This article was published on July 31st, 2016
A lot of images come to mind when one utters the phrase ‘drag queen’, perhaps the most elequent being Wesley Snipes’ characters description in ‘To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar’:
‘When a straight man puts on a dress and gets his sexual kicks, he is a transvestite. When a man is a woman trapped in a man’s body and has a little operation she is a Transsexual. When a gay man has way too much fashion sense for one gender he is a drag queen.’
Drag queens have been around for longer than most people would think, centuries in fact, and have made huge contributions to the LGBT movement as a whole by challenging gender roles, both beautifully and fiercely. There are certain pioneers within the fabulous world of drag that are pushing through the limiting standards set for us by society and, as former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Benjamin Putnam so eloquently phrased it:
“Dismantling that perception that we think we have about knowing what gender is.”
Perhaps no one wears the crown of being one of these pioneers better than RuPaul himself. Growing up in downtown Atlanta, RuPaul claimed he was always RuPaul. He had a penchant for a dramatic attire and from an early age, challenged societal views on conformity in fashion. Although he had the unwavering support of his punk rock mother, things weren’t always plain sailing. At age 14 he hit the point where he started to have suicidal thoughts, the pressure of not conforming to conventional society weighing him down, he hit a crossroads. He made the decision, not to conform, but instead to forever walk through life as himself, and that decision was the one which created the unwaveringly fierce, phenomenally sharp, utterly unchallengeable face of drag.
From hanging out with Kurt Cobain, having a number one hit single and becoming the first male face of MAC make up in the 1980’s to producing and presenting the phenomenally successful RuPaul’s drag race, RuPaul has gone from strength to strength. With that has the world of drag has exploded onto the global screen, in all its non-conformist, beautiful, ferocious glory.
The fierceness with which RuPaul drives forward the world of drag is powerful, his unapologetic tone and unfaltering commitment to inspiring and creating a space for so many ostracized and alienated people to prevail against insurmountable odds is truly pushing forward the world of drag.