Friday 23 February 2018

'My Christmas Day speech will be a heart-warming few minutes' - Rory O'Neill

Rory O'Neill 'Panti'. Pantibar, Capel Street, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Rory O'Neill 'Panti'. Pantibar, Capel Street, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

Elaine McCahill

This year will go down as the one when a drag queen who championed human rights became a national icon.

Over the past 18 months, Panti Bliss, the alter-ego of Rory O'Neill, has become the Queen of Ireland, and she'll be cementing her status by delivering a speech to the country on Christmas Day.

It's been quite the whirlwind with Rory's book - A Woman in the Making - becoming a best-seller, Conor Horgan's Queen of Ireland documentary smashing at the box office, and Rory receiving an honorary doctorate from Trinity College, Dublin.


Rory O'neill aka Miss Panti
Rory O'neill aka Miss Panti

Panti also performed on stage with U2 which she said was "absolutely gas", and most importantly the year was marked by campaigning for a 'Yes' vote in the marriage equality referendum which passed on May 22.

The celebrations in Dublin Castle when the results were announced and taking to the stage with Miriam O'Callaghan and Gerry Adams is a memory that's hard to beat.

"It was such an amazing day, it was just super brilliant fun," Panti told the Herald.

"Another real highlight this year was the movie finally coming out.

"It seemed like this weird thing that was never going to happen so finally seeing it in the cinema was just brilliant," she added.

Next year is also set to be a busy one as the film will tour the festival circuit and Panti's theatre show, High Heels in Low Places, is also going on the road.

"I'll be going to all the fun festivals of course. We haven't had our world premiere yet so we're excited to see where that will be," she said.

"I'm also working on a new show that we'll be doing the festivals. But right now I'm looking forward to a few days off at Christmas.

"We have a super traditional, ordinary Mayo Christmas. It hasn't changed really since I was a kid, we do the same things and eat the same food and I love that."

With tours, speeches, public appearances and promoting the film, Panti doesn't get much time to herself and chilling out with her dog Penny is always top of her list.

"Most summers I try to go to a little town south of Barcelona called Sitges. It's very popular with the gays, but that's not really getting away from it all because all the gays are there anyway," she laughed.

"I have a slight hermit tendency about me and every now and then I quite like spending two days in my apartment, just me and the dog and not really answering my phone. I really like that."

The offers for TV projects are rolling in but, the only one of interest is her own chat show.

"The whole Pantigate affair was two years ago now so I'm just continuing doing what I've always done, it's just more people are interested," she said.

"I would definitely at some point love to do a chat show. To be honest that would be one of the only TV projects I'd be seriously interested in.

"I get asked to do a lot of TV things but I'm lucky I have my live shows and I have the bar so I feel I can wait rather than just taking anything that comes along.

"But there are a lot of people who are trying to get something off the ground so if the right one comes along, I'll do it," she added.

Next up she's preparing to shoot her Queen of Ireland's Christmas Message which will air on Christmas Day on TV3 at 3pm.

"It's going to be a sort of Irish take on an English tradition," she said. "It'll be a heart-warming few minutes - we're filming it in a gorgeous Georgian house and I'll be wearing a fabulous creation by James David Seaver."

The Queen of Ireland is available now on DVD.

Queen of Ireland review: 'the referendum results scene turned me to mush'


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