RuPaul’s Drag Race and Why It Is Important

You guys have no idea how excited I am that RuPaul’s Drag Race is returning on March 2nd.

You guys have no idea how excited I am that I am going to RuPaul’s Drag Race: Battle of the Seasons in Los Angeles next week, on February 4th.

You guys have no idea how much I LOVE RuPaul’s Drag Race. In fact, when I posted about how psyched I was about the announcement of the new season’s premiere date, a lot of people were like “…wait, really?”

Apparently, a lot of you were surprised as to why a 31-year-old straight guy with a penchant for horror and Disney loves the show so much.

So I’m going to tell you why.

For those of you who don’t know, Drag Race is a reality TV show in which everyone’s favorite Drag Queen, RuPaul, looks for “America’s next drag superstar.” Now going into its seventh season, the show has showcased a wide variety of Drag Queens from all over the world. It’s one of the most streamed shows of all time (from online services), and in 2014, was named one of the 20 best television series picks of the year by TV Guide Magazine.

The show itself isn’t for everyone…and by everyone, I don’t just mean those with little ears. It’s sure to offend SOME people. I mean, you put a bunch of Queens together in a room for almost 2 months, of course the claws are going to come out. It definitely aims toward a more mature audience at times (especially when watching the uncensored versions on Netflix or Amazon Prime). That said, the show has a LOT of heart, and my 12 year old has watched pretty much the entire series thus far with us, and loves it.

But back on track…what is it about the show that I love so much?

Honestly, I think because behind all of the cattiness and drama, there is an amazing message to take away from it.

Over the course of each season, the Queens that wind up staying the longest (because it IS a competition and someone does get eliminated every week…mostly) get their safe guards stripped away. When we’re first introduced to everyone in the opening episode, we see them as their “character.” We see them as they want us to see them, usually as they appear on-stage in their every-day lives. Many of them have shticks, whether they’re the glamorous, comedic, or campy Queens, and that is on full display the first time they step through that door.

But as time goes on, we learn more about the person behind that character. They weren’t born that fabulous…they transformed themselves into it.

As much as I love me some main challenges (now sissy that walk), I honestly feel like the most fascinating parts of the show are when we see the Queens in the work room. It’s here that their true personalities are revealed, and we get a glimpse of who they are behind all that drag.

That’s not to say it comes easily for them. Because it certainly doesn’t.

What amazes me is how much some of these Queens have put up with during their lives. Between being bullied in school, being disowned by their parents, and everything in between, it wasn’t easy growing up for most of them. Some faced adversary at every single turn. In fact, I would venture to say that many of them created their “drag character” as a way of combating against everything they were up against. The personas they portray are facades; shields to protect the person underneath from harm. It’s truly amazing to see them pick themselves up, despite it all, and be who they want to be. That said, some of them are so far deep into their roles that they kind of forgot who they REALLY are underneath it all.

One of the biggest criticisms that the judges give the girls each week is “We don’t know who YOU are.” Sure, they may have the drag part down, but they aren’t giving away any hint of their actual personality. Week in, week out, I can count on Michelle Visage to tell that to one of the Queens, really trying to get them to come out of their shells.

Sometimes, it doesn’t work. But most times…it does.

One of the greatest examples of this is Bianca Del Rio from season six. I have to be honest…I HATED Bianca initially. She was catty, mean, and super judgmental. But over the course of 14 episodes…I grew to love her and learn that she wasn’t ANY of those things I initially thought.

In reality, she was this amazing, loving person who was more than willing to help nurture the Queens who needed it the most. She sort of took Adore Delano, a fellow contestant, under her wing, and in the process, let her own true nature shine through. It was amazing.

Lesson learned: appearances can be deceiving, and first impressions are not always what they seem to be. Yes, I know we all learned this in elementary school, but we, as a humans, can’t help to still do it.

But Bianca wasn’t the only one to emerge like that.

Sure, these queens are stuck with other people they are competing against for almost 2 months straight, all vying for the crown. Sure, they fight and get on each other’s nerves. Sure, people get hurt in the process.

But at the same time, the strongest ones there are able to forge strong friendships and bond with each other. And that is when we get to see the walls come down.

When a Queen, in one situation or another, breaks down to tell us her story, of how she got to where she is and how she became the person she is today, it’s actually quite beautiful. Despite being knocked down over and over again throughout their lives, these Queens pick themselves up and be EXACTLY who they want to be.

At first glance, you may not think RuPaul’s Drag Race is doing anything more than providing riveting entertainment (because let’s face it, it does that, too). But it’s SO much more than that. It’s not only teaching the Queens on the show, but the viewers at home, to be who they are, and embrace it, no matter what.

I will absolutely admit that, on more than one occasion, I teared up a bit when one of the Queens talked about their life growing up. Again, just hearing what some of them had to go through, and how they overcame it, is just incredible.

Drag became their escape, their way of dealing with all of the bad things in their life, and putting it behind them. It became their creative outlet, channeling all those negative feelings into something good, and oftentimes, amazing.

In a weird roundabout way, this turned into a follow up to my “do what you love” post from last year, but with the message of “Be who you are.”

Because at the end of the day, that’s what RuPaul’s Drag Race has taught me: to be who I am.

Whoever you are out there, reading this, you’re an amazingly wonderful human being. For those of you who have been following along with Justin’s quest for positivity the last few months, this is the next step: being yourself.

It doesn’t matter what other people say, or what they think, or what they do. You have to be the you that you love. Don’t try to be anything else, because the people that really matter in your life like you for who you really are.

It’s OK to let your guard down, to let people in, and show them the real you. Yes, sometimes you’ll let the wrong people in and get hurt. That’s just life. It happens. But don’t let that deter you from doing it again, because you may just miss the opportunity to let the RIGHT people in.

Be you. Because whether you’re a Drag Queen, an investment banker, a high school student, a struggling artist, a barista, a waitress, a construction worker, or anything else, you are awesome.

Shantay, you stay.

Until next time…sashay away…

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