I love Drag. The pageantry and positivity that goes into each look and performance is nothing short of breathtaking. The appliques delicately stitched onto the bodice of a gown, the hours of make-up, the feathers and glitter twirling and lighting up under the stage lumens all speak to me. However, it is not just self-love and self-care that’s demonstrated through Drag; it’s Pride. Due to the adversity that the LGBT community faces regularly, Drag has long been an outlet, a safe space for queens to come together and shine like the diamonds they are. The thing is, I don’t see this positivity in cisgendered women.
It’s no secret that during adolescence many of us ditched sisterhood. There’s only so much cattiness and harassment one can take before making an easy choice not to befriend other women. Throughout my schooling, I was harassed for being fat, harassed for being skinny, I was gay bashed, I was attacked for being white, made fun of for being artsy, made fun of for liking sports, etc. 90% of these comments or instances of bullying came from other girls. There was little I could do to prevent these hurtful attacks. Eventually, I learned to ignore it, to not give these things power, but I still carry the criticisms with me.
As youths, we long for female comradery and acceptance. As we grow and mature it becomes evident that we must instead seek validation through men, which eventually (sometimes) earns the respect of other women. This progression is flawed in its very essence. After all, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love someone else?” (Can I get an amen!) The beauty of drag lies not only in the glamour and pageantry but the emotional transformation. Like most people, many queens are no strangers to body image issues and the underlying depression and anxiety that follows. Sound familiar?
Despite the recent culture of self-love—encompassing campaigns like #effyourbeautystandards, #honormycurves, and #celebratemysize—for the most part, this sentiment is not reflected in the media. Imperfection (let’s just call it #realness) is not shown on the covers of magazines, or as part of large beauty campaigns. Despite the validation that comes from performance and being on stage, a large part of Drag is the journey to becoming who you want to be. The ability to put it all on the table. Ru-paul says, “You we’re born naked and the rest is Drag,” and those words couldn’t be more spot on. Once we realize the autonomy we possess to be ourselves, we are limitless.
This reminds me of a story that’s a bit off-topic, but it connects, I promise:
During a Q&A I was attending, an artist described his evolution into the performer that he is today. He spoke of his struggles to find his voice as an MC and recalled a conversation that he’d had with his collaborator. He expressed to her his hangups, going on telling her that he is just a boring guy, why should anyone care what he has to say? Her advice was simple, “then write as who you want to be.” This breakthrough propelled them in their music and completely changed them both as artists for the better. Once he decided to be who he wanted to be, he WAS.
That revelation stuck with me. I was able to apply it to my life as a whole, as well as the work I was doing to learn to love myself, flaws and all. If we live as who we want to be, then who’s to say we aren’t just that?
We have a responsibility to lift one another up; To embrace our differences, our experimental styles, and each other’s journey to self-love and acceptance. Drag welcomes queens of all shapes and sizes. The culture promotes not only self-love but the love of everyone else. It teaches us to make fun of the gender roles and social norms that keep us enslaved. Most of all, Drag teaches us to be brave and to hit that catwalk (or sidewalk, or alley) like the fuckin’ queens that we are.
Take it from Drag, revel in the exquisiteness of who you are and the beauty you have inside. The rest will come out 😉