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Entertainer Edward Cowley's transformation from burly bodybuilder to his alter-ego and ultra-glam "drag artiste" Buckwheat, takes just one disciplined hour.
A complex beauty routine, perfected over the 25 years Cowley has been performing drag, involves shaving, waxing, moisturising, concealing, and the careful application of giant curling lashes and sparkling lipstick.
Extravagant feathered head pieces, sequined dresses, necklaces and bracelets add to the persona, while sky-high heels finish off the polished look.
In a downstairs studio, essentially a garage converted to a walk-in wardrobe and adjoining make-up room, the character of Buckwheat comes alive.
Buckwheat began out of the necessity to fill a hostess vacancy at a nightclub Cowley part-owned.
"The name Buckwheat was a nickname that I had when I was a child and it came originally from the television series the Little Rascals," Cowley said.
"He had a massive afro, I had a massive afro. All of a sudden it sort of came back and it was a nice fit.
"In those days you would only go to work and get ready and do the show and I would take it all off and sort of head home.
"That was before Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
"Once that movie came out people kind of wanted to book you for parties and it sort of became popular and mainstream so it was a lot easier to go out dressed in drag."
Cowley said that over time the character and his normal self had "melded together quite nicely as one".
"The drag that I'm doing now has evolved," he said.
"It took me a while to find the niche and the look that I wanted. My drag personality is quite friendly, it's warm and it's open."
Buckwheat's look does not come easily however.
Cowley travels to Thailand a few times a year to order and pick up outfits and jewellery, and on a daily basis undertakes an intense exfoliation routine and three-hour workouts.
When not performing, Cowley takes part in body-building competitions and several 100-kilometre runs a year.
Cowley said that though there were always going to be some people who didn't like the act, most loved to be around Buckwheat.
"You're only going to be wary if you're unsure about it," he said.
"It's not for everyone but in terms of mass appeal, now if I go somewhere and I'm working ... to hear joyous laughter from people and to get them entertained is the best medicine for anything really. We're not going to eat you."
Cowley said the Pride Festival was important for all of the city.
"It's important to see how alive the city comes - a celebration for all of the city so they can see what's going on in their own town," he said.
The drag scene in Auckland was small and friendly compared to some overseas cities where things could get quite nasty.
"It's been an amazing journey," he said.
"As long as I can get my makeup on and look half-decent, I will keep on going."
Buckwheat will be performing at the Big Gay Out on Sunday as well as on Tuesday night with two other drag divas, Bertha and Tess Tickle.
For more information see aucklandpridefestival.org.nz
- © Fairfax NZ News
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