In the second episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race’s sixth season, New York based club-queen Milk caused quite the stir when she waltzed down the runway in all white, with a lily-pad stuck to her head and a long goatee emitting from her chin.
This, of course, was not the first time the queen – who has since appeared in multiple Marc Jacobs campaigns – raised eyebrows with her unconventional looks, strolling down the runway as pinocchio, a pregnant queen and, controversially, RuPaul himself, out of drag.
Though criticised for her hairy additions, the following season seemed to celebrate testosterone and saw a whole runway theme dedicated to facial hair. The bearded runway reprise to Milk’s goatee saw a sea of impressive gender-fuck looks to gag over, with nobody forgetting Pearl’s red she-devil beard, Max’s Salvador Dali inspired moustache and Katya’s ‘Babe-raham Lincoln’ look.
But RuPaul’s Drag Race has yet to see the introduction of a full time, fully bearded queen to serve looks straight from her chinny-chin-chin. As Ru perpetually preaches, uniqueness is one of the four queer horsemen of drag and imperative to success in his glitzy TV show. So where are the bearded queens at?
(No, Kandy Ho’s beard shading and Willam’s 5 o’clock shadow do not count as bearded drag. And please, let’s not mention Jasmine Masters’ painted on beard runway look from the seventh season.)
Drag has no rules. The art form is all about about pushing the boundaries, challenging preconceptions, creating something refreshing and giving a middle finger up to binaries of gender and performance.
Drag has reached a level where it’s beyond simply impersonating a woman and has transpired into a beautiful contortion of gender norms and expectations. Femininity is no longer the end product of drag. Drag is made to confuse, leave you asking questions and dismantle all heteronormative assumptions of art and performance you may have previously had.
Season 9 of Drag Race is picking up on fans’ desire for something new and exciting, though. Sasha Velour is reinvigorating an adoration for bald drag, Nina Bo’Nina Brown is impressing audiences with fine face artistry and Shea Coulee is implementing Chicago club-kid aesthetics to her looks. Peppermint too is the first openly trans queen on the show and feeds the idea that Drag Race is rapidly representing a multitude of identities and art forms.
Drag styles differ and queer art is nothing less than a patchwork of different cultures, creeds and colours, woven into a brilliant spectrum of LGBTQ+ identity. RuPaul’s Drag Race is beginning to become less homogenous and more celebratory of differing styles of drag, meaning the want for a bearded gal is ever-present.
Drag is far from a single sided medium and – at its core – is a celebration of exaggeration, irreverence and pure artistry. The art form – just like acting, singing, knitting or architecture – exists in different parameters, genres and breeds. While one queen may pad and contour to look like Kim Kardashian, another may douse themselves in glitter and cover their face in sequins.
An unshaven face does in no way correlate with unpolished drag. A slickly cut or coloured beard can be just as fierce as a sharply styled wig. Drag can still be high fashion, intensely talented, theatrical and musical even with the addition of a Hagrid-like beard.
This year’s London Fashion Week, for example, saw designer Jack Irving – who Lady Gaga has been seen wearing on multiple occasions – incorporate bearded queen Maxi More into his runway show. 2014 saw Conchita Wurst slay Eurovision for Austria as she belted Rise Like a Phoenix with her stubble-wig combo in the same way cabaret heart-throb Le Gateau Chocolat has married opera with her impressive hairy Mary looks.
More so, London heralding Virgin Xtravaganzah blends her contour perfectly into her moustache and London’s queer collective Sink the Pink are riddled with queens who just refuse to shave, with the likes of Raven Mandela voguing the house down, armed only with a golden leotard, a death-drop and a glitter beard.
Though all aforementioned queens don’t have an American Visa and thus cannot enter the show, the US of A is saturated in high quality bushy babes and whiskered women. Hellvetika – the literal definition of “get you a man who can do both – has won the hearts of 20k Instagram followers and attending Drag Con this year. Similarly, queens such as Grace Towers, Bebe Deluxe, Glitz Glam and Mathu Anderson himself have all formed adoring audiences off the back of their unique maned looks.
That "do both" thing everyone says all the time. #transformationtuesday #drag #dragqueen A post shared by Andrew Power (Hellvetika) (@hellvetika) on Feb 7, 2017 at 10:32am PST
There are still a plethora of drag styles that have yet to make it to that iconic televised runway. Drag Race has yet to introduce us to a fierce bio queen (a woman who partakes in drag), a drag king (a woman who imitates and transforms herself into a man) or queens from across the globe. Though Charlie Hides was the first British contestant on the show, the UK’s drag aesthetic is to die for, Berlin’s glamour queens scream high fashion and Sweden’s club-kids are at a globally recognised standard (*cough* Duo Raw).
With casting for season 10 of the show already kicking off, will 2018 finally be the year of the bearded bitch?
Follow Dean on Twitter @deanvictorr