When Jamie Campbell turned up to his school prom in drag - in a dress, heels and long blonde wig, he didn’t expect to get in, let alone inspire a West End show.

The hit musical ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is based on his true experience growing up in the North-East.

Jamie was just like any other boy, except his dream was to be a drag queen in Vegas. With echoes of Billy Elliot, it’s a script that could have come from Hollywood and the show has been nominated for four What’s On Stage awards.

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Jamie, now 23, grew up in the village of Toronto near Bishop Auckland and always loved dressing up. His mum has pictures of him wearing her clothes from the age of four. “It started with fairy wings and tutus and my friend’s princess dresses,” he says. “I remember arguing over who got to wear which dress. My mum had this long silk print dressing gown, it was fabulous.”

Clothing was a form of expression. Even when young, he remembers feeling better if he dressed up. “It makes me feel more complete, like the exterior matches the interior,” he says.

When he started secondary school, however, he began to get bullied. “It was every day, never physical, just verbal,” he says. “It wasn’t just kids, even adults would shout abuse. If I was in my school uniform walking home people would shout ‘faggot’, ‘gay boys’ - that type of thing.”

It was his mum, Margaret, who helped him cope and he describes as his ‘rock’. “I talked about it with her. I think that’s how I managed to get through it,” he says. “I never let it get to me, obviously there were times it did, but I had mum at home, who told me, ‘yes, you are different, but that’s not a bad thing. The people who’ve got a problem – they have got the problem’.”

His escape was disco dancing and he toured the country on weekends taking part in competitions, accompanied by his mum. Although he loved Lily Savage, he’d never encountered any drag queens and was transfixed on holiday in Ibiza by a drag act called Silk Stockings. “I remember being transported into this other world, all these costumes and performing in front of crowds. I went back three times,” he says.

Jamie came out in school when he was 14, during a debate about homosexuality. “I was always flamboyant. I couldn’t hide it and it got to the stage where I was like, what’s the point in denying it?,” he says. “I was like, ‘At the end of the day, people need to realise that some people are gay and that’s ok and if you’ve got a problem with it - get over it’. Obviously there were a few p*ss takers. People still shouted ‘gay’. I was like, ‘well, yes, I am’. It made it easier to rebut.”

When the school prom came around and he was told he had to wear a suit, he decided to take a stand. “I was jealous that all the girls got to go in their big fancy princess dresses and I had to wear a suit. That didn’t seem fair,” he recalls.

Realising he might need back-up, he contacted a film crew about making a documentary and was then called in to see a teacher, who said the school had received a complaint from a parent who’d heard he was planning to go to the prom in drag. “Somebody had rung up and called me ‘disgusting’ and that hurt,” he says. “It really got to me because it is such a vile word. I was upset. My mum was furious.”

Jamie considered staying at home, but with his mum, a few close friends and a film crew behind him, he decided to go full glam and turn up anyway to make a statement. “Everybody was like ‘oh my god, you look amazing!’” he recalls. “When I got out of the car, everybody cheered and started coming out of the prom to see what was going on. The head of year came out and said, ‘we told you if you were going to turn up you weren’t going to get in’.”

Although Jamie didn’t expect to be let in, he didn’t anticipate the support at the school gates. “Everybody got behind me and said, ‘if you don’t let Jamie in, we’re not going in’,” he recalls. “Parents were saying, ‘this is not on - you need to let him in’ and eventually, that swayed the teachers. I was so shocked. I didn’t know what to do.”

Jamie had his night at the prom along with everyone else and the BBC3 documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’ inspired a musical and messages from all over the world, including other teenagers who went to their prom in drag. “I don’t know if I was the first to do it, but it’s amazing helping people do that,” he says.

His message to anyone being bullied is: “It does get better and that’s not just for gay boys, that’s for everybody. Be who you are, be unashamedly you - don’t care what anybody else says, live for you. You only have one life. Why conform to certain standards if it makes you unhappy? Do what makes you happy.”

So how does it feel to see his name up in lights? “It’s mad,” he says. “It’s crazy looking at people playing us on stage.”

Jamie lives in London now where he appears regularly as his alter ego, Fifi la True. He’s signed with a talent agency and looking into TV presenting and styling, including a YouTube channel.

Does he have a glamorous wardrobe? “Yes, of course,” he laughs. “A few fabulous bits… I love big gowns. I mix and match. I wear big diamond earrings and necklaces. I always want to look glamorous and fabulous. I don’t have loads of money, it’s on a budget, making it look as expensive and fabulous as possible.”

And could he go out in drag in Bishop Auckland now?

“Yes, I think I could,” he muses. “I did the London Underground in full drag - nothing fazes me nowadays. It’s just about acceptance, not everybody wants to be a teenage drag queen, but whatever you want to do, just do it and be you.”

  • Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, until April 21. Tickets from £20.