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Journalist, presenter and all around icon, who else could host a show about celebrities becoming drag queens besides Lorraine Kelly? “It’s one of those shows where you think, ‘Why have they not done that before?’ and to be honest, the kind of show I think that I was meant to do,” she tells GAY TIMES. “I was absolutely in my element and it was joyful.” The one-off special, aptly titled Queens for the Night, will see Kitty Scott-Claus, Blu Hydrangea, La Voix, Myra DuBois, Asttina Mandella and Margo Marshall each paired with a famous face who they then have to guide, teach and transform before they perform in front of a live audience. This will include Coronation Street star Simon Gregson, fitness legend Mr Motivator, Love Island castmate Chris Hughes, Union J singer George Shelley, EastEnders actor Adam Woodyatt and England rugby player Joe Marler – all of which “embraced” the experience, according to Lorraine. “That’s what I loved about it, they absolutely embraced it and wanted to be the best that they could be, not just for themselves but for the drag queen that they were paired with it with,” she states.

Forming the judging panel will be Drag Race finalist Courtney Act, Spice Girl star Melanie C, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie actor Layton Williams and comedian Rob Beckett, with the audience voting for the winner. Lorraine says she “was prepared” for her hosting duties as drag has “always” been part of her life and she loved drag stars like Danny La Rue and Stanley Baxter when she was growing up. “I know maybe a lot of people don’t remember Stanley Baxter, but he was an absolute trailblazer and drag was just something that I always, always admired,” she continues. “I thought it was always an amazing [and] incredible art form.”

Sadly, Lorraine won’t be in drag on Queens for the Night as she “didn’t want to take any of the limelight away from the celebs – it wouldn’t be fair, let’s be honest!” Viewers will, however, get to be treated to “unlikely” celebrities channelling their “inner Cher” but, as “they were all fantastic,” Lorraine was unable to pick a favourite. “That’s me sitting on the fence getting splinters in my bum because they were all different,” she adds. “You know, one of the celebs was doing magic, one was lip-syncing, one was singing live, one was dancing and one was doing comedy. They were so different, it was difficult to say who was better than someone else because it was all different disciplines. You have the whole sort of rainbow of drag queens which I think is really important to show.”

As a superfan of drag, Lorraine is “obsessed” with Drag Race and says appearing as a guest judge was her “finest hour”. She adds: “And it was so great to see the show blossoming from quite a small, niche show in the first season, wasn’t it? I mean, I discovered it because obviously I’m obsessed, but I’ve loved the way that it’s grown and I love the way that it has gone mainstream and the amount of women that love it, the amount of guys that love it and just get it. And also, I think the thing about Drag Race is, it’s got such heart, you know?” Lorraine also recalls interviewing RuPaul what feels like “150 million years ago” and how taken aback she was by her beauty. “I’ve never seen anything like it, you know, flawless, absolutely flawless. And I’ve always, always loved it,” she adds, also sharing that her “favourite” part of Drag Race is when the queens talk as they get ready for the runway. Lorraine continues: “I think that also helps an awful lot of people who are maybe struggling with their own identity and not quite sure and, you know, wondering where their place is because we’re all trying to fight that, aren’t we? Especially when you’re young.”

Events such as Drag Queen Story Hour and drag more generally have recently been subjected to increasing amounts of negative attention by some right-wing outlets, organisations and politicians. Lorraine says Queens for the Night is “the kind of show that kids will watch and love that the whole family can sit and watch” and noted that “a small minority who make an awful lot of noise” will not stop most people enjoying it “for what it is”. The show will likely be the first time a lot of viewers will have seen drag given that it is airing on ITV, one of the UK’s biggest television channels. “I think people will enjoy it and to those that don’t get it, they don’t need to watch,” Lorraine adds. “But if they do watch, I think they’ll be surprised and they’ll find that they really enjoy it and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Just enjoying, embracing, learning and getting a sense of the joy of drag.”

Despite how far things have come for LGBTQ+ rights, Lorraine adds that we should not “believe that it’s a job done” as “there’s an awful lot of work” left to do. She has been a longstanding ally of the LGBTQ+ community and has frequently used her platform to speak out in support of it, as well as eloquently challenging those with opposing views. This has included discussions on trans rights, which are under attack more than ever in the UK. “It really is hard, but do you know what? I think there’s so much more strength together,” she tells GAY TIMES. “I think it’s heartbreaking to see all the fractures that are happening and like I say, a small minority making a lot of noise, but there’s strength in numbers and there’s strength together and I think that’s the most important thing and, you know, I would always say to anybody who’s going through anything, get help. Don’t be afraid to talk.”

Queens for the Night will air on ITV on 5 November at 8:30pm.