Meet the 19-year-old student who transforms himself into a fabulous drag alter-ego
Meet Bradley Denton, the fresher drag queen who’s had to contend with cash machine beatings and the silent treatment from his dad.
The 19-year-old dance student from Leeds is Bradley by day but, by night, he transforms himself into his drag persona Pearle Gattes.
He spends over two hours a day getting into character as Pearle Gattes for nights out. In fact, he only goes out as Bradley if he’s with people he’s only just met at university.
He said: “Ever since I was little I’ve always liked wearing heels. I used to put on pretty much everything I could find in Mum’s makeup bag.
“Whenever I walked into a shop I’d always go into the womenswear section. All my friends at school were girls and they’d always apologise for ‘forcing’ me around the womenswear section.
“What they didn’t realise at the time was that I was far more comfortable in the womenswear section than the menswear.
“I’d been putting makeup on for years but I started dressing up in drag two or three years ago.
“When I was 18 I started working as a dancer at a gay bar in York and I absolutely loved it.
“I felt really at home there and was made to feel really welcome but now I think it was more than that: for the first time in my life, I felt like I was where I belonged.
“When I’m Pearle, I feel so much more at home and I’m actually comfortable in my own skin. More than that: when I’m Bradley I long to be Pearle again.”
When he first came out to his parents, Bradley’s Dad refused to speak to him for over a week but did eventually succumb, saying that Bradley being gay wasn’t worth losing their father-son relationship.
Bradley said: “It was really hard to take at first because my Dad’s my idol.
“I felt like I’d done wrong by him but at the same time, I knew that I’d told him the truth so I had some really mixed emotions.
“In the end it was a massive relief when Dad accepted me for who I was and, ever since, my parents have been really supportive.”
When he was withdrawing money on the way back from a night out, three men passed by and, assuming Pearle was a woman, wolf-whistled as they went.
When it became clear Pearle was, in fact, a 19-year-old boy, the three men proceeded to beat him in a tirade of homophobic abuse.
“I’m used to it. If anything, the hate makes me stronger.
“I’ve had at least twenty beatings over the years simply because I’m gay.
“It’s hard to take but at the same time it gives you that bit of fire in your belly. The abuse has made me absolutely certain that this is who I am and I’m right to stick to my guns.”