The McManus Galleries has acquired the famous “Denise the Menace” costume worn by city drag queen Ellie Diamond on national television.
Dundee-born Ellie, 22, (AKA Elliot Glen) wore the costume on the premiere episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season 2, where each contestant was challenged with honouring their hometown in their look.
Her Beano-inspired PVC spectacular wowed judges RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Graham Norton and actress Liz Hurley. And now it has been handed over to the McManus Galleries for a very fitting exhibit, made possible by the National Fund for Acquisitions.
Having the (entirely handmade) costume displayed in her hometown gallery is the cherry on top of a bumper year for comic fan Ellie.
She says: “From being on Drag Race UK and making the top four in that, to then coming home and getting the opportunity to have an outfit that I’ve made in a place like the McManus, is amazing.
“It feels special, but it also feels correct!”
The character of Dennis The Menace (AKA “Denise”) clearly means a lot to Ellie, who still loves getting the annuals every year for Christmas.
And, more importantly, she reckons having drag represented in a public space like the galleries will help the LGBTQ+ youth of Dundee feel represented in a way she never did.
Diamond in the rough
“Having something like this in the McManus Galleries would give the young, queer people in Dundee some hope,” she says.
“For me, growing up in Dundee was quite difficult, but now I feel like I can be that person for young people growing up here (to look up to).
“It’s great that now you can go to a museum, see something like this and say, ‘I can do that one day’.”
The purchase of the costume is part of the McManus’ efforts to support the local LGBTQ+ community.
It follows on from a partnership with Shaper Caper’s project, Here Me Out, which included encouraged young people to explore LGBTQ+ stories through art, film, audio, dance, drag, theatre, music, and oral history.
Gareth Jackson-Hunt, museum services manager for the McManus, welcomed the acquisition, saying: “Ellie represented the city of Dundee so incredibly well on (RuPaul’s Drag Race UK). The costume is phenomenal and it’s helping us shape our LGBTQI+ collection.
“This is a clear follow-on from our Hear Me Out project, and we’re hoping the costume will go on display at the beginning of next year.”
Cheryl McDermid, creative learning officer at Leisure and Culture Dundee added: “Being widely recognised as ‘The People’s Museum’, it’s key that we celebrate and reflect our diverse communities and citizens.
“It’s a fantastic next step for the museum to acquire Ellie’s costume for all to come and see!”
And the waxy costume’s acquisition got the seal of approval from the home of Dennis the Menace too.
Head of DC Thomson’s Beano Studios, Mike Stirling, praised the move, saying: “This is a genius most-wanted acquisition that confirms McManus as the best-dressed museum in the country!
“Dennis has played an inspirational and empowering role in so many people’s lives over the last 70 years. Red-and-black stripes and Dundonian roots are synonymous with him, and now this iconic outfit has become a special piece of his history for fans to visit and admire.”
Look out for our extended interview with Ellie Diamond, coming soon to The Courier Online and The Weekend magazine.