Last Tuesday was the season finale of my new favorite show “Ru Paul’s Drag Race: All Stars”. A show in which drag queens from around the country compete in various challenges week to week and are subsequently eliminated one by one, leaving the ultimate “queen” standing. This show’s premise is nearly identical to every other reality challenge show, but it is the glitter, the wigs, the lip syncing, the talent, the Cher impersonations and the message that truly separates this campy masterpiece from all the other reality garbage out there.
Of course Drag Queens, themselves, are nothing new. A man dressed up as a woman is universally seen as funny, has been lampooned in the media forever and exists in nightclubs and unsuspecting neighborhoods across America.
So what is it about them that is so fascinating? Is it the taboo? The mystery? The size 12 shoes? Or is it just about the look?
Ill admit, the first time I saw a drag show I was amused but originally struck (and intimidated) by the amazing make up job done by each one of the performers. As someone who is challenged in the art of blending and can’t execute a smoky eye to save her life, the appearances and actual look of the queens way outshined their performances and even message for me, and thus I have always seen them as men who can literally put on a great face.
It wasn’t until my sister showed me Ru Paul’s latest TV installment that I became obsessed with the drag queen behind the eyeliner. Watching these men week after week, behind the scenes, high kick, sing, dance, sew, and strut their way through the competition with fierceness never ceased to amaze me, with one performance and look more striking then the next. I literally could not believe these were actually men, and had the show not aired footage of the dressing room I would have quickly forgot.
This was more than just a show for these “girls”, this was their livelihood; many of them had previously worked together and were very well respected in their field. Additionally, they all had mutual respect for one another and what each queen brought to the table; a level of sisterhood certainly not found, sadly, on competition shows featuring actual women, AKA the Bachelor.
I soon became attached to these queens each week, rooting for them, picking favorites (love you Rujubee!) and watching their makeup tutorials online. Their personal stories of acceptance and struggles added depth to each character, each man behind the painted face. Furthermore, their unbelievable and inspiring confidence in themselves (and each other) amazed me; the queens not only showcased their talent and personas, but promoted empowerment and “self-love” as well.
While my campy love affair with this program and newfound appreciation for drag queens came from a ludicrous show, it is the message that Ru Paul delivered every episode with that really struck me and is something anyone can relate to.
“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” is how each episode ends. So simple and true, I want to make it a bumper sticker or personal manifesto. Gay, straight, Queen or King, the important message I had learned while watching Barney and now again from my new drag queen BFF’s is to love yourself. How simple that is to forget. Imagine if the whole country started living by Ru Paul’s cardinal message? Glitter and wigs aside, how rewarding would your life be if you could do that? How much better world would be if we could all just do that?
“Can I get an amen up in here?”
Emily writes and works in New York City. She enjoys karaoke bars, flannel and going out to lunch; not necessarily in that order. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on twitter @emilyarnow.
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