Darren Butler, from Gwent, South Wales, and the proud dad of Fabian aka Francheska Valley, recalled the day he first held his son in his arms and envisioned the man he would grow up to be.
He dreamt of teaching his son football and boxing and raising a man’s man like himself. But when Fabian turned eight, it became noticeable that his interests lie elsewhere.
Despite his dad’s constant encouragement, Fabian had no love to spare for the sports fields. The youngster informed his dad that he wanted to dress up in his mum’s clothes instead and wear her makeup and jewelry.
“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,” Darren said. “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,” Darren continued. “I just thought he was going through a phase but when I spoke to my wife about it and realized that it wasn’t a phase, I was hurt.
” Darren’s wife, Rachel, revealed that there were “a lot of tears” when the couple fought over Fabian’s dress-up since she was all for encouraging their son’s newfound interest.“She persuaded me to go to his first performance, I really didn’t want to go,” said Butler.
“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 realized 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,” Darren added.
Fabian, who is now 11-years-old and performs as one of the U.K’s youngest drag queens (as alter ego Francheska Valley) was just five-years-old when he first began dressing up. He’d return from schools with descriptions of how he admired the clothes his teachers were wearing and sneak his mom’s clothes, makeup, and jewelry from her wardrobe to try on.
“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,” Rachel said. “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.
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,” Rachel added.
Darren admitted that he had tried to get Fabian into sports by enrolling him in a football club.
“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,” Darren explained. “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.”
Speaking of the first time he saw Fabian perform, 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. ”
“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,” Rachel added.
Now, Fabian has his dad’s full support and even gets to go drag outfit shopping.
“I go into charity shops with him to get heels and jewelry – I’m definitely making progress,” Darren said.
“I always compliment him when his makeup looks good and support him through everything.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. ”
As for the young drag queen, Fabian believes that one should do what they love and live their best life no matter what age they are.
“I’m so happy my dad supports me – my favorite thing is when he tells me he loves me because it means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s brought us together and all I’ve ever wanted is for my dad to support me and be proud of me,” Fabian said.