WATCH: Dancing With The Stars Meet Courtney Act
This week, the genderfluid artist dropped the first episode of their new podcast, Brenda, Call Me!, featuring them and their bestie, Vanity Fair. Over the episode, the pair chat about Aussie gossip magazines, Courtney’s time in hotel quarantine, and how Vanity broke her bone roller-skating. And, while still a new pod’, it's already reminding us exactly why we love our local superstar.
Below, find everything you need to know about Courtney Act, the singing and dancing Aussie drag queen that broke into the mainstream.
WATCH: Courtney Act performs Fight For Love
Everything You Need To Know About Courtney Act
Who Is Courtney Act?
Courtney Act, real name Shane Gilberto Jenek, is an Australian drag queen, singer and TV personality. While she has an incredible solo music career, she was also formerly a member of the girl group, The AAA Girls, featuring fellow Drag Race alumni, Alaksa Thunderf*ck and Willam.
How Old Is Courtney Act?
Shane Gilberto Jenek, Aka Courtney Act, was born on the 18th of February 1982 in Brisbane, making him 38-years-old. But, Courtney Act, his drag queen persona, was “born” much later when he moved to Sydney in 2000 at the fresh and young age of 18.
How Long Has Courtney Act Been Doing Drag?
Courtney Act has been doing drag for nearly 20 years. According to an interview with ABC’s Australian Story, in 2000, the then 18-year-old Brisbane boy moved to Sydney and quickly found himself gravitated towards the city’s local gay scene and nightlife. In 2001, he met Sydney-based drag queen Vanity Fair, and inspired by the way they play with femininity and create a visual femme illusion, began to consider drag for himself.
Soon after, Fair took him under her wing and helped him create his own drag persona: Courtney Act, a name playing on the phrase ‘caught in the act.’ In the very next year, Act competed in a local Sydney drag competition called Diva Rising Star and won.
Flashforward to today and after a 20-year-long friendship, the pair are like sisters, now bantering on their new podcast, Brenda, Call Me!
When Did Courtney Act First Appear On TV?
While Courtney Act has claimed a permanent place in our tiny worm brains ever since they appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race and other modern competition shows, the gender-fluid performer actually first appeared on our screens muuuuch earlier. Like, before some of us were even born.
Courtney Act first rose to fame competing on the first season of Australian Idol in 2003. As the story goes, when Act first auditioned, it was as his boy persona—Shane. The judges weren’t that impressed and he didn’t advance beyond the first round of auditions. So, he decided to return the next day in drag, ending the show at 13th place. Not bad for someone who only started drag a year ago.
WATCH: Courtney Act auditions for Australian Idol
What TV Shows Has Courtney Act Been In?
As mentioned earlier, Courtney Act got her start on Australian Idol in 2003. Then, after touring with the season’s finalists, she competed on season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2014, ending her run as a tied-runner-up with Adore Delano. It was here he met trans activist Chaz Bono, who he became close friends with and who introduced him to gender-fluidity.
WATCH: The Best Of Courtney Act On RuPaul's Drag Race
“This idea of gender identity being binary, of male and female, that was the real issue,” Jenek said in the Australian Story special about his life.
"Once I was able to break free from that and just accept that whoever I was was correct and allowed and should be expressed, that was the thing that really set me free."
In 2018, Courtney Act was invited to compete on Celebrity Big Brother in the UK and one. On the show, she was praised for her earnest conversations about difficult topics, educating millions in Britain on the difference between gender and sexuality, gender fluidity, and, poignantly, debated with conservative politician and semi-finalist Ann Widdencombe.
That win soon led Act to producing and hosting their own bisexual dating show, The Bi Life, which marked the first exclusively bisexual dating show in TV history, and again, sparked real, earnest conversations, this time about sexuality and the way that bisexuality is a spectrum rather than a binary thing.
WATCH: Courtney Act's bisexual dating show, The Bi Life
Now, Shane and Courtney are household names in the UK. As comedian Matt Lucas told ABC, “Courtney is huge now in the UK. Courtney just won us all over; I think the whole nation was smitten."
Then in 2019, after conquering Great Britain, Courtney Act returned to Australia to compete on Dancing With The Stars as the first same-sex dance pairing with dance partner Joshua Keefe. Just like when he first appeared on Aussie tellies and in the UK, the famous drag queen continued to diversify reality TV and make TV moments that were entertaining and informative.
WATCH: Courtney Act performs the jive on Dancing With The Stars
In one dance performance, Courtney began the song in drag before de-dragging while spinning towards a mirror, wiping off their makeup to reveal them as Shane; a powerful illustration of their dual personalities and how they compliment each other. Tragically however, the fiery duo came second in a shocking finale.
“Everyone’s like, ‘you’re going to win for sure.’ And I’m like, ‘no, don’t say that!’ I’m not counting all of my chickens before they’ve hatched,” she told Now To Love days before the finale.
Is Courtney Act On RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under?
When news of an Aussie version of RuPaul’s Drag Race was announced last month, many fans expected to see our resident drag queen turned reality TV winning export on the show in some shape or form. I mean, Canada's Drag Race, another spin-off of the Drag Race franchise, was co-hosted by season 11 runner-up Brooke Lynn Heights, so why wouldn't the most mainstream drag artist down under be involved in the most mainstream drag TV series when it arrived on our shores? But, fans were left disheartened and confused after they discovered that Courtney Act wasn’t rumoured to be involved. In a recent episode of Alaska and Willam’s podcast, Race Chaser, Act admitted that, contrary to speculation, she didn’t return to Australia to film the show and, bizarrely, wasn’t even contacted about it.
Why Does RuPaul Hate Courtney Act?
While it isn’t confirmed, we suspect a big reason why Courtney Act isn't involved in RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under is because of the feud between her and the show’s main judges, RuPaul Charles and Michelle Visage. Waay back when RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7 aired, RuPaul would greet his contestants at the beginning of every episode with a video message and an alarm sound of her saying, “You’ve got SheMail.” The phrase was a play on shemale, an ancient term used to refer to trans, non-binary and non-conforming gendered people, and hugely transphobic. a pun on shemale, a transphobic term for non-conforming people of trans, non-binary and other genders.
WATCH: Courtney Act reveals why Michelle Visage doesn't like her
At the time, Courtney, along with several people online, called out RuPaul and the show's other producers for the use of transphobic language, and a call to remove it. RuPaul eventually did, replacing it with the phrase, “She Already Done Had Herses,” but blocked Courtney on Twitter during the controversy.
“He made some comments about the trans community and the use of the T word,” Act told JOY 94.9, adding in a separate interview that she and RuPaul's co-host Michelle Visage "rub each other the wrong way."
“I made a considered and not too inflammatory response back, and just thought that rather fighting within our community we should be focusing on the realities that trans people face and how we can help them, rather than fighting about this word.”
As the years continued, the host of the Emmy-winning show eventually unblocked her, but the two never rekindled their relationship. In a sense, it may explain why Courtney Act feels so invisible on season 6, despite making the top three.
WATCH: Courtney Act drops bombshell on friendship with RuPaul
Who Is Courtney Act Dating?
As of right now, Courtney Act is currently single. While they admitted they weren’t apart of any “‘showmance’ success story” from behind the scenes of DWTS, the famous drag queen said that they’re always on the lookout for a new beau.
“My best option right now is location-based dating apps,” Act told TV Week, adding that her busy touring schedule being on the road for the last five years has made it rather difficult to meet people elsewhere.
But, with Courtney currently back home in Sydney filming her podcast and international tours on hold because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, we predict a little bit of love may be caught in the act in her current Airbnb home in Darlinghurst.