Gentlemen start your engines and may best woman win!
This SNL skit made consider writing this blog entry. I think many identify with it and the fascinating allure that RuPaul’s drag race has. And also I write this thanks to my wife.
Now, my wife barely watches cable (she hates it) and the only reason we still have it is due Disney XD and HBO (for Gravity Falls and Game of Thrones respectively). She usually watches vloggers on YouTube or binge watch the strangest things she can find on Netflix (she has good taste in shows btw).
So last year she introduced me to her latest obsession: RuPaul’s Drag Race. I admit that at first I didn’t give the show much stock ( she was watching the middle part of season 7, one of the less interesting seasons in my opinion, despite having great drag queens like Katya & Ginger Minj) and found the ‘lip synch for your life’ a bit silly as form of elimination.
And I was hooked.
From the drama of hypercompetitive Season 5, to the flawless runs of Season 6 I enjoyed watching the show (in a very hectic order). As my wife said, the seasons become more interesting once you choose a queen to root for, to the point that you develop a Top 5 list of favorites (mine starts with Katya at Number 1, I’m fond of the smart comedy queens).
Soon we found ourselves as a couple watching the new seasons, debating our favorite seasons ( mine is All Stars 2), discussing queens and watching YouTube videos by them.
By the way, if you haven’t watched UNHhhh by Trixie Mattel and Katya you are missing one of the best independent comedy shows of our time. It’s so random and smart at the same time that it becomes a tour de force.
We are so into the show that our couple private jokes now include several catchphrases and references from the show) and understand most of the lingo ( we are still novices though). Know I now what’s a fishy queen (someone that looks like a real woman), a pageant or a comedy queen or ‘what spill the t’ and ‘shade’ mean. Or what’s tucking, which I admit sounds painful to me.
And that made me ponder why this show is becoming a media phenomenon (if you are featured in SNL you have gone mainstream, despite RuPaul’s infamous quote of ‘Drag will never be mainstream’), and why I have become so interested in it.
For starters, despite being a reality competition, it focuses less on the drama and more on the skills and personalities of the contestants. Of course, it has drama, like Alyssa Edwards feud with Coco Montrese, Rolaskatox vs. Jinxs Moonson, Phi Phi vs. Sharon Needles. Trust me, it has plenty of drama. But the drama takes a second place to the actual focus of the show: the artistry that goes into drag.
The queens have to show versatility, comedy, impersonation and acting chops, sewing skills on par to Project Runway, marketing knowledge, makeup, fashion and styling abilities that rival pros of those areas. Even live singing and dance (two former American & Australian Idols and several choreographers are among the queens). All of that in the same episode and against the clock. This race is a marathon distance run at 100mts race speed. Not for the faint of heart.
But also something that endears you to the show is to know the person behind the drag : their personal stories (without being exploitative like in other reality shows), the sense of community they have. Yes every season has a villain sort to speak and unfair eliminations, but you sense that the rivalry between drag queens is for part on the professional side not personal. They solve their issues like intelligent, mature people and above all they are consummate professionals. There is no body shaming, nor derogatory comments, just humor and fellowship that you rarely find in other fields. So when you are rooting for a queen you do it based in her skills and performance.
This show also has put unde the limelight in a respectful way the struggles of the LGTB community (like Stonewall). It raises awareness of what the LGTB community is and makes you understand them better.
I’m not a fan of reality shows, but this one. For me it is the most professional, fun and endearing show in current tv. You owe to yourself watch it and learn from it. While I’m not an expert on LGTB issues now I have a better idea of what they go through and my respect and admiration has increased even more. My sheer respect for their artistry makes me enjoy the show even more.
I think that contrary to what RuPaul thinks, Drag will become mainstream. Why? Because the world needs this show now more than ever, we need a world where we tolerance, community and acceptance, where you are evaluated on your skills, your grit, your attitude and the gender where you are born into is of no consequence. A world with greater acceptance and equality. That’s why my wife and myself love the show.
Remember: We’re all born naked and the rest is drag. Now sashay away.