Karna Ford: An Exclusive Interview

Photographer: Jacob Richardson

As the reigning queen of Universal’s Slay 2 Stay drag competition, Sydney’s Karna Ford is one of Australia’s newest drag sensations and has taken the scene by storm since the end of the pandemic. 

Drag Royalty in the Making

This is a queen that you can’t miss. Karna Ford is a force to be reckoned with, sporting an impressive resume for an up-and-coming performer. Notably, Karna has featured in Jessica Mauboy’s Right Here Right Now music video and on the TV series NCIS Sydney.

QNews spoke to Karna in an exclusive interview about what drag means to her and why she got into the artform in the first place. 

How would you describe your type of drag to someone who’s never seen a spot from you before? 

I would call myself a club queen. Most of my work is performances at clubs. The inspiration that I draw from are powerhouse divas like Beyonce, Nicole Scherzinger, J-Lo, Rihanna… I also dance, and so I love to show off my dance moves. 

I have a Filipino influence from my family and from the Filipino community here, but it’s not something that I’ve really tapped into just yet. I’ve been wanting to do more culturally inspired performances, but I was born in Australia, so a lot of my influences are westernised. But it’s definitely something that I want to incorporate more into my performances. I do love it when I perform a Filipino artist like Nicole Scherzinger. 

Do you remember when you first fell in love with drag? 

I’ve always been a performer and I used to be a dancer before I started drag. 

I got booked for a show called Queens of Asia and there weren’t enough Asian drag queens that could dance and perform so they asked me if I wanted to be a drag queen in the show. This was my first paid opportunity to do a show, but it was in drag. But I loved the whole process straight away. Of course, I was obviously busted. It was my first time doing drag. That’s why it’s lucky for me that I had the dance training because that’s what people wanted to see on stage. 

For my first year of doing drag, which was in 2019, I only did it about five or six times. And every time that I’d done it had been because it was a paid gig. And then we got into lockdown in 2020. 

I was craving to do drag. I would just be at home practising my makeup, and then going online and sharing what I did during COVID. 

But I think it kind of showed what I saw during my era of starting out- it showed who really wanted to push for it. There were a lot of queens that dropped off during that time. 

There was no reason for them to do it. Whereas the ones who I’ve seen blossom during COVID are the ones that are working now. 

What did winning Slay 2 Stay mean to you and your place within the Sydney queer scene? 

It meant a lot to me. I actually wanted to do the season before, which was the third season of Slay 2 Stay, but then I had a lot of people in my ear being like, “Oh, don’t do that. You know what those competitions are like. It’s all about hierarchy and sucking at people’s asses!” 

And I let that get to me, and then I saw how the competition went. I was like, I totally could have slayed that! So I made the decision to just do it for myself. 

One, to push my creativity to create something new every week and two, to just do it for myself. If it wasn’t for Slay, I wouldn’t have built a team and support system behind me that I have right now. 

The people who came and supported me at Slay are people that are so important to me. I wasn’t new to the scene before Slay, but it felt more cemented after the competition. 

It was interesting how everything played out in the competition, but I think that’s the thing about competitions is that you just have to expect the unexpected. I obviously wanted to come in and make it to the end. But throughout the whole competition, I felt like it wasn’t mine, and then I made it to the end, and it was just that last little performance that made me go over the edge that made me win. It was a bit shocking, but in the best way! 

Photographer: Hamid Mousa

Do you have any inspirations for drag specifically? 

Well, my absolute idol in the Sydney drag scene is Coco Jumbo. She was one of the first queens that I saw who I could feel like I connected to- that was a person of colour, that was a bit bigger, and could bring the house down. 

And now at times I get booked on jobs with her. So I feel like it’s a full circle moment for me. This was years ago, before she was on Drag Race, when she was doing a lot of shows at Arq. She’s got this ability to make everyone feel so special, and yeah, she’s incredible. 

What are your hopes for the future?

It’s wild because I’ve actually hit a lot of my goals that I wrote for myself a few years ago. 

I wrote myself a five year plan, and each year I wanted to achieve one of those goals. I wanted to have a weekly show, which I do now. I was featured in a music video with Jessica Mauboy, I got featured in a role for a TV show- NCIS Sydney on Paramount+. 

And then my last goal that I really wanted to kick was to travel internationally for drag. And then funnily enough, that only happened recently. 

So it was very cool that we achieved all these goals. And the thing about that is that I achieved all of these goals without me being on Drag Race. 

I just feel like there are people who go on Drag Race to book those sorts of gigs, but these are all things that I’ve gotten on my own. 

So I think what I hope for the future is. I think I just want to travel the world more with drag, so do more touring shows and just go around the world. 

You can see Karna Ford in NCIS Sydney on Paramount+ Australia or later this year on Network 10. 

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Harry Hadley

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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