Ruben Jean works on reception at Gymbox Victoria by day, and is drag queen and fire breather Miss Fit by night! Not only that, but Ruben has also co-designed a bodysuit for Beyonce, and has danced for house and nu-disco heroes, Hercules and Love Affair. "Turning darkness into something pretty is so much harder than throwing glitter over a mermaid sat on a rock and brushing a synthetic wig!" We meet him.
Hi Ruben, you work on the reception at Gymbox Victoria, what are the best bits about the job?
The best part is meeting new people. We have so many different types of clients that come into Gymbox. Some of them become friends! I also love the classes and there are some great DJs playing there.
Have you got any good stories from working on the Gymbox frontline?
Several! Once I had someone who saw one of my shows one night, then saw me at the reception the following morning... and he was very surprised but also very happy about it!
What motivated you to come and work for us?
I have a few friends who are also performers who work at Gymbox, and who told me to apply for a job. Working for a gym is not only fun, but is also a great way to keep my body ready for being on stage and dancing.
You were raised in Paris, but are originally from the Caribbean. What are your fondest memories of growing up?
I'm from Martinique which is French Caribbean, in the West Indies. I remember spending my summers when I was very young. I used to run about in my garden, walking bare foot on ants, who would then bite me! I also remember badly climbing the trees, and feeding the animals in the farm with my granddad. Growing up was fun. I was raised in a family who loved partying, dancing, and who were always up for celebrating something. My family is amazing! It's composed of 95% women, which was quite feminist, so I received a good education of gender and equality.
Fantastic. What are your earliest memories of being taken to see shows when you were young?
My aunties used to take me to the circus and to musicals, and even back then I was wondering already why I wasn't up there on stage!
Outside of Gymbox you’re a dancer and a drag queen under the name of Miss Fit, in what ways have your family inspired this area of your life?
As my family are mainly composed of women, this has made me a big fan of strong woman like Angela Bassett, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, Tina Turner, Whoopi Goldberg and Florence Griffith Joyner. So when I was growing up I dressed up a lot, danced a lot. I knew that there was something special growing inside me which would blossom at some point. I just didn't know when!
When was your first time performing on stage?
To be honest, I was quite drunk so I can't really remember! I do know that after the performance I got offered a job at the Box in Soho the following week, so I can't have been stumbling about too much! However, my first official act for them was terrifying – my legs wouldn't stop shaking, and I could barely think. Despite this, I loved that moment when you first step out of the backstage towards the stage. That feeling when you know it's too late to step back, and you just got to give it your all... or die!
Tell us about your drag alter-ego Miss Fit, who is she?
Oh she is a bitch! She is fearless! She can express herself through body language, sensuality and sexuality. You can watch her, but you mustn't touch! Her three main inspirations come from reggae dancehall culture in the nineties, fashion in the eighties-nineties, and, of course, Marie Antoinette.
Of course! Did you have a difficult time growing up? If so, how have you dealt with it?
It was hard growing up knowing I was different. I was often the last picked at school when the boys played football. I would also have people staring at me when I was the only boy in the dance classes. My family didn't really get it either, so I had to grow up by myself and learnt how to turn this difference into a strength.
Good for you. What makes you unique as a drag performer?
I'm different to all of the other drag queen because I'm not trying to change what's already there. When I wear heels people tell me that my legs are nicer than a woman's legs – and the same with my ass – so I focus more on that than on make up and wigs. I try not to look like a woman. I'm more focused on the general impact you get when you see me. Regarding my acts, most of them are sexually based, sometimes a bit violent, and involve dark feelings and money.
You also breathe fire in your performances, how did you learn to do that?
I've always been attracted to fire. I'd always have my hand on the candle at a restaurant, or burning something for the pleasure. So when my friends asked me if I wanted to try I didn't think twice! A month later I was on stage!
In what ways does turning darkness into beauty reflect you as a person?
In my childhood and until now, things have been really hard and quite dark... I realised that I have a high tolerance when it comes to dealing with problems, drama and bad luck, so it's a way for me to recreate my story, but this time I'm in control. Also, turning darkness into something pretty is so much harder than throwing glitter over a mermaid sat on a rock and brushing a synthetic wig.
You started out doing street dance, before forming a drag act, what inspired this change? And in what ways has street dance been an influence?
I love mixing things together. Why can't an 'Uptown Queen' be as bad as a 'Downtown Queen'? So when you see me on stage in my nice, chic designer outfit, and then a minute later I'm twerking on my head or doing breakdance, it's unexpected!
How does drag change across different cultural contexts? (such as drag in Paris, compared to New York, or London).
Drag in Paris is weak, they have no power – they're still hiding because of how narrow-minded people are compared to London, where we are doing creative and fabulous work on adverts, dancing alongside singers, and even sometimes appearing on TV. New York queens are also good, they do an amazing job, and have helped spread the word of drag globally, such as Australian queen too.
You are now performing in Europe and the States. What are your aspirations for Miss Fit?
I would like to take her more seriously, collaborate with designers (even if i have wide shoulders and big feet) and hopefully one day take her to countries where drag and homosexuality isn't allowed, so I can shake those mentalities!
Who have been/are your biggest influences in the dance and drag scene?
New Zealand dance crew, the Royal Family, and Missy Elliott, who I think is incredible. In terms of drag I love Raja and Raven as both of them have such a strong aesthetic, and also Miss Fame and Violet Chachki for their work with brands such as L'Oréal.
In what ways do you think drag has changed since becoming more visible in the mainstream?
It's opened a new horizon to gender bending. Seeing a guy wearing make up is way more accepted. It's also helped the acceptance of the trans community, because some of the trans woman been thought of as a drag queen's first phase.
You have designed clothes for Beyonce, tell us about this?
The order we had for her was a last minute booking, we had to do a full bodysuit in sheer material and cover it all with stones, as it had to be ready for the following day so. The bodysuit was made under the label Bang London, which is founded by Derek Purcell. We got the contract through Beyonce's Creative Director of Ivy Park who happens to be a good friend of Derek's. We had less than 24 hours to make it, but we managed to do it! She wore the outfit for Mrs Carter Tour (see image below) when she sung . Since then, we still get approached by her team for jobs, which is great. Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to meet Beyonce. Maybe next time!
You have performed for a few celebrities, can you tell us about that?
This year you can find me on stage next to Hercules and Love Affair for their world tour, well, sort of! They weren't able to physically take me on tour with them, so they recorded me dancing to their songs and will play it on the large screen behind them when they'll be on stage.
What does the future hold for you?
I think the future itself doesn't know!
Follow Miss Fit on Instagram, if you dare!