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Lady Camden’s ‘Lady Like': A dazzling ode to the power of drag


A scene from 'Lady Like'

In the vibrant landscape of drag and performance, "Lady Like" emerges as a beacon of light, illuminating the transformative journey of a singular talent. Director Luke Willis makes a resounding entrance into the world of feature films with his debut, "Lady Like," capturing the essence of what it means to find oneself amidst the shimmering fabrics of a drag queen's wardrobe. Lady Camden, born Rex Wheeler, takes center stage in this poignant and joyful documentary that had the honor of gracing the closing night gala at this year's BFI Flare.


Willis and Lady Camden exhibit an onscreen synergy that is nothing short of mesmerizing. Their shared background in the performing arts forges an unspoken understanding that radiates through the film. As friends with roots in the San Francisco dance community, their chemistry transcends the typical director-protagonist relationship, manifesting in a narrative that is as much a celebration of Lady Camden's triumphs as it is a reflection of their collective resilience.


"Lady Like" is not simply a tale of stardom born from the stages of "RuPaul's Drag Race"; it is an intimate exploration of how the performing arts serve as a lifeline. The film delves into the depths of Lady Camden's personal history, revealing how the struggles of a traumatic childhood in Camdenwere alchemized into the vibrant spectacle of drag. It is a touching testament to the saving grace of theater and the arts, and how they provide sanctuary for those who feel adrift in the world.


The documentary's strength lies in its honesty and the vulnerability LadyCamden brings to the screen, which is undoubtedly fostered by the trust and rapport built with Willis. As the director shares his own parallels of finding solace in theater, the film becomes a mosaic of shared human experiences, a unifying call to all those who seek refuge in the spotlight's glow.


Featuring an ensemble of notable figures like Jeanne Smyth, Mara Guevara, Maya Chirstou, Nina West, Ben Warner, and Josh Cook, "Lady Like" weaves a tapestry of support and community that underscores Lady Camden’s narrative. The cast's collective energy amplifies the film's message about the transformative power of drag and performance.


Ultimately, "Lady Like" is a love letter to the art of drag and to the healing properties of performance. It captures the essence of Lady Camden's indomitable spirit and the universal need for self-expression and acceptance. As both director and friend, Luke Willis has crafted a film that resonates with authenticity and heart, a shining example of the beauty that emerges when art is not just created but lived.


In closing, "Lady Like" is a triumphant celebration of identity, creativity, and the magic of transformation that the performing arts allow. Lady Camden's story is artfully brought to life through Willis' compassionate lens, reminding us all of the redemptive power of donning a costume and daring to be one's true self under the limelight.

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