In the earliest days of lockdown, back in March of 2020, my daughter and I were looking for a TV show to watch together. She suggested RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’d heard of RuPaul in the past (Cover Girl was my jam back in the day) and had even caught bits and pieces of the show, but I’d definitely never watched a whole season. So we popped some popcorn, got comfy on the couch, and began. She picked Season 4 as a good place to start, and it did not disappoint.
Since then, I haven’t looked back and have, in fact, turned into a super fan of the show, watching almost all of the seasons of all of the various shows within the franchise – for Miss RuPaul clearly knows how to build a global empire based on the culture of Drag. (There’s U.S. Drag Race, Holland, Spain, UK, Australia, Canada, Thailand… PLUS other franchise off-shoots like All Stars, UK vs. The World, a Vegas show – you get the idea. When I said Ru knows how to build a global empire, I wasn’t exaggerating.)
Being a cis, hetero, white woman, I had a lot to learn about the Drag community. Initially, I thought Drag Queens were gay men who liked dressing up as women. While it’s true that there are some gay men who do drag, it turns out that not all Drag Queens are gay or even men.
In watching the show, I realized just how much I honestly didn’t know about things like drag, gender, and being trans. And, all that being said, that’s not what I’m writing about today – because, since I’m not in the Drag scene and am not gay, trans, or a person of color, it’s absolutely not my place to talk about those specifics. Instead, I’ll be sharing observations I’ve learned from watching RPDR over the last few years.
Observation #1: There are a lot of asshole parents out there. Not that I didn’t already know that. But, in watching many of the Queens talk about their childhood stories of when they came out about being gay, or doing Drag, or both, my heart broke for the emotional turmoil that many of the Queens went through.
Observation #2: Body diversity is celebrated and embraced. I realize that I’m only seeing what’s being shown on the television (and in other Drag Race YouTube spinoffs, etc.), but it appears that no matter how large or small a Queen is, she’s celebrated, complemented, and idolized by the community. I wish women all over the world felt more comfortable in their own skin, regardless of the shapes of their bodies.
Observation #3: Racial diversity is EVERYTHING. On the show, the contestants come from all over the world to slay for the crown (I forgot to mention that the winner of this competition is given $100K!). Not only are the Queens all shapes and sizes, they’re also widely varied in skin tone. It’s a fantastic example of racial diversity that should be modeled everywhere.
Observation #4: Drag Queens *really* know how to apply makeup and do what it takes to be glamorous. If you’ve ever tried to put on fake eyelashes, you know that task alone can take upwards of 20 minutes, especially if you’re a rookie. Now add in heavier foundation to even out the skin, proper shading to hide a 5 o’clock shadow, complete eye makeup (including using a glue stick to slick down the eyebrows) + plus wigs, padding to give you curves, a corset to cinch your waist, super glue to keep your earrings on, and duct tape to – ahem – tuck your kibbles and bits under, and it’s obvious this art form is for those committed to their craft.
In mid-May I went to L.A.’s DragCon – a convention of Drag Queens (famous and hoping to be) with my daughter and my sister. In the three days of the event, we saw so many Queens from the various seasons, including a few of my favorites. It was really fun being a total fangirl and seeing these Queens in person – and in some cases talking one-on-one with them. Here’s a video someone took of the Queens walking the Pink Carpet so you can get a feel for what the vibe was like.
At DragCon, it was amazing to witness so many people dressing as their true, authentic selves, seemingly without judgment. While there were folks in their usual jeans and tee shirts, they were definitely the minority. Bright wigs, lashes for days, and six-inch heels were more commonplace than pepperoni on pizza. I even saw a seven-foot-tall pink Wookie and a very tall person wearing an outfit in the shape of a knitted Russian nesting doll.
I think the biggest observation I’ve embraced from RuPaul – and all of the other Drag Queens of the world – is that being a beautiful woman isn’t limited to those who have vaginas. It’s about dressing exactly as you’d like, with as much or little amount of makeup as you want, and feeling confident and glorious, regardless of your gender or societal pressures.
I feel we can all benefit from embracing our inner Queen. So strut down your runway – be it in the grocery store, your sidewalk, or your hallway upstairs – like the Queen that you are. No matter what parts you have between your legs.
Now, Sashay Away…