“We’re all born naked and the rest is drag” — Ru Paul
If there’s an art-form that’s more misunderstood than most others, it’s probably drag.
Drag is an art-form that’s sometimes compared to clowning by performance analysts, but is so much more.
Like clowns, drag queens dress in exaggerated costumes and makeup to perform a show.
Makeup is often drawn to accentuate features that will make an act funnier or make the performer more beautiful.
Drag is where glamour meets comedy
However unlike with clowning, drag isn’t being dragged down by horror films and changing audience tastes.
While incredible shows like Cirque du Soleil are helping clowning stay alive, the global heartbeat of that ancient art is barely beating compared to its historical popularity.
A different heartbeat is taking its place, and this heart is fierce and fabulous.
A big misconception of drag is that it’s only performed by men, a misconception that goes against the golden rule..
There are no rules in drag.
Drag often attracts those that feel marginalised and misunderstood by family and society.
Hyper-creative people, these artists feel that they can’t create or perform within the realm of what’s appreciated in the towns and cities where they’ve grown up.
But we now live in a world where technology allows people to be seen wherever they are.
Now more than ever, people are adorning drag and taking to social media to show the world what they can do.
From costume making and makeup talent, to performing arts skills; drag performers have a lot to show.
Both men and women can perform however they like. The only barrier to fame is talent and memorability.
Drag Queens tend to be performers who dress and perform in an exaggeratedly female persona.
While appearing female, most of these performers don’t want to actually be female; they don’t even try to fool you into thinking they’re biologically female.
As a drag queen they’re able to perform their act, show their skills and be their true self.
Arguably the most famous drag queen in history, RuPaul has said,
“”I do not impersonate females!
How many women do you know who wear seven-inch heels, four-foot wigs, and skintight dresses? — I don’t dress like a woman; I dress like a drag queen”.
While a lot of drag performers aren’t hoping to be mistaken for the gender they’re performing as, some are.
This is often the case for Australian superstar drag queen Courtney Act (pictured above) who has used this mistaken identity to her advantage during her career.
Drag King is the term used to define a drag performer who dresses in an exaggeratedly male persona.
Often the costume and personality of the performer will be a lot larger than the look and feel of an everyday man.
While performing as a drag king is as legitimate as a drag queen, it hasn’t enjoyed the fame and accolade provided to drag queens through RuPauls drag race.
RuPauls Drag Race
Starting on the small cable network ‘Logo’ in 2009, RuPauls Drag Race has grown into a cultural phenomenon today.
11 seasons down, Drag Race has not begun to slow in popularity. It now shows on VH1 and has gained millions of fans all over the world.
Unlike with other reality shows, fans are not fatiguing.
Competing shows are not coming close to distracting viewers from the show. (Can you name even one of the competing shows?)
TV shows usually have to plan for viewers leaving and must strategise ways to attract new fans.
Instead, Drag Race retains its fans and draws new ones in droves. Fans aren’t just coming from the queer demographic either.
Straight, gay, man or woman; people love drag race.
Because of this global popularity, there’s an upcoming British version of the show which will begin shooting later this year. This version will also be hosted by RuPaul.
Why do we love it?
It tackles issues.
Right from season one there was a contestant that was openly HIV positive. This is an issue that has affected the lives of so many people, and was talked about honestly and in the open.
Unlike with other shows, the competitors truly come in every size, shape and form. From large to small, from beautiful to individual. One size does not fit all on the RuPaul stage.
The last element is RuPaul himself. Someone that achieved worldwide fame as a drag queen supermodel and superstar.
He has been breaking barriers for years. He doesn’t obsess over small things and truly loves his competitors. He has shown the world that you truly can be yourself.
One thing I love about RuPaul is his relaxed stance on gender pronouns. He has said and Tweeted -
“You can call me her, you can call me him. I don’t care! As long as you call me.”
He’s made acceptance mainstream and relaxed, and that’s why we love him. It’s through him that we can understand and appreciate drag better.
So next time your local club features a drag host or performer, try to have a more open mind.
This isn’t a man wishing he was a woman, dancing around like a silly girl. This is a professional artist.
What this person is demonstrating is a difficult, labour intensive skill. I sure as hell couldn’t do it.
So clap like you mean it. And buy that brave person a drink.