Celebrity Courtney Act is not only a popular drag queen, entertainer, singer and reality television personality but also a huge activist for the LGBTQ+ community.
Born in Australia in 1983, Shane Jenek initially called his blonde alter ego Ginger Le’Bon. Courtney Act soon blossomed into his stage name, a pun on the saying “caught in the act.” Making his debut in the first season of Australian Idol, Shane was turned away by the judges – but he didn’t give in there. The following day, Jenek returned as Courtney and made it all the way to the semi-finals. Courtney went on to release her first single, “Rub Me Wrong,” which peaked a No. 29 in Australia.
Courtney’s career continued to blossom as she competed in the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, placing runner-up alongside Adore Delano with Bianca Del Rio taking home first place. In 2014, alongside fellow drag queens Willam Belli and Alaska Thunderf*ck 5000, Courtney became one of the first drag queens to become advertisement girls for American Apparel. She is also the founder for Wigs for Vanity which debuted in 2014. Throughout the years, Courtney has maintained her passion for drag, explaining:
“For me drag has always been so much fun and such an amazing way to express yourself and your creativity outside the status quo. There are no rules in drag.”
Courtney also became the first drag performer to sing live with San Francisco Sympathy Orchestra. The performer has also been touring the UK with her “one-woman show” titled “Courtney Act: Under the Covers” and also made a guest appearance at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. Alongside Willam and Alaska, Courtney even starred in Little Mix’s hit “Power,” featuring rapper Stormzy.
In 2018, the drag artist won the UK’s Celebrity Big Brother: Year of the Woman with 49.43% of the vote. Identifying as pansexual, gender-fluid and polyamorous along with being vegan, Courtney beat former Conservative MP, Ann Widdecombe to the title, known for opposing LGBTQ+ equality during her time in office. Widdecombe had voted to keep a ban on the promotion of homosexuality in schools, against same-sex couples adopting and against reducing the age of consent from eighteen to sixteen to match heterosexual acts. Through Courtney’s time in the house, she would regularly discuss politics and challenge the thoughts and opinions of her fellow housemates. The public instantly fell in love with her declaration of peace and equality for all within the CBB’s Year of the Woman.
With close to a quarter of a million subscribers, Courtney regularly uses YouTube to communicate with her fans. The drag queen discusses subjects that other YouTubers usually avoid. She has raised awareness of feminism, racism and even the taboo that still continues around HIV/AIDS. Although negative herself, Courtney has pushed to her audience the importance of getting checked for the infection and that life does not end due to a positive diagnosis. Alongside serious content, entertainment is also a huge factor on the channel with Courtney collaborating with other LGBTQ+ stars, Tom Daley, Matthew Lush and fellow queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Courtney is launching her new reality television show, The Bi Life on E! this autumn. The ten part-series focuses on a group of individuals, who describe their sexuality as fluid, on the search for love. The series is the first of its kind in the UK, although shows such as First Dates and Love Island exist, this is the first reality dating show that refers directly to bisexual individuals. With the prejudice that bisexual people face, the show will be battling a taboo subject. It enables the public to see that not only heterosexual relationships are shown on reality television and that sexuality can be fluid. Shane, alongside his alter-ego Courtney, is also set to host the first “dragazine” late night talk show, The Courtney Act Show on Channel 4.
Throughout her career, Shane aka Courtney continues spends time attending LGBTQ+ pride events across the globe, regularly campaigning for equality and battling the prejudice that faces the community to this day. She challenges the subject of gender through activism and entertainment. Courtney has gone on to break barriers within the media world, representing the drag world along with the LGBTQ+ community.