By Richard Miller
“Don’t be a drag just be a queen” — these iconic lyrics from Lady Gaga’s hit single “Born This Way” hint at the importance of drag in promoting positivity and acceptance. Drag queens have been a staple in city nightclubs, specifically within the LGBTQ+ community, for decades. However, 2018 was an important year for the community, as these performers burst into mainstream media.
This kind of acceptance and appreciation for the art of drag is truly heartwarming to see. A group that was long oppressed and ostracized by mainstream media is now being celebrated and glorified.
Drag queens are usually males who dress and accessorize in women’s attire. They often act with exaggerated femininity and dramatize their makeup for dramatic, comedic or satirical effect. The hit reality show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has been a favorite amongst the LGBTQ+ community since its inception in 2008. In 2018, the producers made the decision to move the show from the specialty channel Logo TV to basic cable broadcasting on VH1, which was an instant success.
The newfound attention for the show brought drag queens to the forefront of pop culture. The host himself, RuPaul Charles, recently received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the television industry, making him the first drag queen to be given this honor.
In 2018, the reboot of “American Idol” featured drag queen Ada Vox, who ended up placing in the top 10. “So You Think You Can Dance” featured drag queen Laganja Estranja as a contestant and “Dancing Queen,” a Netflix original reality show, stars Justin Johnson, whose drag name is Alyssa Edwards.
“Celebrity Big Brother UK” featured ‘Drag Race’ alum Shane Jenek in its competition. Jenek won the season with 49 percent of the public vote and is now gearing up to compete in “Dancing with the Stars Australia,” where he will be the first male celebrity to the perform with a male professional dancer in any iteration of the series. Jenek will be dancing as his drag persona, Courtney Act.
In an interview, RuPaul mentioned that the growth of drag representation in the media in parallels America’s changing relationship with LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance. “I think the drag queens are able to show them that they don’t have to take beauty and fashion seriously,” he told Vogue in 2018.
I think drag culture teaches us an important message — in this serious world, it’s okay to let loose and have fun. Comedy is the root of drag and, in what can sometimes be a depressing world, these “queens” are here to bring light. As RuPaul would say, ‘Shantay you stay’ and I hope we continue to see more representation in the future.