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Streamer Spotlight: Dona Tarte

There’s a new sexy baking queen gracing our screens this Christmas. No, not Nigella. It’s Dona Tarte, Irish drag queen and baking streamer extraordinaire!

On Saturday this week Dona will be hosting her very own Bake Off charity event featuring members of Rainbow Arcade and RPDR UK’s Sum Ting Wong. It might be more Nailed It than professional, but it’s sure to be hugely entertaining.

As well as baking streams, Dona plays games in and out of drag and offers a safe place for viewers to disconnect and unwind. Read on as we discuss masculinity, expanding the drag community, and what you should be baking this Christmas…

When and why did you start streaming?

I’ve had Twitch for ages, but I always felt it wasn’t easy to find other LGBT people. It wasn’t until maybe three years ago that I started finding people like Deere and Trashly. I have so much going on with college and work and relationships that I have to set aside a very short amount of time to do either Twitch, drag or baking. So instead I did all of them at once! Last August it catalyzed to this big ball of draggy doughy streaming, but people seem to like it!

What games do you prefer to stream? 

It’s evolved over the time of the pandemic. I’m finding that people are way more interested in what I call ‘disposable games’: games that you jump into, you play it, you can drop out of, they aren’t heavily story-driven and they don’t tend to have deep topics. Quick easy games like Among Us, Fall Guys, Phasmophobia. I’m loving it as well, I find it really easy to disconnect with them. And I play things like horror, trendy, fun, loud games. Everything in that sense of chaos and fun and spookiness. 

Where did your interest in drag come from?

In 2003/4 there was this drag queen called Shirley Temple Bar who was famous for being on TV and doing the bingo in drag. I vividly remember being really young and loving this gorgeous red haired woman doing bingo. Also with the UK and Ireland culture of pantos and the dame, all that was really interesting, the extremes of camp. And then Ru Paul’s Drag Race making it really big and making it more about the artform. 

How would you describe your drag style?

When I first started doing drag and makeup, people kept saying the term “housewife” which I hate, I really don’t like that term. I like the 60s and 70s, I like the mod vibes, the pinup vibes. But I stay very far away from the term housewife. There’s just this weird vibe behind it that I’m not into. But that classic, curls, almost renaissance kind of vibe. I sound very full of myself when I say “oh I am classic beauty”, but that kind of vibe. That kind of ideology of what this “natural” beautiful woman would be. But a bit of camp in there too.

So why stream in drag?

I wanted to get three birds with one stone. I started to pull back on drag a bit the last couple of months and do a couple of boy streams and a couple of drag streams. I did the Twitch drag development programme, so for six weeks I did drag twice on the front page. I think doing that gave me this really nice protection shield to talk to people in this…not a character, but having a shield. From doing that it made me more comfortable in my boy self. I would like to say I’m just as comfortable out of drag as I am in drag, compared to maybe six months ago. 

Does your stream differ if you’re in and out of drag?

I think my drag differs from a lot of peoples’ drag in that it stems from my own connection to not just femininity but massively with masculinity. Doing drag has made me appreciate my masculine side, which for most of my life I hated. I don’t go into it like “oh I’m Dona now”. To me, Dona is myself. There’s nothing that different except the confidence boost. For me I’m able to do a drag stream and it’ll appeal to some people, but my viewers don’t treat me in any way differently whether I’m in or out of drag. I’m very lucky with that, people come for me and not just this character, if there is one.

And then you’re a professional baker too! Was that a natural thing to include in your streams?

Massively, it’s perfect for it. When [viewers] think of this… Nigella Lawson, exudes beauty, enjoys baking, it just seemed like such an easy fit. You think of this pinup, beautiful style and it just made marketing so much easier. I’ve always wanted to push into drag but I went into it with a plan: Dona Tarte, baking, drag beauty. 

What will you be baking this Christmas?

I’m not trying to knock anyone’s tradition, but when I look up Christmas recipes I tend to find hundreds of recipes that involve marshmallows and rice krispies and all dyed bright red. But when I think of Christmas I think of the tradition of mulled wine and those little German  Zimtsterne biscuits. So if someone was going to ask me something traditional and Christmassy to bake I would bake those. But I’m much more into the drinks around Christmas: the mulled wine, the mulled ciders. Eggnog is actually really nice. People are put off because they think it’s drinking egg yolks, but it’s just alcohol and custard, it’s wonderful! I’m not trying to be stereotypical Irish but we go through a lot of bottles of Baileys at Christmas. Actually screw the baking, just buy a bottle of Baileys!

So tell us about your Winter Bake Off.

For the longest time I’ve been wanting to do a baking challenge. I know people are thinking “well if you’re going to do some sort of Bake Off / Nailed It vibe online, you can’t taste it or see it up close!” I don’t care! I’ve always wanted to take this niche of drag baking into a bigger setting. We have four contestants across Twitch: Sierra Myst, Cheratomo, Justin_Nick and Sum Ting Wong from Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I’ll have them baking festive cupcakes, I’m going to be giving them a recipe that’s my own from my website and they have to make a nice frosting and make it look pretty. Throughout the entire thing, it’s going to have fun challenges fuelled by donations, there’ll be live music performances, there’ll be giveaways. It’s going to be a really fun festive night. It’s not about baking, it’s about raising money for charity and having fun while doing it. Taking people who don’t normally do baking – and if they do, not very professionally – and putting it into this fun campy charity-fuelled event. I’m so excited it’s going to be so much fun! 

What can people expect when they come to your stream?

I’m very lucky in that I have a very welcoming community, the vibe is always nice and chill. When people come in and say they’ve had a rough day or are having a tough time, I always say you’re welcome in to come and disconnect and recharge for the day. No one is finding this pandemic easy, but what I want is for people to wipe their shoes at the door, come in, relax, grab a drink, grab some snacks, and disconnect for a couple of hours. Among all the makeup and the drag and the baking, I want people to just enjoy themselves and make friends. That sounds very Miss Continental but that’s genuinely what I do this for and I truly love it!

How do you find being an out LGBT streamer? 

A lot of people will come in and they’ll say I found you on the LGBT tag and it’s really nice because they’re able to find their people. What a lot of us take for granted is that we have people we have found to get us to where we are today, whereas there are people around the world who may not have that opportunity to talk to someone, to find a community, to realise what’s out there. I get a lot of young people who come in and might say something a little bit off, but I’m not very strict because I don’t know where they are, I don’t know what they’re up to. I always get a lot of young people who are finding themselves. I’m very happy that they’re able to ask questions or feel comfort in a community that isn’t readily available for them in real life. 

What’s your main goal as a streamer for the future?

I want to take events like Dona’s Bake Off and expand further out and connect this gap between the LGBT and drag community and the rest of Twitch, that being a largely straight cis audience. I really want to introduce this media to everyone and I obviously don’t want to open anyone’s safe space, but I want people to see that we are this great entertainment. There are so many of us, so many welcoming lovely people. I really want to connect with people who have never met a drag queen in their entire life and help our little pond grow just a bit more.

What’s the best thing about being a streamer?

The people, fully. The support system that I have, it’s just so nice welcoming so many people in this community. As much time as I put into it, I get a lot of it back. And it’s helped put me on the map when it comes to drag in Ireland. Doing Twitch a year ago, I had people asking “so what is Twitch? Oh you just do your makeup on camera?” Now a year later I have so many drag artists from London and Ireland and around the world chatting to me about it. So not only has it helped my drag art and helped me do better makeup and drag, it’s also helped me become more respected in the drag community as someone who “just sits in front of a camera and talks and plays games”.

What’s the game that defined your childhood/got you into gaming?

One that impacted me the most would’ve been Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It made you think there’s this vast land and you get to explore and there’s all these fantastic characters and this androgynous character where you have no idea who they are. Also Link being…I think there were so many feminine qualities about him that just made me absolutely adore him. 

What’s your game of the year so far?

I tend to play a lot of disposable games, but whenever I play a story game I’m very critical of the writing. But I would say Bugsnax is phenomenal: the characters, the story, the playability. With game of the year I would think of the game I’ve played the most, so story-wise I’d pick that but gameplay-wise I’d maybe pick Phasmophobia. You just go on an adventure and you wait for something to scare you, but it’s so addictive and replayable. I played the heck out of Phasmophobia this year.

To find out more about Dona Tarte, catch her streaming on her Twitch channel.

Streamer Spotlight is a weekly column from Ed Nightingale about highlighting LGBT+ streamers who are creating communities that are diverse and progressive.

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