‘Macho’ father who wanted son to be a boxer reveals how he accepted 11-year-old’s dream to perform as UK’s youngest drag queen after dressing up in his mother’s clothes aged eight
- Fabian Butler, 11, loves transforming into his drag alter ego Francheska Valley
- Performer from Gwent, South Wales, has become the UK’s youngest drag queen
- His father Darren, a machine operator, says he is ‘the proudest dad in the world’
When Fabian Butler was born, his loving dad Darren held him and dreamed of the man he would grow up to be – how he would play football with him and teach him how to box, just like he’d loved as a child.
But by age eight, not only had Fabian ditched the sports fields, he’d told a horrified Darren he wanted to dress up in his mum’s clothes.
Trying everything in his power to talk his son out of his latest ‘phase’, Darren felt uncomfortable about what his friends would think about his son’s alter ego.
Now aged 11, Fabian performs as one of the country’s youngest drag queens, as alter ego Francheska Valley – and Darren happily takes him to gigs and even helps him choose his outfits.
Francheska Valley in their hometown of Gwent in Southern Wales. Fabian Butler, 11, from Gwent, Wales, loves performing as his drag alter-ego Francheska Valley
Darren, a machine operator from Gwent, South Wales, said: ‘I was the opposite when I was younger. When you have your first boy, you have expectations.
‘I used to box as a kid so I always hoped that he would grow up and want to pursue boxing.
‘I would take him to play football with me and you could see that it wasn’t for him.
‘When he started dressing up, I was in denial, I just thought it was kids being kids at an age like that.
‘I just thought he was going through a phase but when I spoke to my wife about it and realised that it wasn’t a phase, I was hurt.
Fabian with father Darren, a machine operator, who has fully accepted Fabian’s passion for drag despite having a very different childhood himself
Fabian pictured with dad Darren and mum Rachel, who works as a cook. The youngster began borrowing his mum’s makeup from as young as five
‘She persuaded me to go to his first performance, I really didn’t want to go.
‘But as soon as I saw how happy he was on stage, I could see how much it meant to him.
‘It brought a tear to my eye and I realised he can’t live his life through my eyes. He has to live his dream, not my dreams.
‘I am the proudest dad in the world.’
Fabian started dressing up when he was just five-years-old, after borrowing mum Rachel’s make up and jewellery.
Francheska Valley looks sassy in red and gold embellished heels in their home town of Gwent in Southern Wales
Fabian (as Francheska) did not follow in his dad’s footsteps, who urged him to pursue boxing
Francheska Valley showcases a florescent avant-garde make up look with blonde locks
He’d come home and tell his parents how he admired the clothes his teachers were wearing, and sneak Rachel’s clothes from her wardrobe to try on.
Mum Rachel, who works as a cook, added: ‘It’s just normal to us – I’ve grown with him through this and we didn’t need to have a conversation about it as it was just normality.
‘As he got older, I started buying him makeup which caused loads of disagreements between Darren and I but Fabian’s face lights up when he wears makeup.
Fabian’s mother Rachel said that at first buying make-up for her son caused arguments between her and husband Darren
Now Darren says he is ‘the proudest Dad in the world’ after learning to understand Fabian’s dreams
Fabian says he is ‘so happy’ his dad supports him, and urges people to ‘do what you love’
Despite Fabian loving performing and dressing up, Darren tried to get him into sports by enrolling him into a football club.
Darren explained: ‘Fabian started a football club when he was six but you could see he wasn’t happy; he much preferred his drama club and gymnastics group.
‘When I tried to get him into boxing, he would say ‘I’m not getting my lip split’. He’s not got a bad bone in his body’.
Darren found it difficult to accept Fabian wanting to wear makeup and dress up which caused a lot of disagreements in the family.
Fabian as his drag act Francheska Valley with Mum and Dad at home in Wales
The talented performer became fascinated with Ru Paul’s Drag Race as he got older and started experimenting with wearing heels, jewellery and make-up out of the house
Rachel said: ‘When he was seven, he started wearing makeup more often and Darren would tell him to take it off which would leave Fabian very upset.
‘It caused arguments because I would say – look how good he looks! It took a while for Darren to come round to the idea of him wearing makeup.
‘Fabian would tell Darren that he was just doing his makeup to show him and he was so upset when Darren would tell him to take it off.
‘Sometimes he would go and take it off but there were a lot of tears – it was frustrating for me because I could see how talented Fabian was at doing his makeup’.
Darren said he was ‘taken aback’ after he saw Fabian perform at DragCon in London earlier this year to 7,000 people
But when Fabian performed in front of Darren for the first time in Newbridge with his drama club, it made him realise how talented his son was at performing.
Darren said: ‘He had his own act and performed Ariana Grande’s God is a Woman in front of 200 people on stage.
‘He started drama club when he was nine and this was his first opportunity to perform.
‘I was really nervous about going but when I saw him performing, it brought a tear to my eye’.
Rachel added: ‘Fabian filled up with tears and said ‘I’m so glad my dad is here’.
‘I told him to show his dad what he’s got and he went out there and gave the best performance.
‘Darren gave him the biggest hug when he came off stage and there were tears from both sides – it was the happiest Darren had ever seen Fabian’.
Now, Darren fully supports his son and even takes him out shopping for new drag outfits.
Darren said: ‘I go into charity shops with him to get heels and jewellery – I’m definitely making progress.
‘I always compliment him when his makeup looks good and support him through everything.
Fabian at age eight, after transforming himself into his drag alter ego Francesca
‘When we went to DragCon in London in January, I was taken aback by the amount of other drag queens coming up to me telling me how they wished they had a dad as supportive as me.
‘He did a lip sync in front of 7,000 people to a Ru Paul song and people wanted to take pictures with him.
‘It made me understand how difficult it must have been for them and I don’t want that for Fabian’.
Fabian added: ‘No matter what age you are, you should do what you love and live your best life.
‘I’m so happy my dad supports me – my favourite thing is when he tells me he loves me because it means a lot to me.
‘It’s brought us together and all I’ve ever wanted is for my dad to support me and be proud of me’.