The rest is drag.
I’ve been binge-watching RuPaul’s Drag Race; I can’t get enough of its glitz and drama. When Toni Cade Bambara wrote, “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible,” I think she was talking about the show. The looks are opulent, the makeup exquisite, and the shade is a mix of competitiveness and the loving respect that queens have for one another. Drag herstory is woven throughout and personal stories of struggle and success are shared often.
Of course, Drag Race is entertainment; we know that “reality” shows are engineered to be more exciting. And despite having more than double BIPOC contestants than white contestants, Season 11 had its share of overt and subtle racism. On top of that, host RuPaul made a transphobic remark not that long ago that outraged and alienated trans and non-binary queens. While irresistible, Drag Race is far from perfect.
If we hold what needs work in balance with what’s working in a both and way when it comes to RuPaul’s Drag Race, however, we have something that gives us permission to create art that delights while simultaneously shining a light on injustice and homophobia. Drag, like some stand-up comedy—Rape Jokes and Nannette, for example—becomes a skillful way of making difficult issues more approachable and processable. That’s no small thing.
So, as I settle into the next wave of my creative practice, I am considering how I can make my work more fun while exploring serious topics. When I acknowledged my longing to return to making and performing with puppets a few weeks ago, something inside me tipped. Inspired by cultural phenomena like Drag Race and Avenue Q, I am keeping Bambara’s idea of making the revolution irresistible top of mind.
RuPaul says that, “We’re all born naked, the rest is drag.” This goes for our bodies as well as for our creative work. As creatives, we have ideas and then we dress those ideas up before sharing them with the people we want to serve. Our drag work aesthetic might be edgy or sparkly or simple. It allows us to let the folx we care about know that what we do is for them. It allows us to address important issues in ways that might be serious and/or seriously fabulous.
What drag do you put on your creative work and why?