Wynand Kotze as his drag persona, Tollie Parton
It’s 9am on a Wednesday morning and Wynand Kotze and I are meeting via Google Meetings. We’re both reluctant to put our cameras on – we’re both having a bad hair day. (He’s just woken up and I had a night of insomnia.) We relent and laugh when we see that we’re both nursing rather large cups of coffee.
We both lean forward and virtually clink cups over the screen. Concerns over the appearance of our hair evaporate. I don’t feel like I am talking to a complete stranger. In under three minutes, it feels like Wynand Kotze has been my best friend since primary school.
Kotze is an entertainer who rose to prominence as Wyn vir die Pyn on TikTok. Since then, his performance career has grown steadily. He now has one man shows and travels the country. He’s appeared on SABC 2, sat down with Huisgenoot and now takes his drag alter ego Tollie Parton on tour around South Africa.
But this is not what I am supposed to be writing about. I am supposed to be writing about queer performers from the conservative Afrikaans community. Clearly this is not the article you’re supposed to be reading. Thing is, it’s so easy to fall in love with Wynand.
I open with a question about the South African entertainment industry. “One frequently asks if there is an actual industry,” the self-proclaimed introvert says, “There’s not a building anywhere with an HR department or PR department. There is nothing there physically to provide support. Essentially, the entertainment industry is actually what one makes of it.”
Kotze reveals that there are few Afrikaans entertainers willing to be outspoken about their sexuality. The Afrikaans community is generally conservative and traditional, and gay icons aren’t fully accepted. Performers like Nataniel and Pieter Dirk Uys seem to be the exception rather than the rule.
On the other hand, Kotze is out, proud and vocal about his sexuality. He refuses to take any flack for being gay. “Gay people have been expected to turn the other cheek and that feeds into the abusive mindset,” he says.
Wynand Kotze is out, proud and vocal about his sexuality
Kotze tells me he was the class clown and his ability to make people laugh kept the bullies from picking on him. He studied drama, and when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the world was forced to go into lockdown, Kotze took to TikTok under the encouragement of his flatmate.
It didn’t take him long to build a loyal following. Seeing that people were taking him seriously on the popular video platform, Kotze decided to find a way to make his act pay. The answer lay in taking to touring stages throughout the country.
“If that first one man show didn’t go well, I think I would have quit. But here we are and I’ve been doing this for the last two years,” he says. “There is so little representation in the gay community. There are few out and proud Afrikaans performers.”
What followed is the creation of a drag persona known as Tollie Parton, who now has her own popular following. Kotze is especially proud of Tollie. “She’s that dronk tannie that you still invite to every event. She speaks her mind. It’s my hope that Tollie becomes a safe space for gay Afrikaners.”
Kotze is adamant that his creation, Tollie, is not the next Evita Bezuidenhout. “We must stop comparing ourselves to others in the gay community. Tollie Parton is the next Tollie Parton,” he says.
It’s almost sad to sign off after our chat. I ask a final question: what are his hopes for the future?
Kotze doesn’t hesitate in offering his answer. “I want to create a late-night show on TV for Tollie Parton and sell out in big theatres. Also, I want to keep on being gay and Afrikaans.”