Welcome back to How I Made It, Metro.co.uk’s weekly career journey series.
This week we’re chatting with Tom Leonard, aka The Drag Queen Gardener, a 26-year-old from Birmingham.
Tom works as an expert horticulturist for an award winning garden design company in Warwickshire by day.
And you’ll find his alter ego, Daisy Desire, hosting talks at horticulture events, speaking on topics from gardening for mental wellbeing, to how not to kill your plants.
Daisy breaks the mould at typically trad events like the RHS’ Chelsea Flower Show and Malvern Spring Festival, but Tom is keen to make sure his drag act doesn’t overshadow his talent as a horticulturist.
Here’s how he made it happen.
When did you first get into drag, and what was that journey like?
My drag journey started around two years ago. I had been dabbling with makeup for a while, but when I went to a bar when the Covid restrictions had lowered, I realised that watching a real queen on stage perform totally inspired me.
I just thought, ‘I want to try that, I want to bring joy to people and just throw any societal boundaries out the window’.
If I’m honest with you, I never thought my drag career would take off in this way.
I had a gardening Instagram account to showcase my progress simply as a new gardener who had taken on an allotment plot.
It was the pandemic, so I decided to take some photos in drag on the allotment and in the local garden centre and post them, really just to make people laugh.
I just wanted to bring some light humour to people in what what felt like an almost dystopian time.
When did you first get into horticulture?
My gardening journey on the other hand started five years ago.
I used to pass some allotments on the train into work – and staring out the window, I found myself so intrigued. People just rent a little plot of land to grow produce and flowers on?!
But it wasn’t until a long term relationship came to an end that I got drunk and decided during my stunning hangover the next day that I would march myself up to the allotments and take on a plot.
Did you know much about gardening at first?
I didn’t know anything, I had never put a gardening glove on in my entire life but I just threw myself in to something that has always intrigued me, to take my mind off the break up.
I certainly wasn’t the best gardener in that first year, but I fell in love with it. I loved losing track of time, and a constant thriving from learning from my mistakes, appreciating everything that I found interesting.
From there, I started working as a gardener, trained as an RHS horticulturalist and then, to my family’s shock, I dropped out of university to progress with a career with plants.
It’s led me to amazing locations and experiences but above all, I just love what I do, and feel this is what I was born to do.
It’s a real privilege to have found that at such an early stage in my life.
Do you think it’s important drag is seen in contexts beyond fashion shows and club events?
Absolutely. I strive to create an open and safe space in the horticulture industry for everyone. I take that side very personally.
As someone who struggled a lot with their own sexuality and identity growing up, I want my drag, and myself being openly queer, to allow people to appreciate and celebrate themselves, no matter who they are or what industry they are in.
If anyone takes issue with that, then that is their problem not mine.
Do you have any favourite gardening projects you’ve worked on?
I would say my favourite gardening project I’ve worked on this far would be when I worked on a 90 acre estate, comprising of formal grounds, ornamental planting, allotments, wild flower lawns and a 20 acre woodland.
It truly allowed me to be exposed to a huge range of techniques and experiences.
I think that is what I love most about gardening, it’s just a life time of learning.
An average day in the working life of Tom Leonard/Drag Queen Gardener
‘An average day for me looks like me in work boots, shorts, t-shirt and muddy knees – working a long day in a range of properties.
‘But for Daisy, its a 4am start to get made up and to get to a show for midday, to tell you how to improve your soil and encourage more bees in your garden.’
What do you love most about being The Drag Queen Gardener?
I think what I love the most is being someone who not only encourages people to get into gardening, but is also making a difference in the horticultural world and how it is perceived.
We need more people in horticulture – it wasn’t that long ago that most people had mini allotments in their green spaces and took such joy in growing fresh flowers for the dining room table – but now, we seem destined for plastic turf and artificial hydrangeas!
If I take one thing seriously it is my role in this industry, and that is to get more people into growing and reaping the benefits and rewards that come along with that.
Is there anything you dislike about your job?
I guess the only two things that I dislike about my job as a gardener is when fellow gardeners aren’t able to take me seriously as a horticulturist because I’m a drag queen.
But let it be known, I am the first person to say it’s ridiculous and that you don’t have to take the drag seriously – I mean it’s drag.
But as a person in the horticultural industry, I am very serious about my job and craft.
And the second thing: strutting around for eight hours in stilettos at flowers shows can being a little painful occasionally!
How I Made It
Do you have an interesting job or career journey?
Email [email protected] to share your story for How I Made It.
Source: Read Full Article