Drag queens are the most important role models of our generation
‘Can I get an amen?’
In a time where middle-aged media outlets admonish millennials for having nobody to look up to, it’s comforting to know that there’s a subculture providing the world with unlikely, but fabulous, role-models.
If the 90s was the time of the supermodels, then now is the era of the drag queens, a bedazzled group of razor-tongued performers who are pushing boundaries of gender and beauty one lace-front wig at a time.
In the past, drag has been seen as an eccentric part of the LGBT community, something sidelined to the gay clubs and the occasional pantomime. Thanks to the critical and commercial success of the hit reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag has been brought into the mainstream of popular culture.
From drag-originating beauty tricks, like ‘baking’, becoming global crazes, to commercial brands like L’Oreal using Drag Race alumni Miss Fame as a spokesperson, it’s clear that the world has fallen in love with Drag Queens.
There’s no more deserving a group of people to gain success and exposure. In a world full of carefully choreographed, media-manipulating celebrities, the stars of Drag Race provide a deliciously raw and real alternative to the perfection we’ve been conditioned to aspire to.
Some of the most iconic moments of the show have been the catty ones, (think the Alyssa vs Coco ‘girl look how orange you fucking look’ drama) and unlike most reality shows that tend to have a constant villain, for some reason, the jaw droppingly bitchy moments only add to the likability of the queens.
In fact, if your bitchiness comes in the form of snappy one-liners (in drag-speak, ‘reads’), then a little bit of nastiness in the name of good fun is a thing to be celebrated.
This doesn’t mean that people should just be a bitch for the sake of it. Part of what makes queens so inspirational is that the queens that go far are the ones who aren’t afraid to be a bitch to themselves.
Whether it’s Adore Delano shamelessly parading her ‘hog-body’ onstage, or Ginger Ming referring to herself as ‘the Danny DeVito of drag’, an important lesson of Drag Race is that part of loving yourself is sometimes allowing yourself to be poked fun at.
The fun element of drag is part of what has made Drag Race so intoxicatingly watchable.
In a world full of atrocities, where each day the latest of Trump’s cataclysmic remarks brings us closer to the inevitable fall of humanity, it’s nice to know that there’s still a cosy corner of Netflix where we can take sanctuary in pure, unadulterated entertainment.
Seeing Queens throw themselves into chicken suits and garish perfume commercials teaches fans to try their best in all scenarios, and to not limit themselves to their comfort zone. Even if you’re not the best dancer, just channel Alaska’s unwavering confidence and throw yourself into that 3am Macarena.
The bravery of the Queens is not limited to their onstage antics.
The success of some of the biggest stars of Drag Race is a testament to the determination and unwillingness to let their talent go to waste, even in the face of extreme adversity. A beloved fan favourite, Latrice Royale, has been in prison, and another icon of the show, Katya, has previously confessed to having struggled with alcohol and drug addiction.
Whilst the show is impossibly upbeat, it also is unafraid to tackle issues such as homophobia, the difficulties in coming out to loved ones, and gender transitioning.
In a country like America, where there are still parts of the community that believe sexuality is something which can be altered via conversion therapy, a mainstream show that’s unafraid to be gayer than Elton singing along to a Liza Minnelli show tune has the power to make LGBT people comfortable in themselves.
Not only do Drag Queens help bring LGBT issues into the forefront, but they also manage to act as role models by breaking traditional beauty standards. Bianca Del Rio, a slightly older Queen with trademark garish make-up, is the winner who has paved a successful career through her over the top beauty, as well as her sharp wit and inimitable comic timing.
Alyssa Edwards, a dancer and pageant Queen who has reached stardom through her YouTube show ‘Alyssa’s Secret’ has an overbite and ‘back rolls’, but is still an impossibly beautiful Queen who it’s impossible to stop staring at.
The show also manages to provide role models from plenty of ethnicities, from ‘thick and juicy’ Latino Roxxxy Andrews, to the latest winner, African American Bob the Drag Queen. It’s rare for what is essentially a reality show that is celebrating beauty to actually celebrate it in all forms, but Drag Race delivers.
Finally, the confidence of Drag Queens is inspiring, and an aspect of the show that encourages fans to love themselves.
The Queens have an enviable level of confidence which forces you to see them as beautiful, regardless of their flaws.
Too many young women are taught that modesty is the most desirable trait, and in a society riddled with self harm, depression, and eating disorders, encouraging people to feel good in their own skin should be a priority.
This confidence has caught on, with fans admitting that through admiring Queens, they’ve noticed a change in their own self esteem.
Avid Drag Race viewer, University of Bristol student Aoife, said: “RuPaul’s Drag Race has helped me improve my self-esteem and be confident in who I am.”
“It’s allowed me to know that it’s ok to be a fierce bitch and not to worry about the people who go out of their way to hurt you, as Ru always says ‘unless they paying you bills, pay those bitches no mind’.”
If you’ve not seen the show, or are unfamiliar with the world of drag, take a break and immerse yourself in this weird and wonderful world. Queens may come with attitude, outspokenness, and off-colour humour, but if you’re after people to emulate, you should look no further.
The catchphrase of Drag Race is ‘if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else’, and that’s the essence of drag.
Behind the immaculate make-up, the padding, and the elaborately stitched costumes, is a fiercely self-loving attitude that acts as a bold ‘fuck you’ to the often shaming nature of modern society.