My Drag Race Lesson

...They were the little kids in town whose families didn’t understand them, or who had to make their own magic. And because of what they were up against, they became diamonds.”
—RuPaul on Drag Race contestants, What’s the Tee podcast episode 198 ft Cara Delevingne

I was reminded of this quote when I recently started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’ve never seen it before or been to a drag show. Naturally, I felt like skipping to the best parts, so I started with All Stars Season 2.

This season had queens like Alyssa Edwards, Detox, Katya, Roxxxy Andrews, and Alaska. Obviously, there’s a lot to break down between different challenges, runway looks, and eliminations. But there was one segment that really stuck with me and quickly became the scenes I looked forward to the most.

To me, the best part of each episode was when the queens were getting ready for the final challenge—applying makeup in the mirror, making final changes on their looks, and cramming in last minute prep for their performance. The transition from street clothes to incredibly intricate makeup, hair, and wardrobe was fascinating to watch. It’s this odd juxtaposition of armor and nakedness—often, they are shirtless in front of a mirror with nothing more than tights on while they apply the base layer of whatever makeup or body paint they’re rolling with. To an outsider, they couldn’t be more vulnerable. If you were to poke your head in, it’d be a ridiculous sight. But their conversations are just as catty and confident as ever; it’s much more like preparation for battle than anything else. Even when the conversation drifts to how they got in to drag—more often than a way to reclaim their own power, to no longer feel weak—their hands are as steady as ever.

The show itself is more than entertaining; the challenges are difficult, the results outrageous. The queen’s personalities are wildly different and funny in many ways. I get the general appeal, and I’m new to drag so I’m sure I’m missing out on inside jokes and little details. I’m not normally one for dramatic performances or over-the-top personalities, but being able to see this side of these humans made each queen’s performance so much more authentic to me. It’s a fast-tracked version of going from misunderstood to diamonds.

You can listen to this episode of What's the Tee? here:

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