In a cult sensation and local drag queen THEO PANAYIDES finds someone trying to be as positive as possible, using exuberance as a secret weapon
Big hair, big lips – ‘bee-stung lips’, I believe is the expression – big glasses; even in everyday mode, on a Friday-morning Zoom call from his home in Larnaca, Constantinos Kalaitzis is quite striking in appearance. Add some lipstick and makeup and you get his persona on TikTok (where he has 27,600 followers) and Instagram (4,046 followers) in the guise of ‘thatfoxyfox’. Add a wig of flowing hair – to cover his own frizzy hair – and some even thicker lipstick and you get the full ‘look’, the cult sensation, Foxy Fox herself.
“I’ve always been feminine,” he says. “I just feel like the moment when I unlocked the whole Foxy thing was when I managed to make peace with that side of me, and use it to my advantage.” That was in 2018 or thereabouts, when he first got into drag. “At first, I thought of Foxy as like my alter ego. As time went on, though, and I understood that I’m gender-fluid, I realised that she’s more an extension of myself.”
She’s also funny, that’s a big part of the following. The (relatively few) Instagram videos are more tentative – but the ones on TikTok, mostly clocking in at less than a minute, are uproarious, rattling off comebacks and observations in Cypriot dialect (with occasional translation for any stray Greek viewers). Foxy has her catchphrases, like the ‘zouzounakia’ – her pet name for fans and followers – roughly translating into English as ‘little buzzy bees’, and ‘poulo’, a vaguely phallic insult for someone who’s being… well, a dick. Her main topics are relationships and online discourse itself, things like people griping when you message them a smiley face instead of an emoji – but in fact she talks about all kinds of subjects. Last week there was even a video (it has almost 83,000 views) on being vaccinated herself but declaring solidarity with the unvaccinated.
Some of the best – and most revealing – Foxy videos are the ones where she points out hypocrisy and double standards, especially as regards sexuality. If a straight guy dresses up in drag for Carnival, notes one vid, everyone laughs and thinks it’s cool; if a gay person does it, everyone’s like ‘Oh, he wants to be a woman’. Another video (63,500 views) opens with a disclaimer that often turns up in the DMs (direct messages) she receives from men. “I’m basically straight,” they insist – Foxy does a deep voice to denote this possibly in-denial fan, then responds as herself: “Oh! Okay… So who are you looking for in my DMs, angel?”. She does a little moue, peering at the camera in amusement: “Are you lost?” she purrs in English. “You mad doggy!” – then throws back her head and laughs heartily.
We say ‘she’, since it seems appropriate – but Constantinos, like the cross-dresser mentioned in his video, is a gay person, not a transwoman. “This is one of the biggest misconceptions I get, since the day I started… I’ve explained time and time again that I’m a drag queen, and a gender-fluid person.” People assume that he’s looking to transition – and of course everyone’s different, no disrespect to those who do wish to transition – but in fact, “even though it took me almost 29 years, I wouldn’t change anything! I mean, I’m happy just the way I am. And for me, the most important thing is that I can express myself either as Con or Foxy, without having to choose between the two.”
He is indeed 29 years old, born in June 1992. The sign for Gemini is tattooed on his left wrist, alongside a small letter ‘M’ on his right hand – which, a bit surprisingly, is the first letter of his mother’s name, but in fact Constantinos is very close to both his parents. (His dad is Greek, which is also why he skipped National Service.) The family have always been supportive, including when he came out as gay; that said, his childhood had its rough patches. What was he like at 10 years old, say? “I was a very closed-off child. Basically I was being bullied since as long as I can remember, so as I grew older I started building defences. And those defences had to do with not talking very much – or at all – and being very closed, very reserved… Even though you now see a man who’s confident and doesn’t give a fuck, pardon my French, back then it wasn’t like that at all.”
The spectre of victimhood hangs heavy over our conversation – but in fact it’s quickly dispelled, that’s not his style. “I’m a guy who tries to be as positive as possible,” he asserts as Con – and of course that goes double for Foxy, whose whole persona (though she often sighs and bitches about relationships) is totally unsuited to playing the victim and feeling sorry for herself. She’s voluptuous but also joyous and sassy, the life of the party: “I didn’t want Foxy to be the kind of remote diva who we see from a distance,” he explains. Instead she’s “your fun, upbeat sex-bomb girlfriend who never gives up” – the ‘sexobombohartoucha’, like she says (or actually sings) in the first of his videos to go viral (144,000 views) back at the beginning of the year.
Foxy was more of an alter ego at that stage, more remote and diva-like, done up in full makeup and eyelashes with bling around her neck; Constantinos the TikTok performer is more relaxed now, more of a campy comedian than a drag queen per se. Most videos nowadays don’t even feature the full ‘look’ – unsurprisingly, since it takes hours to apply and the zouzounakia get restless if he doesn’t post regular vids – though he does plan (or hope) to become a drag queen professionally, a plan that took shape in 2019 before being derailed by circumstances. He was in discussions with a club to make his stage debut when Covid hit – actually a blessing in disguise, since it gave him time to find his audience through social media.
TikTok is hard to monetise, though, being more about self-expression than making a living. Like many of today’s 29-year-olds, the internet sensation currently lives with his parents and finds himself between jobs – though he did have quite a good business crafting handmade dolls for a few years, post-art school (a stint as a hotel receptionist was less successful). How does it feel to be a Millennial, caught up in a downward economic spiral since his mid-teens? – but in fact Constantinos is defiant about all that. You just have to keep trying, he replies, and stay positive; “There’s a rainbow at the end of every storm”. The real generational crisis isn’t economic, but social. “There’s a lot of loneliness out there,” he notes – and I get a vivid glimpse of all those very online 20-somethings scanning their respective phones, united by a sassy sex bomb who at least seems to be enjoying herself.
Foxy’s exuberance is indeed her main asset, her reason for being. She laughs at the haters (actually, says Constantinos, it often feels like the haters might be “zouzounakia in disguise”, given how they keep coming back), and refers to an unattractive man as “a stale lahmajoun”. One of her most popular vids (115,700 views) finds her responding to a nasty comment. “What do you know about relationships?” sneers the comment; “You’ll take a cucumber from anybody” (it works better in Greek). “Is that the kind of girl you think I am, bae?” says Foxy, crestfallen – then instantly cheers up: “Well, you’re absolutely right!” she chirps, and laughs uproariously. “But I like my cucumbers peeled,” she adds, and winks at the camera.
Despite being overtly (and overly) sexualised, there’s something innocent about such high spirits; it’s ingratiating, almost childlike. Foxy’s “full of love,” as Con puts it; she just wants to have fun. Like the great RuPaul, the world’s most famous drag queen, his plan (or hope) is to break out beyond the LGBT community – and indeed, his TikTok followers are a mixed bunch. (He cites a recent event where a straight couple came up to him later: “My boyfriend watches you all day long,” said the girl, “so I’ve grown to love you too.”) Constantinos recalls going to see a drag show in Cyprus years ago, with performers from the UK: “There were families with kids in the audience, there were couples, there was a guy having his bachelor party… It was really nice – and I said to myself, this is the point”.
Constantinos Kalaitzis seems inclusive in the best sense – not just in the dry way of calling for more ‘diversity’ but also embracing everyone, even the haters, even those with whom he disagrees. His vaccination video is instructive in this respect – and brave, in the current climate. “Anyone who promotes division between people – I just can’t, at all,” he explains with a sigh. “I just felt the need to express my own opinion and say clearly that, at the end of the day, getting vaccinated was my choice. The fact that someone else might not want to get it, because they have their own views, doesn’t put me in conflict with that person. I respect their view, just as they respect my own choice”. In a way, the fact that his journey was quite roundabout – from bullied kid to gender-fluid adult, with the advent of Foxy adding “a confidence boost that I can’t really explain, it just happens” – probably makes him less prone to hand down instruction on what others should do. Even now, at 29, the truth is that he hasn’t quite made it in the ‘real world’; there’s a touch of bravado in his heart-on-sleeve flamboyance – and, perhaps, a deep-down humility.
Then again, it’s easy to feel like a star with 27,000 followers. “I go for a coffee and there’s zouzounakia all over the place, coming out of the woodwork to say they love me and can we take a photo,” he laughs. “I might be walking down the street and I hear someone calling ‘Re bae’, or one of the things I say on TikTok.”
Foxy did all this – though, with hindsight, it was just a matter of time. Even when he was making dolls, he recalls, friends would often note that “she looks just like you”; obviously, the dolls were a kind of subconscious dress rehearsal for the flesh-and-blood version. Constantinos was always very feminine, of course – and very torn, both ashamed of it and refusing to hide it, hence those timid years in his childhood. “I grew up with girl friends,” he tells me. “I have male friends now, but I didn’t always… Most of the time, the connections I made were with girls. We have more of an easy bond.”
“Emotional maturity. I just feel like a woman is more in touch with her emotional world, while a man often gets lost in the mask of his masculinity… A woman will laugh, cry, she’ll do anything, but a man shows a very specific mask to the world, most of the time – and that’s where we lose the connection, because that’s where I can’t relate. Because I’m the same [as women], if I want to cry, I’ll cry. If I want to laugh, I’ll laugh… That’s the missing link, I reckon.” In a way it’s strange that he’s gender-fluid rather than trans; even as a boy, even though “I never felt like a typical boy, I also never felt like I had gender dysphoria”. Could it be that his personality is naturally sunny, inclusive, not inclined to limit his choices or dismantle his past life? Everyone’s different, of course.
“I’ve been treated as a joke, but I always get the last laugh!” says Constantinos – not in an arrogant way, more of a cheeky devil thumbing his nose at his pursuers. It’s a funny thing about the aforementioned guys who send him messages while primly insisting that they’re straight, “they’re afraid of the label, but lusting over the lifestyle. And I don’t judge – but also, when I know the struggle I had to go through to be able to stand here and have this conversation, I don’t have time for people who are still searching. I mean, I’m fully realised, and I know exactly what I want”. I leave him (and Foxy) to the job of self-empowerment, urging his followers – and the world in general – to try and grow into “the best version of ourselves”. At least he has two to choose from.