Dina Martina: interview

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She may hail from Seattle, but there‘s nothing grungey about Dina Martina. The creation of Grady West, she chats to Time Out in the run-up to her London debut

  • Dina Martina: interview

    Lipstick, powder and paint: divine drag diva Dina Martina

  • Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to give us this interview.

    ‘Thank you, I appreciate your patronage.’

    Obviously we know you’re an icon for legions of fans back in the States – but, for London audiences who might not have seen your show, how would you describe the experience?

    ‘I like to describe it as a world-class cornucopia of intrigue and finance, but that only sounds good with timpani accompaniment.‘I’ve heard different people saythat the show is “hilariously painful”, “excruciatingly funny”, “like Las Vegas on crack” and “beautifully grotesque”. My mother used to say it was “an immensely entertaining tragedy”. Actually, her nickname for me was “Little Tragedy”.’

    You’re an entertainer in the old-school tradition. Who were your main influences?

    ‘I’m not really that old. Let’s see, who were my influences… Ethel Merman, Nefertiti, Mary, the wheel…’

    You’re seen as a fashion guru. Are there any tips you could give to the ladies of London?

    ‘One thing for sure: you wear your black pumps during cold and flu season, and you wear white pumps during flea and tick season. Another thing: in social situations – ie parties, funerals, white-water rafting trips, etc – be sure to use lots of flamboyant hand gestures to distract from any visible skin tags or port wine stains you might have. What else… oh, epaulettes are coming back.’

    Your make-up is quite unlike anything we’ve seen before. How would you describe your unique look?

    ‘You’ve probably heard the term “less is more”? Well, I like to think of my look as “more is more”, only with more. I also like to go slightly outside of the natural lip line, to get the fuller lip look. ‘When applying eye cream, I use light, upward sweeps to protect the delicate “crow’s feet”. I actually like to call them “pleats”, but that’s a personal choice. I don’t really have many wrinkles anyway, but you know what they say – “White don’t crack”.‘But it goes beyond the make-up. It’s the way I live, too. I’m a classically-trained gymnast, so there’s that. I’ve been working on my dismount lately, and I think that really comes through. I eat a diet rich in sodium to give my face that “bigger than life” look. Brie can help with that, too.’

    We understand you have an adopted daughter. Will she be coming with you?

    ‘No, I think the limit is two carry-on bags.’

    All your many engagements and personal appearances around the world must make it hard to maintain a stable relationship.

    ‘It is hard, and I’m quite used to being single, but I try to start a new relationship whenever I’m about to go on tour. That way I don’t have to find a babysitter. I met someone just last night, so I’ll leave Phoebe with him.’

    We know your first love is show business but you also give much of your time and money to charity. What are the ones you hold dearest to your heart?

    ‘Every year at Christmas time I go around to retirement homes and try to rub old people’s feet. Sometimes they resist, but I find that if you get them when they’re nodding off or doing something – like playing Solitaire, or quilting – you can get a firm grip.‘I’ve also been directing a local theatre group for the elderly, and we’re working on a musical fantasy called “Bedpans And Broomsticks”.’

    You give and you give… In fact, is it true you often bestow gifts upon your audiences?

    ‘Yes, and that’s my absolute favourite part of the show because I can get rid of a lot of things.’

    There's an album which goes with this tour, isn’t there?

    ‘Four albums, actually. I wasn’t able to tour for a number of years due to a private feminine injury, so the tour is really in support of my last four albums: “Dina Martina: Sedentary Lady”, “Dina Martina: Soft Palate, Fallen Arches”, “Dina Martina: Anthem of a Fur Trader’s Wife” and “Dina Martina: We Need to Be at the Airport in Ten Minutes”.’

    What are you most looking forward to experiencing in our fair city?

    ‘Oh, I definitely want to see the Pyramids. I also want to visit the museums, because art’s neat. Except for some of it. I’d like to see at least one public beheading.‘And my mother told me once that we’re related to Mary Poppins, so I want to look up my family gynaecology while I’m there. Lots to do.’

    Have you any message for your fans over here?

    ‘Yes, I do. Try to make the world a better place. Stop and smell the little things, you know? Just when you’re walking down the street, everyday… Try smiling at a blind person. You’ll feel better. Celebrate the differences – just don’t point them out. Exercise daily. Eat a light breakfast. And please don’t hit me.’Dina Martina is at the Soho Theatre until May 10.

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