Caught In the Courtney Act: Conversations with Australia's Favorite Drag Queen
BY Daniel Garofali
April 24 2013 8:15 PM ET
I first caught a glimpse of Courtney Act while at the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras back in 2007. Before the parade began, she was running down Oxford Street greeting patrons and having her photo taken. I couldn't tell you what she was wearing, but I can tell you that I remember thinking, woah, those legs.
By this time, Courtney was under a spotlight in the aftermath of becoming a finalist on the first season of Australian Idol, making her famous, especially in these parts of Sydney. After the competition, she signed to Sony BMG, and released her single "Rub Me Wrong," which broke into the Top 30 on the Australian Recording Industry Association Charts.
In 2013, Courtney is looking better than ever. On first glance, she might appear to be just another blonde bombshell serving up the glamour and salaciousness of Marilyn Monroe, but when it comes to this Australian beauty, there is certainly more than meets the eye.
The Jessica Rabbit hole goes much deeper than the perfect recipe of lace-front wigs, fake eyelashes and makeup. Courtney is living proof of that. She is, in fact, an illusion. Hang on…you didn't know Courtney was really a man? Well, I don't blame you.
"As Shane [Jenek] some men might want to beat me, but as Courtney they beat off to me," says Jenek. "It's so funny to see through my eyes how the world reacts differently to Shane and Courtney."
I confess that I surprised myself back in 2007 as a heterosexual teenager, thinking Courtney had the best legs I had ever seen. It was confusing. I wasn't supposed to be attracted to a man's legs, was I?
But it was Courtney's singing ability that really made her a household name. She created an inner dialogue, and for those brave enough to embark, sparked a collective conversation that encouraged people to question even themselves. The only reason I knew Courtney was a man was because she was a thrown into the public eye by appearing in the first season of Australian Idol — not because something gave away her secret.
Initially, Jenek auditioned as himself: a blonde, self-proclaimed twink. Unsuccessful as Jenek, he went back the next day as Courtney, and simultaneously fooled and wowed the judges, landing Courtney a spot in the Top 10.
More than just propelling Courtney into a career in the entertainment business, her inclusion in the Top 10 brought drag to primetime television in Australia. Courtney pushed the envelope with witty innuendos to judges and hosts before finally being eliminated, but this would be just the first time she paved the way for new attitudes towards drag on TV and in reality, itself.