Drag king Hugo Grrrl says winning House of Drag is "life-changing" after he was once told he would "fail" by members of the drag community.

Hugo Grrrl beat out Lola Blades and Leidy Lei in the finale of the show, winning the top prize of $10,000.

Grrrl says he was "really deeply completely shocked" to win.

"Just sitting there watching Lola, I was just like, 'She's so beautiful, and she's exactly what the world expects out of a drag artist,'" he says. "She did so well, I had just convinced myself that I had not won, and so it was genuinely, completely, utterly a shock."


As a drag king (drag artists who perform in masculine drag and explore male gender stereotypes), Grrrl says he has found the show "hard to watch" due to insecurities around how people perceive different identities in the drag community.

"I think part of the reason I worked so hard is because deep down I don't believe that I'm good enough to be doing this as a job, or good enough to have done well in the competition," he says. "I think it's going to be pretty life-changing for me, having that validation. I might become a slightly less insecure human."

Hugo Grrrl winning House of Drag with hosts Kita and Anita. Photo / supplied
Hugo Grrrl winning House of Drag with hosts Kita and Anita. Photo / supplied

Those insecurities may come from the fact that the drag community has acted coldly towards Grrrl before - who says he has faced an uphill battle to be taken seriously since he started out.

"When I started out I had venue owners tell me that they didn't book drag kings because it wasn't the same calibre as drag queens," he says.

"I've been told I would fail, because I run a lot of gigs which are aimed at queer women and gender minorities here in Wellington, and (I've had) the drag alma mater basically telling me that I will fail because that subgenre of people is just not a subculture worth catering to.

"Things have gotten better in just the few years that I've been performing and hustling in Wellington, and I think things will get much better," he says. "Because it all comes down to misogyny - it's really hard for people to look at a female-bodied person and be like, 'That's true art,' because when a man does art it's seen as a loftier creative art form."

Grrrl hopes viewers seeing a drag king win a drag competition will encourage more people to try drag who may not have considered it before.

"I have this conversation a lot in local gay bars, meeting young women, and they're like, 'I love drag.' And I'm like, 'Great! We should put you in a show sometime.' And they're like, 'Oh no, I could never do it'," he says.


"It breaks my heart because they are experts and they're obviously super-talented potential artists, but because they haven't seen that representation, they don't believe that they themselves are actually worthy of giving it a shot. So I really hope that this gets more queer minorities into drag."

Grrrl is thankful for the whole House of Drag experience, saying most of the castmates remain friends. He says he feels "patriotic" that TVNZ was able to make the show happen.

"New Zealand's always been so progressive, but I can't believe that they would take a gamble and really throw this really underground art form into a loudspeaker," he says.

"And in addition to that, I cannot believe that they considered putting diverse drag performers like me in it."

Hugo Grrrl performs alongside other House of Drag contestants at The Big Gay Christmas Drag Show, Saturday December 22 at Phoenix Entertainment.