Jack McPhail / Miss Sasha Blaze
Sometimes it can be hard to find your tribe, people you feel you belong with, who share the same interests and values. It was a problem Jack McPhail faced growing up as the only openly gay person in his school in Ayr. Since then, Jack, also known as Miss Sasha Blaze, the brazen and boisterous drag queen, has been keen to find fun ways to bring the local LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community together.
‘’I like seeing people happy… and I like being the centre of attention, so it works out well,’’ says Jack.
Finding Confidence Through Spotlight
After performing in drag in his school show, Jack spotted an ad for a club looking for a drag queen to host a drag bingo night. He applied and what was supposed to be a one off, turned into a successful career. Miss Sasha Blaze now has regular performances and residence in Ayrshire.
Jack connects with people on stage by sharing his life through the lens of Sasha Blaze. Sasha is unapologetic, brash and honest. “It’s about turning your problems into comedy, but people still connect with it because you’re sharing your genuine story. You’re forming a connection with people that way. People, especially LGBTQ+ people, need to know that someone understands and has been through it.”
Speaking about the positive influence Sasha has had on his own life, Jack said, “I’m a reasonably confident person, but as soon as I get my wig on, it’s different. As soon as I’m in drag I can walk around the bar, chatting to folk. You get over the fear, over the barrier, the barrier that I can’t break when I’m not in drag.”
Performing as Sasha Blaze gives Jack the boost he needs to be able to put himself out there and talk to strangers. “Sasha has helped me so much in my life – everyone needs that wee little drag queen in them! We’ve all got problems but we can laugh them out.” Performing as Miss Sasha Blaze brings joy to those who attend the performances. There are regulars who come and see every show, creating their own friendships, chatting to one another and forming their own little community.
I’m a reasonably confident person, but as soon as I get my wig on, it’s different. As soon as I’m in drag I can walk around the bar, chatting to folk. You get over the fear, over the barrier, the barrier that I can’t break when I’m not in drag.
Making Ayrshire Proud
Now an active member of the LBGTQ+ community in Ayrshire, Jack had been planning to march with the local group at the Glasgow Pride when he realised that they could just have one right at home. His idea was met with some resistance, “People told me, oh that’s only for the big cities. They’re not ready for it here, it won’t work.”
That did not stop him, Jack saw an opportunity to make the LGBTQ+ community in Ayrshire more visible and bring the local people together. He said “Ayr never had anything queer in their face – this year during the LGBT history month, we had the pride flag up on the council building, but I knew we could do better than that. I just wanted to do something that would bring us all together.”
The Ayrshire Pride ran for a week, including different daytime and night-time events that culminated on Saturday with various stalls and a performances. Businesses got involved, donating vouchers, pubs wanted to be a part of it, even some local schools got involved, making drawings and doing a bake sale to raise funds.
Jack spearheaded most of the activity, worrying about all the details, and he was not immune to nerves and self-doubt, “I was psyching myself out, thinking no one would come, but then they came. I’m not saying that hundreds and hundreds came, but people did come. We got some people in and I’m happy that I’ve helped someone, shown something. Next year – we’re going bigger and better.”
Having their own Pride invigorated many of the LGBTQ+ community members living in Ayr. During Jack’s performances people kept coming up to him, asking how they could help. They really needed volunteers, so people turned up and brought their friends along, all ready to chip in. Jack said “People were coming up to me and saying, I wish I knew earlier that this would be happening, asking when’s the next thing, to please let them know how they can get involved next year. They want to help and be a part of it.”
During Jack’s performances people kept coming up to him, asking how they could help. They really needed volunteers, so people turned up and brought their friends along, all ready to chip in. Jack said “People were coming up to me and saying, I wish I knew earlier that this would be happening, asking when’s the next thing, to please let them know how they can get involved next year. They want to help and be a part of it.
Bringing the Community Together
The tide is changing in smaller towns like Ayr. There are people like Jack, who is a known figure in the LGBTQ+ community, working on making it a more welcoming place for everyone. “I recently visited my old school, they asked me if I’d speak to the LGBTQ+ group there. It’s amazing how much has changed in just 3 years, when I left we had nothing LGBTQ+ oriented in school. So when I went to see the kids, I expected a small group at the back of the room, but the classroom was full. They have each other to talk to and rely on now, it’s incredible.”
Jack has helped to raise awareness of the LBGTQ+ community in Ayr and in doing so, he’s helped people to get together and feel a sense of belonging. Whatever your interests, there are people out there who are just like you who perhaps just need the confidence and the opportunity to come together. As Jack simply said it’s about making the first step in order to find your own tribe, “There is nothing wrong with saying hi. You just need the courage to do it. You need to find someone you think is open enough and just ask. Ask me, I like making new friends.”
You can see Miss Sasha Blaze perform at “Big Balls Bingo” show that is on a Tuesday at Lucky 7’s and “BLAZED” is the last Wednesday of every month at Fury’s. You can also look forward to the tour of her show ‘Still fat, still single’ next year!