BROWSING the aisles of Primark, 12-year-old Miles Pullman eyes a glittery dress and holds it up against himself.
“That would look great on you,” smiles proud mum Nicola, 49.
From the age of two, quiet schoolboy Miles has loved dressing up in ladies’ clothes, borrowing his mum’s make-up and entertaining family and friends.
But this summer he made his debut drag performance at a family show in the open air outside a gay bar near his hometown of Broadstairs in Kent.
His act went down so well that four weeks later he appeared on the main stage at Canterbury Pride – where his energetic dance moves wowed the huge crowd.
After leaving school, Miles now hopes to get a day job in favourite shop Primark, leaving him free to perform as his drag persona, Miss Oatie T, in the evenings.
Mum-of-five Nicola, a teaching assistant, says: “Miles may be very young, but he takes being a drag queen extremely seriously.
“He’s a perfectionist, doing all he can to study and learn his craft so he can be the best at it.
“Becoming a drag queen isn’t a temporary whim. He’s a born performer who has been working towards this moment for a long time.”
Miles goes to four dance lessons a week and spent months perfecting his make-up and hair for Miss Oatie T.
He’s even teaching himself to make his own costumes in the hope of one day competing in BBC cult series RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.
Nicola says: “I always knew he was going to grow up to be a performer.
“As a toddler, he was always wearing wigs and dressing up clothes. His favourite accessory was a Michael Jackson wig.
“He’d put it on, then stand on a box or a chair pretending he was on stage, dancing and miming to music.
“Aged four he began raiding my make-up bag and asking me to get him his own lipsticks.
“If I refused to buy him yet another pink lippy at the shops, he’d throw a tantrum!
“Aged six he started dancing lessons. At first he did ballet and tap, but he found those a bit dull. He preferred modern dance – something with more expression and power.”
Since then Miles has travelled the country competing in street dance and lyrical contemporary dance competitions.
A couple of years ago, Nicola and Miles started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race UK together.
Nicola says: “It made him aware of that style of performance, and how much could be achieved with it.
“He told me, ‘Mum, I’m going do that one day’. He even asked for a sewing machine and a tailor’s dummy for his 12th birthday, so he could start making his own costumes.
“He told me: ‘I don’t want to be one of those useless drag queens that can’t make a dress’.
“As parents, my ex-husband Lee and I are united in supporting our son every step of the way. We just want him to be himself.”
Miles is the youngest child in the Pullman family, and his four big brothers – Samuel, 31, a married joiner with two children; Perry, 27, a teaching assistant and part-time Michael Jackson impersonator; Bailey, 25, a chef; and Jackson, 21, a hairdresser and barber – back him up, too.
Nicola says: “Our whole family is glad that Miles has found what he wants to do, and what makes him happy, even if it is different to what the average 12-year-old might choose.”
Miles spends most weekends at dance competitions but he still finds time for a social life and has a great mix of girls and boys as friends.
Nicola says: “Miles is not the average child, so his dad and I have always been concerned about bullying at school or nasty comments online.
“But we’re fortunate that he has a lovely bunch of mates who are encouraging and supportive.
“So far, there haven’t been any real problems.”
Nicola says Miles began developing the persona of Miss Oatie T about 18 months ago.
She says: “In everyday life, Miles is quiet and polite. But I’ve always noticed that when he is dressed up, a more cheeky, sassy side of him emerges.
“That gradually led him to create the character of Miss Oatie T – she got her name because she is OTT, or over the top, just like my boy!
“Miles likes me to come shopping for his costumes and make-up, and I am happy to give him advice. But sometimes he won’t listen to me and just chooses what he wants.”
The first time her son went outside his home in full head-to-toe drag was to go to an LBGTQ event called Glitterbomb in the Park at Maidstone, Kent.
He attended with his mum and brother Perry, wearing a pink wig and black dress.
Afterwards he was invited to perform at a daytime family-friendly drag show in the open air outside Sundowners, a gay bar in Margate, Kent.
Owner Duncan Bayles commented afterwards: “This little one is an absolute superstar. Mark my words he’ll take over in the future – winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race 2028.”
Duncan alerted the organisers of Canterbury Pride who invited Miles to appear on stage alongside seasoned drag queens Cheryl Hole and Baga Chipz.
Nicola says: “I was very nervous because there was a big crowd of thousands of people. But if Miles was worried before going out on stage, he didn’t show it.
“Miss Oatie T owned the stage. The audience went wild. They loved her.
“Watching from the sidelines, I felt proud of my son for being so brave and so comfortable in his own skin.
“With my help he has got to know some local drag queens and they’ve been very kind, sharing tips on make-up and costumes.
“Thankfully they have all agreed with me that at the moment he is too young to wear a corset!”
Nicola says family members have all had conversations with Miles about the possibility some people may not be happy about his blossoming drag queen career.
She says: “We know there are bullies out there who will find any reason they can to criticise and sneer.
“One of our older sons was bullied because he was very good at football. Those kinds of people will always find something to be nasty about.
“But Miles has tremendous self confidence and told us he wanted to go for it anyway. He knows he is different to most of his peers but he really doesn’t worry about it.
“He has so much belief in himself that any disapproval that comes his way tends to simply roll off his back.”
Nicola says she is proud of all her five sons but “possibly most proud of Miles” for having the courage to follow his dreams.
Miles says: “I feel like I’ve been Miss Oatie T all my life on the inside, but I’ve started to see her coming out more in 2021.
“Mostly everyone really likes her, but there are the odd couple of people who tell me, no, I don’t like that at all. I don’t mind because that’s up to them.
“I want to go on to even bigger stages like RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. I don’t mind if I don’t win the whole competition, I’ll settle for simply making the final four!”