What I Learned Watching Drag Race For The First Time
I’d never watched RuPaul’s Drag Race before.
All I knew was that it was basically America’s Next Top Model, but with drag queens. A few years ago I was working on Celebrity Big Brother and I met Michelle Visage when she was a contestant on the show. A lot of the gay men in the office lost their shit and I didn’t know why.
I’ve never really had a particular affinity for drag. In the past, I felt that it represented a lot about the LGBT+ community I didn’t like. I thought it enhanced stereotypes of gay men, I thought it had slightly sad undertones, and I’ve never really been a fan of slapstick comedy.
But as I’ve grown older (and definitely wiser), I’ve realised a lot of things about myself.
Most importantly, despite being unexpectedly found out of the closer ten years ago, I never actually took the time to become comfortable with my sexuality. This is, thankfully, something I’m working on.
Recently, my best friend came out as a lesbian. A few months later she told me she wanted to become a drag king, i.e. the opposite of a drag queen, where a girl performs as a man. Now this is my best friend. Obviously that meant supporting her whole-heartedly in her decision, but it also meant being thrust head first into the drag world.
I’ve since spent many nights in the basement that is She Bar of Soho (one of the few lesbian bars around) watching girls admirably execute pre-rehearsed routines on stage.
I’ve learned that the biggest reason I had been opposed to drag in the past was down to the insecurities I had (/have…it’s a work in progress) with my own sexuality.
1. RuPaul Is Incredible
As a man, he is hardly unassuming what with his bright red suits and shining bald head. As a woman, she is stunning. Episode after episode RuPaul effortlessly transitions between his male and female state, slaying both looks with ease.
But what I liked so much about the mother drag hen was how much she seemingly cared about all the contestants.
Now, I’ve worked in the TV industry. I’ve had to produce people to say things they probably didn’t want to say. But RuPaul calls the contestants ‘my girls’, and she eliminates somebody each week with a compliment meant to keep their spirits high.
It’s obvious that she has so much adoration for drag, for the show, and for everyone involved (contestants and viewers alike).
Anyone who ends every single episode with the question ‘if you can’t love yourself how the hell are you going to love anybody else’ is a total babe in my eyes.
2. There's Still A Lot Of Work To Be Done For The LGBTQ+ Community
Amongst the sassing, the glitter, the makeup and the challenges, I couldn’t help but notice how most episodes had moments of raw sadness in them.
One of the queens, Pearl, struggled to motivate herself throughout the early parts of the competition. Other queens called her lazy and questioned whether Pearl deserved to even be in the competition.
But Pearl opened up about her abandonment as a child, and thankfully, turned it around.
In another episode, Jaidynn Diore Fierce revealed how she hadn’t even told her family she was gay yet out of fear of being abandoned herself.
A third episode saw Katye open up to Miss Fame about how she was stuggling with her sobriety, a struggle Miss Fame was going through herself.
Other queens spoke about turning to drag as a tool for confidence to mask fundamental self-esteem issues. This seemed like a common one.
It saddened me that amongst the façade and comedy of performing as women lay some hurtful truths about the reality of life for many LGBT+ people.
3. Drag Queens Are Super Talented Costume Makers
Like, super talented.
In each episode every queen has to make a number of different outfits.
Most of them know how to sew and if they don’t they do things to a glue gun you wouldn’t even dream of.
Skills, people, skills.
4. They Could Also Out-Dance You Any Day Of The Week
The two worst performing queens every week have to lip-sync for their lives (i.e. to stay in the competition)
You thought you knew lip-syncing after seeing Britney in concert? Think again.
This is another level and there’s plenty of splits, tricks and weave-throws to go around.
5. They Have Some Pretty Great Advice
A lot of shade gets thrown around amongst the queens, and the judges.
Kudos to Ginger Minj for referring to herself as a glamour-toad.
But if you manage to listen to everything that’s said, you’ll hear that there’s actually some pretty good life advice being dished out.
How to deal with haters, relationship advice, tips on how to look your best. It’s all there!
6. Being A Drag Queen Takes A Lot Of Work
This is one that I didn’t really appreciate before.
Standing in a crowded lesbian bar watching performers come and go, it’s easy to underestimate the work that goes into an act.
There’s the preparation, the make up, the costume, the rehearsal, and not to mention the guts it actually takes to do it in the first place.
These ladies work, and they work hard.
7. There's Actually A Show That Celebrates 'Gay', And Wants More Of It
More often than not, when gay people are depicted in the media they are done so in a very small or stereotypical way.
There’s the ‘gay best friend’ or the camp person at work. Often, storylines revolve on characters coming out, which is really a very small part of actually being gay.
What is so fantastic about drag race is that sexuality is barely even mentioned, and when it is, the judges actually want things to be MORE gay.
There’s no shame in it. There’s no hiding it. Individuality, in all it's forms, is in fact celebrated.
It’s safe to say, I’m at least a partial convert.