“RuPaul’s Drag Race done fucked up drag, bottom line cut and dry” – Ancient Proverb
The landscape of drag has shifted vastly in the last decade. Drag culture has witnessed an explosion with a new generation of fans being welcomed in by Rupaul’s Drag Race. However, the way drag has found mainstream success hasn’t been entirely positive. Please note, this isn’t a critique of the show at all, but as a fan and a local queen I’ve observed the bad habits that have sprouted from the popularisation of drag, most notably from Drag Race fans who try and apply their knowledge of the show into their interaction with local queens, and it’s usually pretty disastrous, and at best, uncomfortable. It might sound petty, but I can guarantee you most local girls will hear the following comments several times a night, so here are a few little suggestions on how to have good etiquette around your local queens.
Drag queens are not perfect. We are drawing on a live human canvas that we have to live in every day. There will be flaws, there will be imperfect surfaces, our makeup may run over the course of the evening, you might be able to see a blocked out brow, you might be able to clock our lace. These things happen, and it doesn’t matter.
Local girls aren’t always rich. We haven’t all got a fat budget to buy invisible lace fronts. We can’t all afford custom made, hand-bejewelled gowns. We’re working within our means to try and realise a fantasy image. If you approach me into the club and comment on my clockable wig line or the fact you saw me in this dress last week, I will just ask you to give me your wallet, because I would love to have a new gown and a fresh Wigs by Vanity every week, but we’re not all trust fund babies or on that Ru Girl money.
Even if you intend it as a compliment, telling a local girl which Ru girl they remind you of won’t usually go down well. We know it’s well intended, but no drag artist spends hours getting ready to be told they look like your favourite Drag Race contestant. I’ve been told I look like Pearl, Fame, Adore, Alaska and Trixie, so I’m pretty sure that these comparisons have no real basis in fact, you just look for attributes that we share with your favourite queens.
The criteria for beauty and success on the T.V. show are not universal markers, please don’t judge us by the standards of one televised beauty pageant. Not all of us pad, not all of us shave, not all of us aim to emulate a woman, and not all of us are men.
We’re open to critique, and we love discussing our looks with you, but some things are out of our control and out of our means. We are there in the moment, with you, on the same packed dance floor under the same hot lights, we don’t have the luxury of a lighting crew and a soft filter to grace our every movement. We can’t be immaculate, poreless creatures with the body of Violet, the paint of Raven and Ru’s endless closet of couture and wigs. Hell, some of us are fucking busted and that’s fine. Like all other television shows, it represents a glossed-over, pretty much unattainable vision of what drag is. I’m asking on behalf on the local girls that you be kind. Support us while we’re busted, and you’re more likely to see us glow up to a higher calibre of drag, but as it stands, we’re trying our best with what we’ve got, so be kind.