Aussie miners as never seen before: 'Blokey stereotypes' shattered in drag
Summary: If you were to draw up a chart of the world's most macho jobs, working in the mines of Western Australia would be up near the top.....
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But the blokey stereotypes may need a hasty revision given new evidence presented in a drag project by a local photographer.
Dragged From The Mines is the brainchild of Jamie Barbar Blacquesheep, a makeup artist and photographer based in the mining hotspot of Karratha, Western Australia.
She recruited miners from the Pilbara region and got them to dress as the opposite sex for a project that was both lighthearted but also designed to address difficult issues.
'I want people to be able to have a good laugh - I believe talking, listening and laughing can open minds and save lives,' Jamie told FEMAIL.
The mining industry is one that's in dire need of such life saving - with statistics showing miners have some of the highest rates of suicide in Australia.
'The industry is a lonely place, especially for FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) workers,' Jamie said.
'Long hours, long swings away from loved ones and there are predominantly more males than females.'
This was the inspiration for using drag to address the issues.
'I don't want to ask questions that will spark arguments, which can often happen when we talk about this kind of thing,' she said.
While Jamie is aware of the seriousness of the problems faced by miners, she believes she has a better chance of raising awareness if people can talk openly - and maybe have a laugh.
'I want people to be able to communicate. I want people to know they are not alone; if they need help, there are people that are ready to listen.
Four women and four men volunteered for the project after Jamie created a poster which she shared on a local Facebook page.
'It got an immediate response, and it only took a few days to fill all the spots,' the makeup artist said.
One person who put up their hand is Rhys Heland, a Karratha local who had been in the mining industry for 13 years.
The 33-year-old said he wanted to be part of anything that helped raise awareness of how mental health and suicide affected FIFO miners.
'I know a lot of people doing it tough in this part of the world. It's incredibly important to be able to talk openly about anything,' Mr Heland told Daily Mail Australia.
While you would be forgiven for thinking a burly miner who sports a full beard and moustache might struggle with embracing a drag persona, nothing could be further from the truth.
'Samantha' - Mr Heland's character based on Samantha from Sex In The City - emerged once he'd donned his long blonde wig and black and white fitted dress.
While he said the experience was fun for the most part but joked that putting on heavy makeup was 'slightly' challenging.
Although his industry is populated with men who hold fast to 'traditional' masculinity, he said he's been surprised by how much support he's received.
'They have been sharing the social media posts flat out and sending out messages of support,' said Mr Heland.
'They are behind it 100 per cent because they get it's a lighthearted way to go about a very serious issue.'
As well as being photographed for the project, those taking part were also given a questionnaire to fill out which asked how gender had impacted on their lives.
'Toxic masculinity and femininity are issues that are relevant to everyone,' Jamie said.
She explained that the unhealthy aspects of the traditional gender roles can become unbalanced.
'Unbalanced masculine energy moves outwardly with violence, rage, hatred, name-calling, sarcasm, bullying and all kinds of abuse.
'Unbalanced feminine energy moves inwardly with guilt, depression, anxiety, lack of self-worth, bitterness, spite, jealousy, passive aggressiveness or clingy behaviour.'
The miners who stepped up to be photographed not only embraced their new personas, they also had a hand in creating them.
'Once they were dressed one of the last questions I asked them was what their new name for their new persona was.
The women who dressed as men supplied their own clothing while the men chose their 'looks' from an array of dresses Jamie had sourced online.
She revealed one man even went as far as to 'shop' his wife's wardrobe and said 'they were both rather taken aback' at how well the clothes fitted him.
The transformation process is always something Jamie said continues to leave her stunned.
'The thoughts that go through their minds and the way they hold themselves is priceless.
'My favourite part of drag makeovers is the moment when they first see themselves in the mirror in their alternative gender.'
Dragged From The Mines is still a work in progress, with an exhibition planned for Karratha in August.
'All I want is for people to feel they can openly communicate about these and other issues,' Jamie said.
'I want people to know they are not alone and if they need help, there are people out there ready to listen.'