Bibliophile | ‘Caught in the Act’ by Shane Jenek aka Courtney Act

Caught in the Act by Shane Jenek aka Courtney Act

Unlike many drag artists, Australians have always known Shane Jenek the man behind the performance. He burst on to our TV screens in 2003 as part of the first season of Australian Idol, first unsuccessfully auditioning as Shane, then later making it through the gatekeepers when he returned as Courtney.

Through a lot of hard work Courtney Act has gone on to become one of Australia’s most successful drag performers building an international career in the USA and England, finding success of a succession of reality television shows, and more recently moving into new territory with an interview series.

In the new autobiography Jenek recounts a happy childhood growing up in Queensland. His days filled with performing at his local kids talent schools, his close friends were Lisa and Jessica Origliasso – who would go on to become The Veronicas.

At eighteen he moves to Sydney and begins working for Channel V and scores an on-air job at Nickelodeon. He lives in a shoe-box apartment, and spends his nights living it up in Sydney’s gay scene. Soon he’s spending more and more of his time in drag as Courtney Act. He dives into the world sex, drugs and lip-syncing.

He shares his journey of coming out to his parents, and while they are supportive and loving, he also builds the ‘found family’ in the queer scene. Working hard over many years he builds up his career through cabaret and reality television opportunities, and makes the leap from Australia to the USA, and then to England.

The book also delves into Jenek’s thoughts on sexuality, masculinity, gender roles and his own struggles. As time goes on he begins to develop sexual relationships which are all based around being Courtney rather than Shane, and an overwhelming feeling that he was “failing at being a man”.

Interestingly the book shares that along the way some of the biggest celebrity names he’s interacted with, people with huge profiles, are some of the most down to earth and normal people. There’s a also a section about the stress involved in taking part in the juggernaut that is RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Caught in the Act is not a memoir filled with juicy celebrity encounters and gossip, but rather an intriguing journey through growing up, growing wise, navigating a course through the fluidity of gender and sexuality and trying to figure it all out. Ultimately Courtney (and Shane) learn to stop acting, and just be themselves.

Graeme Watson

Caught in the Act is out now from Pantera Press. 

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