Sammy Mahdi talks to the press inside Calais Town Hall, Calais, France, 28 November 2021. EPA-EFE/Mohammed Badra


Leader of Belgium’s Christian Democrats wins drag-queen contest


A Belgian TV show aired on the evening of September 8 has raised eyebrows after participants were transformed into unrecognisable drag queens.

The winner turned out to be the well-known politician and president of the country’s Christian Democrats (CD&V), Sammy Mahdi.

Make Up Your Mind was a one-off show where five public figures were dressed up as drag queens in elaborate gowns with garish makeup designed to create an extravagant and glamorous appearance.

The show’s judges then had to guess who they were after they took to the catwalk in high heels and outrageous costumes to perform in a variety of challenges such as “lip-sync” battles and a series of suggestive dances.

The winner of the contest was the one who best masked his identity, thus baffling the judges.

One by one, the contestants were voted off until only Mahdi remained. “The shoes were a torture”, he said after his victory. “I have an endless amount of respect for women wearing those.”

Mahdi said he was invited onto the show after the “American State of Tennessee enforced a ban on drag shows”, despite that prohibition only relating to those held on public property and in front of children.

He also referred to the cancellation of the Make Up Your Mind show in Italy. “I wanted to make a statement by participating,” he said and warned against “far-right agitators” who should not “dominate our world”.

“Today they want to ban drag shows, tomorrow gay marriage. We must not regard our acquired freedoms as acquired.”

With the CD&V party having long been associated with high statesmanship and family values, Mahdi’s taking part in a drag-queen show may be seen by some to be at odds with that image.

It is not the first time a Belgian politician has dressed up for a game show. In 2022, Conner Rousseau, the leader of the Dutch-speaking Social-Democrat Flemish Vooruit party, donned a rabbit costume and took part in The Masked Singer TV show.

In 2014, Bart De Wever, leader of the Flemish nationalist N-VA party, dressed up as a panda for a TV award show.