It's no secret. I love drag queens. I'll never forget the awe, wonder, and complete and utter inadequacy I felt standing next to a gorgeous Amazon in a beautiful hat at Beauty Bar in NYC in the early 2000s. Her glamour, her style. I could barely speak, only stare. I thought "This person is the epitome of cool and I am but a mere mortal with bad bangs." Drag is an art form and to see it up close was utterly breathtaking.
I have watched every single season of RuPaul's Drag race. I get a pure dopamine rush from watching the queens size each other up, read each other, transform into myriad creative interpretations of feminine beauty and stomp the runway. The Snatch Game always has me cracking up - a favorite being Jinkx Monsoon's Little Edie. I love the tender moments with RuPaul. I love when they become vulnerable and share their fears and anxieties. I envy their sickening contour.
But why do I love them so? My own life and experiences couldn't be farther from theirs. As straight, white, cisgender middle-class white woman, I couldn't possibly appreciate all that drag is in its rich tapestry and culture. I couldn't possibly identify with what they have been through and what they have overcome to be the confident, radiant human beings they are on the show. So why the affinity? Why do they speak to me? What follows is a rather unscientific list, garnered 100% from my own experience.
Disclaimer: I understand that straight women's love of gay culture can border into appropriation and exploitation, not to mention a complete disregard of their own privilege in taking over gay spaces. I by no means wish to contribute to such nonsense and hope I have treated this subject with respect. Please let me know if I haven't - I am eager to learn.
They love femininity so much they turned it into an art form
We live in a misogynist, patriarchal society. To see men go through great lengths to create an artistic performance of feminine beauty feels extremely flattering. The pain of what women (I use the word inclusively) go through to be traditionally "pretty" is extensive - hair removal of all kinds, regular maintenance in the form of mani pedis, haircuts, hair dyeing, etc. Cramming our feet into uncomfortable heels, cinching ourselves in corsets and stuffing ourselves into Spanx. These men do it on purpose - no one is asking them and they might even put themselves in physical danger in some communities for doing so. They love the idea of performing femininity so much - they go all out. And they are beautiful. Not to say that the heteronormative feminine standard of beauty should be held up as the gold standard and what we should all strive for. Also not to say that there is one way to be beautiful and that upholding unrealistic beauty standards should be anyone's goal. Actually, some of my favorite queens like Nina Flowers, Ongina, and Milk go beyond the traditional idea of the "fishy" or "pageant" queen. But there is something to be said about the solidarity that they are willing to go through the same things women go through in performing femininity.
They are beautiful to look at
Kind of a no-brainer. I get so excited at seeing what they're going to pull off next. It's amazing how they can transform their faces with makeup. It makes me think "wow I could do that too!" It also goes to show that our natural faces are just that: natural. Gender and beauty are revealed as constructs and not cold, hard reality. Makeup can turn a masculine face into a feminine one and vice versa. It is smoke and mirrors; a performance - not real life. In a way, that is reassuring, especially when I'm feeling bad about the way I look.
They are so confident...
When the makeup, the wig, the fashion are all on point, you cannot help but admire the extreme bravado and confidence of a drag queen. It's inspiring and makes me think "I can do that too." They are unapologetically honest and don't mince words - "reading is fundamental. "
...yet they are vulnerable and share the same anxieties and fears as I do
Katya really spoke to me during both her seasons about her crushing anxiety and fear of failure. My twenty-something self looked at the drag queen standing next to me as someone totally in control, unapologetically cool, and totally unattainable. Perhaps it was my own insecurity coming out and maybe this person would have been happy to chat with me. Maybe they would have looked at me like "ew" and moved on - who knows? It had 100% to do with myself and my emotions and 100% nothing to do with her. Seeing the queens on RuPaul go through the same insecurities and be so open and honest about it is refreshing. Seeing them grow, develop and crush it as their season went on is even better. It's nothing short of inspiring and a reminder to not be so hard on myself or to hold other people up as perfect. We all have insecurities and things we are working on - even if we look fabulous on the outside.
They found a calling and a community that in some cases literally saved their lives
I hate that we live in a world where people are persecuted and abused just for being who they are. I wish I could hit the fast forward button where everyone was treated equally regardless of race, gender, religion, ability, age, you name it. But that is a fantasy. The danger is very real and people are dying every day. We finally have trans representation on TV but real trans people continue to be murdered on a regular basis. For some of the queens on RuPaul's Drag race, drag has given them a family (not to say they have all been rejected by their family of origin), a support network and a career. What's not to love about that? I love that, when they are not trying to knock each other out of the competition, they refer to each other as "sister." Ru's catch phrase is "If you can't love yourself how in the hell are you gonna love anybody else?" Yes you can get an Amen, Ru! RuPaul has been famous for a long time but now she has brought into the light so many amazing new queens with diverse looks, perspectives, and styles. I know the show is not on in every household in America - but imagine all the young people it has touched since it started. Representation is important. It tells people "You exist, I see you, and you matter."
They are funny and talented as hell
They are artists in the truest sense of the word. They speak their own language and I find words like "realness" creeping into my own vernacular (though I certainly refrain from shouting "Yasss Queen" in my normal day to day). Queens like Alyssa Edwards are human tornadoes of energy and excitement. Like Bianca del Rio, they have a way of insulting each other that is also loving at the same time. I could literally live off of Alaska's vocal fry. Their signature catch phrases, tics, and quirks are memorable and endearing. Their incredible dance moves, death drops, and ability to do it all in 6 inch heels are awe-inspiring.
I view drag queens with a mixture of reverence, awe, love, and respect. I admire their creativity, uniqueness and talent, and their tenacity, and bravery in the face of real oppression. I look at drag queens and desire to siphon a mere scintilla of their beauty and confidence for myself. But they are also real people "just like us" with fears, insecurities, and room to grow. They are human and relatable and beautiful each in their own way. And that, my friends, is why this straight woman loves drag queens so very much.
I certainly am not the definitive voice on this topic and my opinion is my own. Here's some important further reading about this topic, especially the problematic takeover of queer safe spaces by straight women.
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I am a tech pro, blogger, DIY'er, reader, TV binger, music lover, nerd and semi-crunchy mom. I write about professional development, being crafty, motherhood and politics. Thanks for joining me and letting me share my thoughts with you!