The term drag queen is not foreign, but the huge fan following many drag performers have may be. Shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race have elevated the scene which was typically thought to be just for gay males into a safe house for all those who admire the artistry behind drag – no matter how they identify.
Personally, I’ve been a fan of RuPaul‘s and The RuPaul Show since before I knew he was a drag queen (in my young age, I thought she was a really tall, beautiful woman with an infectious laugh). When I was older, I began to watch the acclaimed RuPaul’s Drag Race during its first season, where I was reintroduced to drag and all the many facets of it.
It was then when I began to realize these artists were more than just ‘guys that dressed as women’ – they were performers deep down, and took their craft seriously. That level of dedication has not only produced wonderful talents but in turn has raised a following of people from all walks that admire and follow these artists.
The atmosphere at RuPaul’s DragCon 2016 presented just that – a welcoming environment for all fans of drag culture!
The convention was designed very similarly to comic and anime conventions – there were panels, workshops, and a huge exhibit hall filled with booths to purchase goods from. There were also many people dressed up, however instead of cosplay, it was drag. There were all forms of drag being presented by both noted drag performers and attendees – from campy (comedic) looks to full-on fish (completely feminine) styles, you basically saw the huge range of diversity that comes with the title of drag.
The panels and workshops were run in much larger rooms than at the debut DragCon after demand for more space. These large rooms are filled for almost every event! Topics in panels ranged from Drag 101 to how to “read” – a drag culture term where two queens banter back and forth in a game of wit. There were also panels dedicated to reunions of queens from previous seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, as well as the recently ended Season 8.
On the aforementioned topic of “reading,” that was one of the panels I attended – The Library Is Open: The Art Of Reading. As implied, it is an art to find the middle ground between playful teasing and downright maliciousness. That’s what the panel went on to try and educate attendees on – how to read and not throw shade. Panelists included noted queens who are masters of reading – Darienne Lake, Robbie Turner, Mariah Paris Balenciaga, Trixie Mattel and panel moderator/female drag queen, Wendy Ho. They went on to even “read” audience members who so wished it, as well as read each of their fellow panelists. It was a fun, if not sometimes cringe-worthy, experience!
In its second year, a similar trend was a shown – the popularity of the queens on the current season was astronomical! Getting to see the top three queens of season 8 – Naomi Smalls, Kim Chi, and the winner Bob the Drag Queen was close to impossible. The lines to meet them and other popular performers from previous seasons were often an hour plus wait. Most of the guests who had booths were at them for both days, allowing fans to purchase merchandise and then meet the artist, get autographs and selfies.
With the long waits for many of my favorites, I had to carefully choose who I was willing to wait in line for. I ended up getting in the timely line for Trixie Mattel from RPDR Season 7 and a huge favorite of mine. The wait was worth it, fans were able to get autographs, chat briefly, and take pictures with Trixie. In a streak of luck, Trixie’s booth was directly aligned with another favorite of mine – RPDR Season 5’s Alyssa Edwards! It was a good example of how even though I was unable to get in line with them both, the queens were still accessible and you were able to at least see them if you weren’t able to meet them.
In addition to drag performers, many male makeup artists appeared, showing that makeup is not strictly a women’s game. MUAs such as MannyMUA, PatrickStarrr, and Jeffree Star were at the event, showing their capacity to present stunning makeup looks and an overall knowledge of what’s what in the makeup world. Jeffree Star‘s company, Jeffree Star Cosmetics made a huge boom in particular – selling out of several products within hours of the first day!
Of course with the event baring his name, RuPaul was present, giving keynote addresses at both the start and end of the conventions. The keynote on the second day of the event was especially both heartwarming and heart-wrenching as RuPaul (or Mama Ru) opened up about his own mother and her struggles as a sensitive soul in a harsh world, and discussing how that’s affected him as a person. Fans could also visit the RuPaul museum, which showcased many iconic looks and gowns of RuPaul’s throughout years as a drag performer.
It was a vibrant event, filled with so many unique talents that spirits were a buzz! There was never truly a dull moment, and there was always something to do no matter what your interests were in terms of drag performance. This year’s DragCon was bigger than the first, and they seek to improve each year. With that being said, I can only imagine next years and future DragCons will be the world’s ultimate event for drag culture!