If there is one thing drag queens are known for, it’s a wicked sense of humor.
Meet Dizzy Bility. All-singing, all-dancing glamazon with an impressive voice and stage presence to challenge even her idol, the great Liza Minelli.
Oh, and she’s also deaf and legally blind.
Behind the wig is the talented 29-year-old Petey Walter, a Penrith native who now lives and performs in inner-city Sydney. Petey is a regular fixture on the colourful Sydney drag scene, and is preparing for his starring role on this year’s Poof Doof ‘Roman Orgy’ float.
In the lead up to this weekend, we spoke to one of the most incredible performers in the 2016 Mardi Gras parade, trumping the others in more ways than one.
Speaking to Petey, his energy and joy is infectious – this guy is living his dream. Successful, funny, and extremely open about his disabilities; Petey in inspiring in his positivity.
“I was born with a condition called Ushers Syndrome type 2, ” he begins.
“Basically I have a stable hearing loss since birth and an adolescent onset of Retinitis Pigmentosa which is a progressive loss of the use of my retina. By the time I was 18 I was legally blind.”
So how does he deal with performing in nightclubs, which can be perilous even for the best of us?
“The struggle can be a bit real sometimes,” he points out. “Having normal conversations in loud places, hearing my name called, seeing where I am going in a dark unfamiliar places is very difficult.”
Regardless of his condition, Petey has forged ahead with his glamorous career as a performer.
After being told that he was legally blind just before his 18th birthday, Petey was encouraged by his doctor to choose a ‘safe’ career. “Well, that doctor is a dickhead”, said Petey’s father, and the decision was final. Petey was destined for the stage.
But his first challenge came well before his diagnosis, when as a young teen, he realised he was gay. Whilst there are no horror stories of bullying or rejection, it is hard to believe that ‘coming out’ in his early teens in Sydney’s Penrith was not without a struggle.
“I came out when I was 15,” he starts.
“I had been thinking about it for about a year up to that point, so I first came out to my best friends at school. Then a couple weeks later I came out to my parents. It was 2002 and at the time it wasn’t really as common as it is now I don’t think. It was hard, but my parents always knew. They were fine with it.”
With the support of his mates and his family, Petey flourished. He topped his grades, was the ‘class clown’ of his year, and after school went on to study performing arts. He now runs his own cabaret show aptly named, ‘Tits, Wine, and Hearing Aids.’ Love it.
This year’s Mardi Gras is particularly special for Petey – or should we say, Dizzy Bility? – as he has been given the role as star performer on the notorious Poof Doof float.
“I believe I’m the Roman Queen,” notes Petey, “I feel like I’m going to get off the float at some point and lead my Army to the after party!”
The ‘Roman Orgy’ themed group have been practicing for months, and Petey can’t wait to show Sydney their float. Judging by the below footage, neither can we!
Take a sneak peak of them practicing their routine below.
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A child of the 90’s, Petey names Aqua and The Spice Girls as his teen favourites (didn’t we all?), but has slightly more – erm, mature tastes for his dream performer at Mardi Gras. “Ultimate performer at Mardi Gras is probably Celine Dion” he says, “…although she’s probably not a party headliner sort of gal.”
Does he have a backup? “Probably Beyoncé.”
This will be Petey’s 10th year attending the Sydney Mardi Gras, but his very first year performing. With his Usher’s Syndrome already around 65% progressed to complete blindness, it makes this performance a very special one indeed.
Petey is determined to keep performing.
“I feel most comfortable on stage because I know where everything is,” he said in an interview with SameSame.com.au
“I know where the audience are, I know where I am, it’s well lit. If I can still hear the audience laugh, I’ll still been on stage trying to make them laugh, definitely.”
Watch Petey perform as Dizzy Bility below.
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So keep your eyes peeled for Roman Goddess Dizzy shakin’ what Zeus gave her on the Poof Doof float this year! With the theme chosen for it’s ‘sense of inclusion’ (yeah right guys, we know you just wanted to wear the topless togas…) it is set to be a spectacular show.
“The theme for the Poof DOOF float this year is ‘Roman Orgy: Everyone’s invited. It’s a cheeky and fun way to promote inclusion, which is what I’m all about. I love that they’ve asked me to be a part of it!” says Petey.
“We have 100 boys and girls in Roman soldier outfits and togas…we also have Roman Goddesses – the drag queens – slaves, and hot banner boys too. It is going to be a lot of fun!”
We can’t wait to see Petey and the Poof Doof float perform this coming weekend.
For more information on the 2016 Mardi Gras, check out the official website, here.