ENTERTAINMENT

The icon behind Australia’s best-known Drag Queen, Courtney Act

"It just happened instantly, and it was the perfect name and the perfect fit.”
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Glamorous, innovative, and talented, Courtney Act has always been at the forefront of the performing industry, pushing boundaries and making a name for herself.

WATCH BELOW: Courtney Act performs the jive on DWTS 

After a drag career that’s spanned two decades, Courtney is now not only a recognisable face in the Australian media, but someone we want to know more about.

In the last year, she’s written a memoir, Caught in the Act, and will be returning to our screens soon to compete on Dancing With The Stars: All Stars, but Courtney has a storied history leading up to the glitzy heights of her career.

So, who is Courtney Act, really?

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Shane started his career as Courtney in his late teens. (Credit: Getty)

Born Shane Jenek in 1982, he grew up in the suburbs of Brisbane with a loving family around him.

During high school, Shane was bullied relentlessly for ‘being gay’, but found solace in their performing arts school, where they took singing and dancing lessons outside of school hours.

Despite the tough time at school, Shane excelled academically and was even accepted into medical school. But, after explaining to his family that that wasn’t his dream, Shane turned his eyes to a career in the performing arts.

WATCH: Courtney Act auditions for Australian Idol. Story continues below.

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Shane found and became Courtney at the turn of the century, when he began to spend more time in Sydney city, which was markedly different to Brisbane at the time.

“When I was growing up, I never saw myself reflected in the media in any way,” Shane said on a 2020 episode of Australian Story.

“I thought, I can be myself, and be visible, and tell my story. And hopefully other young people out there will feel less isolated.”

After meeting fellow drag queen, Vanity Faire, Shane began to follow a career in drag. He originally chose the name ‘Ginger Le Bon’, but Vanity suggested he needed something girlier, like ‘Courtney’.

“It just happened instantly, and it was the perfect name and the perfect fit,” Shane said of choosing ‘Courtney Act’.

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Shane auditioned for Australian Idol twice – once as himself and once as Courtney. (Credit: Instagram)

After winning the Rising Diva Star drag competition in 2002, Courtney auditioned for a brand-new reality show that was starting up in Australia: Australian Idol.

He went in as Shane and was told his voice was ‘just not up to it’, but went back the next day dressed as Courtney and tried again.

At the time, judge Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickinson told him that “Shane only didn’t just cut it. You’ve added another dimension and this time you’ve blown us away,” and welcomed Courtney into the competition.

While Courtney placed 13th in the show, her stage presence was undeniable, and the producers continued to find little segments for her to be a part of, which cemented her place in the Australian industry.

WATCH: The best of Courtney Act on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Story continues below.

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Courtney eventually re-located to west Hollywood in hopes of pushing her career further and continued to work the club scene.

“For the first 17, 18 years of my career, there was a lot of time to rest,” she told Australian Story.

However, her moments in the spotlight remained iconic. She became the first – and to this day, only – Australian drag queen to compete on the American version of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

While Courtney came in as runner-up on the show alongside Adore Delano, she has since revealed that what she saw on the 2014 season was different to what she experienced while filming it.

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Courtney alongside her fellow contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race. (Credit: Getty)

“I think because of my lack of drama they had to create that for me. And so, what I saw play back on television was different to what I felt I experienced,” she said.

“I just felt humiliated. And it’s amazing the impact that it can have on you… I found that experience to be such a struggle.”

While RuPaul’s Drag Race often gives second chances to queens via its spin-off, RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars, it’s doubtful Courtney will ever return to the franchise.

“I don’t know if some people in that panel are too fond of me … Like Ru and Michelle [Visage],” Shane said of the show’s judges when speaking on the Werk with Trinity the Tuck podcast.

Nevertheless, Courtney was on to bigger and better things.

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Shane dressed up to the nines for the opening night of a musical. (Credit: Getty)

Despite being burnt by her RuPaul experience, Courtney would go on to win Celebrity Big Brother in the UK in 2018, which was followed by a hosting gig on the UK’s first bisexual dating show, The Bi Life.

In 2019, Courtney returned to Australia to star on Dancing With The Stars, where she came in as runner-up along with her dancing partner, Joshua Keefe. They were the first same-sex pairing on the Australian version of the show.

In the ensuing years, Courtney has acted in plays and worked a number of hosting gigs as her star has gone on to rise and rise.

Most recently, she won an AACTA alongside Narelda Jacobs, Joel Creasey and Zoe Coombs Marr for her work hosting the Sydney Mardi Gras in 2021.

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Courtney at the AACTA Awards in 2021. (Credit: Getty)

Dancing With The Stars: All Stars will air on Channel Seven in 2022.

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