For years and across cultures, the art form of female impersonation has been performed publicly, dating back to the 19th century. In the early 1900s, men used to role play as women during opera, putting on wigs and dresses to evoke the illusion of a biological woman, because women, at the time, were not allowed to perform on stage. These acts of historic female caricatures have carried into modern times, unfolding into a full-on entertainment business.
Today, drag queens — people, primarily male, who impersonate or exaggerate female features — have made their way into mainstream culture, performing on national TV channels such as VH1. Primarily, their commercial success can be attributed to the TV show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” is an eight-time Emmy winning reality competition series created by RuPaul Andre Charles. From birth, RuPaul has always felt special, but it wasn’t until he put on a wig and a pair of heels when he really channeled his inner-superstar. Likewise, his show allows other drag queens to discover what makes them special and display it to the whole world, all while competing for the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar” — as well as a cash prize of $100,000.
The contestants showcase their multifaceted talents, throw acting challenges, fashionable runways and dramatic lip-sync performances between other contestants. With more than 13 seasons and international versions such as Thailand’s Drag Race and Drag Race UK, the show has come to establish its unparalleled international presence. It has become a staple for the LGBTQ+ community, playing around the world, bringing members of the community together, even in regions where being queer can result in death, such as the Middle East.
However, despite the external beauty behind drag, it is so much more than that. As RuPaul once famously said, “we are all born naked and the rest is drag.” Here, RuPaul means to reflect the shallowness of life — everything is just an illusion, and with drag, people are allowed to tread uncharted territories. In drag, people are able to be who they want to be — they are able to transcend society's gender roles, sexuality norms and realize the socially constructed, made-up rules of the world.
With big hair, bold makeup and even bolder outfits, drag queens are able to disconnect from reality and enter a state of unconditional love. And with that, they are able to channel their soul and share it with the world which translates through the power of drag — a power that has touched the hearts of so many young, queer kids around the world. Through the disregard of society’s engraved norms, drag queens are slowly changing the world, show after show, because drag is not just a phenomena — it’s a revolution!