James Luck aka Elektra Shock: My Story as told to Elisabeth Easther

James Luck has danced all over the world, including for Jessie J, Little Mix and Sia. Today he is best-known for his drag alter-ego, Elektra Shock. Named runner-up in the second season of TVNZ's Houseof Drag, Luck made international headlines in 2021 when he was cast in the first season of RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under. In spite of his Pride cabaret show -Don't Touch The Queers- being postponed, Luck remains indefatigable.

Dad is a Brit and mum is a Kiwi and they met when mum was a barmaid in the UK.I spent my first nine years in Hemel Hampstead in Hertfordshire, where I sort of fell into dancing when I was 5. My neighbour was about to learn tap, but he was nervous so mum said "James will go too". He didn't finish the lesson and I never stopped. At the end of that first class, the teacher told mum I was a natural and I should do every class possible.

When I was 10 we moved to Invercargill where mum is from. Mum was never keen to return, but because nan and granddad were there it seemed like a good place to start. We had such wonderful freedom there, compared to England. We could ride our bikes through the streets and play outside, but I was very different to your stereotypical Invercargill boy.

Southland Boys High School is very strong rugby school, very masculine. Very "boys will be boys", but I wanted to be a star. Mum tells me I got shit for dancing although I don't remember. Perhaps that's me blocking out past trauma, but I was just so sure I was going to be somebody someday, I didn't care. I had a long fringe that I dyed pink and blue. I wore skinny jeans and I was in all the musicals. But because I used to dance with all the First XV's girlfriends, no one hassled me. From an early age, queer people find ways to survive. When we're put in threateningly masculine, sometimes toxic environments, we have to find ways to be ourselves and still fit in. That ability has served me well in life.

When I was about 15, I met a boy online. He lived in Auckland, so we wrote in notebooks for each other, then we'd swap the notebooks. One day my mother decided to clean my room. Why any mother thinks cleaning her 15-year-old son's room is a good idea, but mum found the notebook and said it read like a gay love novel, and I said 'because it is'. Mum had a little cry, then dad asked 'what's going on', and mum said, 'James likes boys' and dad said, 'oh, shall we go get ice cream?' So wedrove to Bluff and had ice cream. I was very lucky. A lot of people don't have that sort of reaction from their parents.

Mum said she worried for me, when she found the book.But she never let me know, because she felt her job as a mum was to ensure I always felt loved and wanted and special. Because mum had a friend whose daughter was a lesbian, and she was seeing gay people on TV, the beautiful gift my mum gave me, she learnt elsewhere and didn't pressure me to guide her.

James Luck aka Elektra Shock: My Story as told to Elisabeth Easther

My childhood wasn't bad, but I was out of place, so I left high school halfway through sixth form and moved to Sydney to train full-time as a dancer. After dance school, I was in peak physical condition but, what to do next? So I went to Turkey and worked at a five-star resort. The European elite came to Hillside Beach Club with their kids and I managed the entertainment. I performed in shows in the evening and quickly became all the parents' favourite person, as I kept their kids entertained during the day, so they could relax in the spa. One of the guests was organising the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympic Games, which is how I ended up dancing at the closing ceremony with Annie Lennox with this wall of people cheering.

After that I worked on cruise ships, sailing all over Europe and South America. I got my first proper boyfriend, and being gay became this non-thing.Some people doing back-to-back contracts on cruise ships, they come back and buy a house,but I didn't save a penny and when I got back to New Zealand, I had nothing.

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I remember being 19 and scared. I had bills to pay and life felt hard, so I called dad and asked, "how long did it take till you figured out how to be an adult?" He was in his 50s and he said he still had no idea but the biggest thing to remember, no one has any idea what they're doing. We're all just figuring it out as we go along. If you remember that, it takes the pressure off. Even Ru Paul is just figuring it out. No one knows how to run a giant multimillion dollar international drag franchise. But when Ru Paul calls, you don't say "I don't know if I'm ready", instead you be confident, keep your head up and believe, because whenever you see a person who looks like they know what they're doing, they're just figuring it out as they go.

By 20, I'd seen the world and performed in the most amazing places. I'd been living the dream, and then I was home. One night, I felt very on my own, and I had this weird panic attack. I was so young, I'd achieved so many of my goals, so I decided to take a break. I couldn't go to Invercargill - what would I do there? - so I headedto Auckland where I knew one person. I was going to be here six months, but I never left.

In Auckland, I said yes to all the dance gigs. One night, I was doing an act in heels and underwear in a shower in the middle of some club, when a drag queen, Trinity Ice, asked if I'd ever do drag. My first question was "will I be paid?" and she said "we'll see about that" but she put me on stage. You always do your first show for free, but afterwards, the owner of the bar came up and said no one does a show like that for free, and handed me $250 in cash and I thought, this is me, because it encompasses everything I'm passionate about. Dance, performance, music and costume design.

Back then drag could be frowned upon. There'd be some heckling, I was bottled a few times walking to clubs but after I'd been doing it off and on for some years, House of Drag came along, and I thought I could do that. I came second in season two, and by then drag was cool and financially viable.

The difference between a drag queen and boy in a wig is confidence. I recently heard the term "pussy stunting". It means walking down the street and not caring what anyone thinks. It's attitude. There's an air about you. You're in six-inch heels, your hair is touching the ceiling, you're wearing sequins, you've got the nails. Everything is going on and you don't care what people think, because you know you look fabulous.

I've hustled my whole life, so I'll just keep hustling and working hard. It was heartbreaking to tell the performers the show wasn't going ahead. But we will reschedule, and Don't Touch The Queers will come back bigger and better. This is a setback, but it's also given me more time to plan how to take over the world, because Elektra isn't going anywhere. I want to be the entertainment king AND queen of New Zealand. I want a late-night talk show like Graham Norton. I'll do it in full drag. I'll interview Jacinda and Six60, with big showgirl opening numbers. I went from being a backup dancer to being Elektra Shock, and I will never give up.

• As part of the collaborative team Luck & Shooney, James and fellow creative Rebekkah Schoonbeck offer private tuition and workshops in all elements of performance and cabaret, as well as providing scintillating entertainment at events, clubs and parties.www.luckandshooney.com