HUNTER HERO: Wayne Rogers

Female impersonator and singer Wayne Rogers. Hunter Hero.
Female impersonator and singer Wayne Rogers. Hunter Hero.
Female impersonator Wayne Rogers of Wallsend. Hunter Hero.

Female impersonator Wayne Rogers of Wallsend. Hunter Hero.

PUTTING a smile on the faces of the residents and staff at local nursing homes has become a rewarding pastime for Wallsend-based entertainer and female impersonator Wayne Rogers.

You may recognise Rogers from his appearances on Channel Seven's Australia's Got Talent in 2011.

Between performances at clubs, cabarets, charity and corporate events, as well as his day job as a hairdresser, the 54-year-old decks himself out in dazzling costumes and dons hair and make-up to visit nursing homes in the region.

"They really appreciate it, and it's nice to see a smile on their faces," he said.

"Music is wonderful.

"It brings back memories, and even dementia patients who often don't know what's going on in the world - it sparks something in their brain and you get tears and smiles.

"It's lovely.

"I hope someone will do something like that for me when I get to that age."

Mr Rogers didn't begin his entertainment career as a female impersonator.

That came after he played a nightclub performer who dressed as a female in a production of La Cage aux Folles - the musical version of the film The Birdcage.

"After that, I kept getting all these phone calls," he said.

"I'm originally a dancer, but I decided I wanted to do more than just dance, so I went and had singing lessons and it all grew from that.

"It has been an interesting life."

His costumes are also a big hit with audiences at the nursing homes.

"The costumes are very elaborate, so they want to touch them," he said.

"I sit on their laps and cuddle them, and some of the costumes have lots of feathers and they love those.

"I have good fun with them.

"I like putting a smile on their faces and giving them some enjoyment.

"And I get a lot out of it as well. I get a lot of personal satisfaction.

"It's nice to make people feel good."

Mr Rogers makes all of his outfits.

"As a child, I used to sit and talk to my grandmother while she was sewing, as she used to make all of her own dresses," he said.

"So it must have been sinking in without me realising, because I've never had a sewing lesson."

Not everyone in the audience is always aware he is a man, though, which has made for some amusing moments.

"Some of them don't realise, and it amazes me, because I reckon I look like a man in a dress," he said.

"I remember being at Wallsend nursing home and this guy walked past and he said, 'Ooh you're a gorgeous hunk of a woman', and I started laughing.

"I said to the nurse, 'He doesn't know', and so I kept playing up to him, talking about how he was trying to pick me up in the hallway, and in the end one of the nurses went up and said, 'You know that's a man, don't you?' and he said to her, 'You're just jealous because she liked me'.

"It is always good fun."

Mr Rogers also tries to perform at charity events when he can.

"These days I have to be a bit picky because I'm really busy, but I've just done something in Sydney for Relay For Life, for the Cancer Council," he said.

"I try to give back to the community. I think we all need to give something back.

"We can't just take, take, take all the time."