Shhh It's a Wig
For my class, Cultural Impact, we were tasked with choosing a sub-culture to infiltrate and document. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community I chose to do mine on Drag Queens.
This is a project that pushed me out of my comfort zone. While I am a member of the community, I have to say I am not really involved. I thoroughly enjoyed pulling back the curtain on drag (for myself and the world at large) and hope to add to in the future. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.
Watch the teaser trailer or full length documentary below to learn about drag, Michelle Livigne, and Alvion Arnell Davenport and their impact on culture here in Richmond, VA.
One of the most interesting things I learned was that Drag Queens create families. More often than not, when a queen is first starting out they find a Drag Mother. This person gives them hand-me-down clothing and make-up. They also teach them how to do their make up and how to perform on stage. Once that queen is established, they sometimes choose to take on a drag daughter, or daughters. This creates a family of mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts; this family is no different than a family one is born into. They celebrate holidays, birthdays, and victories and console one another in life’s most troubling times.
2 in 1 Personas
After talking with the queens, I found out that they view themselves and their drag personas as two separate entities. Their drag personas can be wild, extraverted, sexual, flirty, loud, and everything in between, while their true self is introverted, casual, quiet, and shy. Both queens I interviewed talked about how liberating it was to get to experience life from two perspectives and how it has allowed them to experiment with different personality traits. Brandon Horton (Michelle Livigne) described it best when she said, “Michelle and I are exactly the same because we possess the same body, we just possess it at different times.”
It's a Uniform
One of the most saddening things that I learned was that doing drag does cause issues when trying to find, or be in, a relationship. Most of the (gay) men they tried pursuing a relationship with had an issue with them dressing up as a female character. Alvion talked about how this made sense because they were gay men, and most gay men want a “man” not a man who dresses like a woman. However, he also went on to say that drag is like a uniform. At the end of a shift, a McDonalds worker has to take off their visor and McDonalds shirt. She said she too gets out of uniform when she is done with work; her uniform just happens to be a wig and a dress.
SHH IT'S THE TEASER TRAILER
SHHH IT'S THE DOCUMENTARY
Who made you the drag police?
For my class, Insights and Implications, we were tasked with creating a podcast about culture and giving a "hot take" on it. After filming my drag documentary, I was left with one burning question. While drag boasts of inclusivity, how inclusive is the art form really? For example, who can and can't do drag and who sets the rules?
Check out the key learnings or listen to the full length podcast below to learn more about drag, Mo B. Dick, Ophelia Diamonds, and their views on the inclusivity of drag.
Drag started in theater arts and included everyone
The word drag is believed to have originated in theater. This came from men wearing dresses, which would drag the ground, versus the pants they usually wore. Mo B. Dick told us that prior to the 1900’s men and women both participated in drag for theater and was welcomed entertainment for all. It wasn’t until the 1920’s and beyond that drag began making its way into the LGBTQIA+ community and recognized as something queer. So while drag may seem exclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community, its origins are anything but.
RuPaul doesn't make the rules but, through reach, has
Both drag performers we spoke with stated that RuPaul has been beneficial in bringing drag into current culture but his fame has had some detrimental effects on the community. The first of which is that he has created this “formula” of what drag is, what it should look like, and who can perform it. He has stated that trans individuals and drag kings cannot be featured on his show. His beliefs have pervaded the culture at large and has suppressed work for drag kings, trans queens, non-binary performers, and same-sex drag performers. He has created a cultural want for Drag Queens and has left everyone else out.
Drag is for everyone but isn't accessible to everyone
Our experts believe that anyone can do drag (LGBTQIA+ individuals, heterosexuals, non-binary individuals, etc.) and we came to the same conclusion. However, one thing that never crossed our minds was even though anyone may be able to do drag, how accessible is it really? Mo and Ophelia both brought up pay inequalities between men and women and white versus people of color. Drag is expensive, and these unjust societal hindrances can affect ones ability to even do drag. Mo also mentioned that there are fewer lesbians than gay bars (who typically seek male performers), and if females are given room on stage, their male counterparts tower over them, dominating the stage.