Drag Performers Are Sharing Their Stories And Secrets, And I'm Absolutely Fascinated
"I don't use any junk-concealing devices."
Recently, we asked drag performers from the BuzzFeed Community to share their secrets and stories from their time in the industry. Here's what they told us.
We can't confirm the authenticity of these stories, but they're from people claiming to be speaking from their own experiences in and around the drag industry.
1. "I’m a trans woman who has been a performer for almost 20 years. The pageant scene in the '80s, '90s, and even up into the 2000s was far more cutthroat than anything you’ll see on TV. From putting fiberglass in setting powder, to eye drops in cocktails, to supergluing gown zippers shut....you name it, it’s probably happened when it came to getting a crown!"
2. "The queens on Drag Race often know who the top queens and filler queens are, based on how many producers are following them. In fact, many of the queens often know who is meant to win the season, unless there is a big upset or surprise, à la Valentina, Sasha Velour, or Ben DeLaCreme."
3. "With the rise of drag tutorials on the internet, most drag performers don't actually have a drag parent, and even if you do have a drag family, they fall out pretty often (at least in my city)."
—Anonymous, 21, Canada
4. "I've been a consulting producer on Drag Race for many years, and I can say that the nicest guest judge I've ever worked with was Joel McHale from Community. He went out of his way to greet each and every member of our staff, and was just the sweetest person."
"His opposite was Aubrey O'Day, from Danity Kane. She flat-out refused to make eye contact with most of us and pitched fits nonstop."
—Anonymous, 39, California
5. "I used to perform as a drag king before my disability progressed to the point where I couldn’t anymore. I feel like as drag kings we are taken a lot less seriously than queens. People cheer less for us, tip us less, and often we’re not even invited to perform. I always felt like I was doing the most — more stunts and gags in my numbers than my drag queen friends — and they were collecting way more tips and opportunities. My makeup was just as intricate, my numbers just as sexy and funny, but the opportunities weren’t there for me."
"Ultimately I quit doing drag because I felt like there wasn’t a place for me as a king and a disabled person. My value as a performer plummeted once I couldn’t do death drops, spins, and splits anymore. No one wanted a drag king who stood there with a cane, no matter how well I captured the song. I love drag with all my heart, but it is very ableist and misogynistic."
6. "'Ru girls' have become their own genre of drag. Yes, there are comedy queens/fashion queens/etc. within that group, but they only represent a small fraction of the drag that exists across the world. There are men who are drag kings, and women who are queens. There are drag things, drag creatures, and so on. Also, not all drag performers lip synch as their main performative expression."
—Anonymous, 21, Canada
7. "I’m a drag king and it depends on where you are, but usually kings are not welcome in shows. Or they will just have one king and that’s their token king. But I personally live somewhere where kings are very much included, and it’s wonderful! Our drag mother is the nicest person and makes sure we all treat each other well. She doesn’t allow toxic behavior."
"I’ve heard that the mean and snide comments are part of the community, but it’s not really like that with my drag family. We read each other sometimes, but it’s all in good fun."
8. "I don't use any junk-concealing devices — I just wear two pairs of boxer briefs. Works like a charm."
9. "Trans drag performers such as myself get SO MUCH STIGMA! Yes, I’m a transmasculine person. Yes, I’m a drag performer (drag queen). My transition and my drag are two different things. I use she/her pronouns in drag, he/they out. It is THAT SIMPLE. My drag is an art. My 'trans-ness' is who I am. I am comfortable with my masculinity, and that’s what allows me to perform as a girl. Also, CONTOUR IS HARD."
10. "One of my favorite things about the shows is how people will get so confused about their sexuality when they watch me as a drag king. Straight women will come up to me and be like, 'I have such a huge crush on you!' But they wouldn’t when I’m out of drag. It’s pretty cute. I love how drag can make people see sexuality as a fluid thing for a night."
11. "My best friend is a drag performer and tells me so many shocking tales that indicate that the industry and culture as a whole has a big problem with misogyny. For example, being openly rude and hostile to non-male drag artists, and mocking and objectifying the female body in their acts and stage/performance names."
"But calling out these people and problems can often get you blacklisted from gigs and events, so there’s also a big culture of silencing those who object to this."
12. "I’ve been a drag performer for two years, and no one seems to know that ALL drag apparel is recycled. Wigs, outfits, shoes, makeup, and jewelry are all passed from queen to queen. It’s honestly a really nice thing. It’s just funny that if you see a wig, it’s almost guaranteed three queens have worn it before."
—Anonymous, 24, Pennsylvania
13. "Not me, but my ex was a drag king and their drag took up so much space. It was like living with a third person. They had a whole separate wardrobe for their drag persona, plus makeup, hair stuff, and props for performances. There was glitter and hair that they’d attach to their face everywhere. It was honestly a strain on our relationship."
—Anonymous, 29, New York
14. "On Drag Race, everybody is super bitchy, but at least in my scene and in my very limited experience, the other queens were all very supportive. I came to it kind of late and admittedly I wasn't very good at it. But still, they accepted my and made me feel like one of them."
"It was an important part of my transition and I did it mostly just to see if I could. It was terrifying the first time, but once the music starts, it kind of takes over and becomes a huge rush. I'm so grateful I was even allowed to perform. It really gave me a huge confidence boost. It was also my very first opportunity to do stand-up in front of an audience. I wasn't very good at drag, but as it turns out I'm pretty good at comedy (which I still do).
I remember telling one of the showrunners, 'I really appreciate you letting me do this, I know I'm not that good at it.' She just smiled and said, 'You're so enthusiastic and you remind us of when we started.' That was nice."
15. "Back in the early 2000s, I had a really good friend who was a queen and preformed with a group. One day, multiple members of the group got the stomach flu and couldn't make it, so my friend enlisted me, a cis woman, to pretend to be a drag queen for the night. I fooled absolutely no one, but the whole experience — getting my hair and makeup done, being on stage, even singing a song — was a fun experience."
—Anonymous, 38, California
16. And "I managed a highly successful drag queen who has been featured on Drag Race, and he was one of the worst people I have ever met. He'd make scathing comments about my clothing and hairstyle selections, and at one point even pulled down my shirt so I would look 'less prissy.' Thankfully, we have since parted ways."
Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.