Hollywould Star already had a well-established career as a performer under the name Timothy Springs before she ever stepped foot in Australia or put on a wig.
34-year-old actor, singer, dancer and drag artist Hollywould Star was born and raised in Queens, New York.
But it was going to boarding school in South Carolina that really set her on her trajectory to become a performer.
“I was sent to South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and that experience set me up for everything that I’m doing now,” Hollywould told QNews.
“That’s where I learned to sing classical music, and all my acting and theatre skills. That really did well for me.”
After graduating in 2006 she was accepted into Juilliard and studied at the Manhattan School of Music.
“That experience was amazing. New York is an amazing place to be and to work in the arts,” she says.
“Being so close to the Metropolitan Opera, the Lincoln Center and Broadway and all of the museums. I love New York. It’s just an amazing place.”
“From that, I got to perform in operas all over the world and then I moved into musical theatre. I worked on Hairspray, Aida. I toured around the United States with Grammy winner Wynton Marsalis on a show called Abyssinian.
I performed in Porgy and Bess and that production took me all over Europe from Russia to Greece, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary. I worked on some operas in Italy at some festivals.
“So I’d done quite a few things before moving to Australia.”
Nine years ago she visited Australia for a holiday, planning to stay for a month, but it was love at first sight.
“The beaches were something I never had access to in New York and South Carolina and I’m just fascinated by Australians,” she says.
“In that first visit, I really fell in love with the place. The weather and the work-life balance are beautiful. You have Medicare and sensible gun laws. There are a lot of amazing things about Australia.”
After moving to Australia she continued her career as a performer.
A career high point was working on Book of Mormon in 2016 for which South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone flew out to help bed down the show for the Australian leg of its world tour.
She was also cast in the lead role of Lola in a production of Kinky Boots in Queensland, performed in Showboat in Melbourne, and did a stint at the Hayes Theatre.
She says playing Lola in Kinky Boots doesn’t count as drag as she didn’t come up with the character or do her own hair, makeup or costume for that role.
It was only while being stuck at home during the Covid lockdowns that she let her drag persona out into the world.
“November marks the two-year anniversary of my drag career,” Hollywould says.
“Drag was always something I had this itch to do it. But I was afraid because I thought I would lose my following as Timothy. I thought people might not like me as much, or boys would think I was too feminine. I just thought people wouldn’t accept me so it was something I pushed to the back of my mind, this feminine side of myself.
“But then during lockdown I sat down and I decided that I was going to paint my face every single day during Covid. And I did. And from that I decided that I was going to do drag. The rest is history!”
The queen’s debut
She first debuted Hollywould on stage as part of a cabaret show at the Darlinghurst Theatre in 2021.
“They hired me as ‘Timothy’ and just said do your thing for 40 minutes and I just decided that I was going to come out in drag,” she says.
The inspiration for her drag persona is straightforward but she was worried that another drag queen would already be using the name.
“I’ve always been obsessed with pop culture and movie stars. As a child I always wanted to be famous,” she shares.
“I’ve never actually been to Hollywood despite travelling all over the world, which is actually quite funny. But I just thought that Hollywood was a cool name. I decided to spell it differently because I thought some other drag queen would already be using it.”
Holllywould Star said the character was inspired by the black women she has looked up to in life.
“Naomi Campbell is a huge inspiration and I think I kind of look like her,” she says.
“And also Aaliyah – she was an amazing and incredible artist who passed away too young. But also the strong women in my life like my mother and my auntie. They taught me to always be myself and they’ve really inspired me.”
Her new pivot into pop music was a spur of the moment decision that came out of performing on this year’s season RuPaul’s Drag Race Downunder.
We were only given two weeks to come up with something for the talent show and I just thought I would write an original song,” she says.
“I wanted it to deliver a message but I also wanted it to be fierce. I wanted to do so many things with the song but we were only given two minutes.”
“So I decided to write Black Beauty. The song is about black empowerment. I’ve had some really great experiences being a person of colour in Australia but I’ve also had some really hard times.
“Sometimes I’ve felt that I’ve had to work harder as a person of colour and an immigrant here but I’ve also experienced that in America. When you have experiences like that it can be powerful to channel that into writing.
“The lyrics talk about putting black beauty on the map. Raised in New York but I live overseas. I’ve been here so long that they call me Aussie. That really tells the story of Hollywould and I really wish they had let me tell that story on Drag Race.”
Fine tuning the song
After premiering the song on Drag Race, Hollywould sat down with her singer-songwriter friend Beks and DJ and producer Dads Mayo to refine the track.
When it came time to make the music video she knew who she wanted.
“Sean Higgins is this incredible videographer in Melbourne,” she says. “All of his stuff is just stellar so I had to go to him because I wanted the video to be top tier.”
“With the video I wanted to highlight the idea of black beauty but I also wanted to reference so many artists. There are tributes to Beyonce, and Aaliyah and Janet Jackson in there because they were all so ahead of their time.
“I wanted to make the sort of video that if you showed it to an audience in 2050 it would still hold up.”
-Look out for Hollywould Star: Black Beauty on Spotify or Apple Music or watch it on YouTube in the video below.
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