepted.


"My friends painted me and afterwards I did not want to take the makeup off."


Since then he’s always been part of the club SchwuZ and its queer community. He also started hosting different shows at SO36 in Kreuzberg before he took off to Spain and Barcelona, ​​where he lived when the wall came down.


“When I came back, the east part was like a different town to me. People there already went to the backyards for techno parties”.


In Berlin, Michel always performed on stage as Gloria von Tuten und Blasen. In English that’s an expression for “not the faintest idea” but it’s also a loose play on the German word for blowjob. Gloria Viagra was born in the late 90’s on Ibiza, just when the blue pill got on the market and since the Spanish people could not pronounce the German alias.


“In 97 my mother gave me a ticket to Ibiza for my birthday and said, ‘there are a lot of cute men, so go there’”

His connection with Ibiza started as a birthday present from his mum.


“In 97 my mother gave me a ticket to Ibiza for my birthday, and said, ‘there are a lot of cute men, so go there’. Then I started working there and that changed a lot”.


Gloria Viagra returned to Berlin in the 2000s as an award-winning drag artist and became the city's first drag DJ. The time in Spain shaped her into the Gloria Viagra we know today.


”During this process I changed my outfit a lot. Before it was more political, we called ourselves faggots and we didn’t shave the arms. It was more of a statement that ‘I’m a man, what do you want?” But after this period, I shaved much more. I changed my look so much that a good friend of mine didn’t realize it was me he was talking to one night.”


Becoming Berlin's, and thus one of the world's most famous drag artists, was never something Michel planned for though.


“I never planned to become a big drag star; it came by itself. I started DJ:ing and people loved it. It came by accident. I’ve always been myself.”


After a rough 2020 as an artist, Michel is now looking forward to a new era that he is sure will involve some changes in the industry.


"I do not know what will be different but I'm sure it will be. For sure not every bar will survive. Not every club either, but there will always be new ones. For the queer community I think it's very important with safe spaces, and we do not have these places now. I miss being surrounded by people who are thinking the same and have the same understanding knowledge of respect. ”


When it comes to the drag scene in Berlin, he predicts a generation change.


“In the drag scene I think we will see a generation change. I know a lot of people who has had to do other jobs during the pandemic and some of them will not go back to drag.”


But one thing is for sure - Gloria Viagra is getting ready to shine on the stage again.