TRANSGENDER ROLE MODELS


Richard O'Brien

MY DAY WITH RICHARD 0’BRIEN by Pandora De Pledge



Richard and I had only met a couple of times socially so I was looking forward to spending a day with the legendary character behind the Rocky Horror Show, host of The Crystal Maze and character actor in too many movies to mention.

He has played alongside the likes of Angelica Houston, Susan Sarandon, Timothy Dalton, Max Von Sydow and Drew Barrymore to name only a few and has recently appeared as the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Richard arrived wearing this outfit (without the wig and makeup). Many people would have jumped to the conclusion 'dress' - isn't it amazing how hung up people get over the omission of two extra seams! After refreshments and nibbles we had a chat about what we were going to do with the shoot and both felt anything too 'drag' really wasn't right. Instead we decided that showing the beauty of Richard's feminine side was the way to go.

Richard is a person who not only accepts his feminine side but embraces it as a source of strength pointing out that, “If more men were to be allowed by society, their families and partners to dress and express, they would be better, happier, people for all concerned.” Richard also made the point that there are many forms of “drag” such as dressing in uniforms, (Police, Military and Nursing for example). Such people are often driven, partly by the garments worn, to express a facet of their personality and to be who they wish to be. I found this fascinating because my dear friend Steffan Whitfield often says, "We are all born naked, everything after that is drag." “If more men were to be allowed by society, their families and partners to dress and express, they would be better, happier people for all concerned.”

We chose a varied selection of clothes and accessories for the shoot and then began the make-up. It's no secret that Richard is 61 years old but he has the skin of a person at least 20 years younger and beautiful clear blue eyes that sparkle like a naughty child.

When I showed Richard his completed make-up and hair I was very flattered to be told, “I think this is the best I've looked.... EVER !” I couldn't help thinking that ‘she’ looked rather like Alana Stewart (Rod Stewart's ex-wife) when a moment later Richard exclaimed, “I look a little like a rock star's ex-wife!” Luckily not Courtney Love!

As we began shooting various images it was interesting to note that Richard was only uncomfortable with the image that required padded hips and bottom and rather obvious boobs, (we were going for a kind of Veronica Lake sort of thing - shown here with red background). Richard felt it was too "unnatural", something I could well relate to, because during my own personal journey I have never used fake boobs, etc because they served almost as a reminder of what I didn't have.

Shooting over and safely back at my home we shared a drink and generally chatted about anything and nothing. This part of the day was off the record but ... I was left feeling that here was a person who was a strong individual who had seen and experienced a great deal, some very good, some very bad. An individual who has great empathy for people in the TG community because they too have suffered the prejudice of others, simply for “not quite being the same as everybody else”. Well thank God, because without those differences Richard O'Brien would not be the gentle, cultured and funny person we all know and love. For all the good work you do and our day together, I thank you. Vive le difference !