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Drag queen Betty Confetti read a book to kids at Orange Library on Saturday. The world did not end

September 2, 2023

Betty Confetti. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

Bathurst drag queen Betty Confetti - who had to cancel a May show in Goulburn after death threats were made against her and council staff - read without incident the book It’s Cool To Be Kind to a group of children at Orange City Library on Saturday.

The free “Rainbow Storytime” event has been fully booked, and attracts a crowd of 25 to 30 people.

There are about a dozen children, mostly babies and toddlers, and their parents and carers.

The Orange News Examiner attended to see what all the fuss was about.

Confetti is sporting a pink sequined dress, heels that would cause most blokes to twist an ankle, bling, makeup, earrings, lengthy eyelashes and a pink wig with the kind of height and volume that would give Marge Simpson something to think about.

As with Donald Trump, it's the type of hair you just want to get amongst to see what's really going on. Confetti's wig - one of a range - is made of firm foam, and she allows your reporter a brief touch.

The event begins with The Waving Song as a loosener, then Confetti tag teams with librarian Fiona Hawke. Hawke read My Shape Is Sam, and Confetti from the Sophie Beer compendium It’s Cool to Be Kind.

My Shape is Sam is about a square who longs to be round so he can roll. But he lives in a world where every shape has its job. Sometimes Sam is part of a bridge, and sometimes part of a building. Even though he has four pointy corners, Sam doesn't really feel like a square.

Sam starts behaving like a circle and, after discovering a hoop, finds he is happy rolling down hills. He finds work as a circle and is delighted by this.

Another shape asks Sam if he is a circle or a square. “Sam wondered about that too,” the book reads, because he looked like a square, but rolled like a circle. In the end Sam decides “My shape is Sam”.

Amazon describes it as a “lovely story for kids who never quite feel like they fit in where adults want to put them”. Booktopia says “this story considers identity and nonconformity through the eyes of Sam, a square struggling to find his true place in the world”. This may all be true, but it can also be read as just a cute little book about a square that wants to be a circle.

It’s Cool To Be Kind is equally tame, with sentences such as “Love is … baking a special cake”, “Love is … making things better”, “Kindness is … a refreshing drink”, “Kindness is … playing with others” and “Kindness is … a dumpling for a jam sandwich”.

If there is any “controversy” to be found, it’s in a couple of the illustrations, which show - gasp! - a woman in a hijab, and a same sex couple in a family situation.

Confetti - who tells a well-received joke about all the potholes in Orange and Bathurst - plays it pretty straight. There is no campiness or double entendres - Confetti saves her more over-the-top incarnation for adult events, such as the sold out drag bingo at the library tonight.

Betty Confetti. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Following the book readings, Confetti asks the kids or adults if they have any questions.

Other than asking her age (the cheek!), how many sequined dresses she has (too many), how long it took her to get ready (a few hours), and if she could do a backflip (not in these heels), the kids want to know about the origins of her sparkly ensemble.

Where did you get the wig? Where did you get the shoes? Where did you get the ring? Where did you get the makeup? Where did you get the dress? Where did you get the earrings?

One young fella - perhaps a journalist in the making - peels off a number of questions, determined to get to the bottom of where this clothing was sourced.

After the wardrobe interrogation, Confetti poses for a few photos, and the kids head off to make sparkly craft.

In the wake of the cancellation in Goulburn, Orange Library appears to have kept promotion for the event at a minimum.

A security guard in plain clothing has been booked in case of any protests, but he is able to sit at the back without having to get involved.

Afterwards, he tells me he's surprised that anyone could take offence at what he’s just witnessed.

Confetti tells The Orange News Examiner that what happened at Orange Library today happens at all her storytime performances. “Sometimes we might sing a few nursery rhymes too,” she says.

Events board at the library. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Confetti says It’s Cool To Be Kind is “one of my favourite books of all time - it talks about change, kindness and love - all (qualities) we can embrace in our families and in society”.

At high school in Bathurst she says “I did obviously experience some bullying, but I had some fantastic teachers, and a very good support system including friends and family who got me through those tough times.

"Because of them I’ve been able to do bigger and better things because I love who I am and what I do.”

Confetti’s alter ego, who works in the education system, asks that their real name not be used in this story. In the lead up to, and in the wake of, the cancelled Goulburn book reading, Confetti and council staff faced death threats.

“Many, many, many,” she says. ‘Instagram, Facebook Messenger - all social media. Very negative messages.”

She reported “all of it”: “I went straight to the police station and they have followed up with certain people, which I very much appreciate as it makes me feel safer when I am asked to come and do these events.”

To those of a certain generation, there is nothing particularly shocking about seeing a male dressed as a female, or a female as a male.

Or, in the case of Julie Andrews in Victor Victoria, a man pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man.

Corporal Klinger in M*A*S*H. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon in Some Like It Hot. Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. Barry Humphries' Dame Edna Everage. Annie Lennox from Eurythmics. Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire. Barbra Streisand in Yentl. Robert Forster from The Go-Betweens. Prince. Officer Beaples from The Wiggles.

Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club. Elton John. The clowns on the Footy Show. Keith Moon. Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Kurt Cobain. Ozzy Osbourne.

Patrick Swayze in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Nathan Lane in The Birdcage. Guy Pearce in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. Gene Simmons. Iggy Pop. Anthony Perkins as Psycho’s Norman Bates. Danny Aiello in Pret-A-Porter.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Junior. RuPaul. Divine. Lola from The Kinks’ song. Lady Gaga. The Three Stooges. Carlotta. Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. John Travolta in Hairspray. J. Edgar Hoover. Monty Python. Eddie Izzard. Rod Stewart.

The Rolling Stones. Pokemon. Queer As Folk. The Famous Five. David Bowie. Friends. Glee. Chris Lilley. The Golden Girls. Bugs Bunny. Star Trek. SpongeBob SquarePants. The Drew Carey Show. Queen. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane in Nuns on the Run.

And on and on it goes. We've seen and heard it all before.

When Britpop greats Blur sang “Girls who want boys/Who like boys to be girls/Who do boys like they're girls/Who do girls like they're boys/Always should be someone you really love!” 29 years ago, nobody batted an eyelid.

And so it was at Orange Library, when a funny man dressed up and read a book to a group of kids.

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