Pugsley's Guide To: What Drag Can Do For You
Traditionally operating at the fringes of society, drag has percolated into the mainstream as of late. The launch of the now world-famous RuPaul’s Drag Race – essentially Britain’s Got Talent for drag queens (with a host of twists) – in 2009 has brought drag to millions of viewers. In this article, Pugsley the pug examines the art of drag and shows what the uninitiated can learn from this marvel.
What is Drag?
Drag involves dressing up as someone designated as belonging to the opposite sex. It involves playing with notions of sex (biological determinations) and gender (norms society imposes on the sexes). Despite developing in underground-clubs and back-alley bars, drag has been performed ever more outrageously and boldly, earning drag a place in people’s hearts, and on their TV screens.
Why Is Drag So Big Now?
Drag is currently at the height of its fame (and rising!). In his article on drag history, Ryan Roschke points out that drag was once considered farcical and deranged, as demonstrated by the wig-wearing psycho-killer in Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) or the two men posing as women - with hilarious consequences - in Some Like it Hot (1959). However, drag queens are now backed by mainstream hetero-normative pop stars like Ariana Grande and US Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi.
This may be in no small part because of the 10-season blockbuster series RuPaul’s Drag Race, a show hosted by the self-proclaimed most successful drag queen in the world, RuPaul Charles. Drag Race is a competitive reality TV show, featuring 14 drag queens competing for the crown (and $100,000) through a series of singing/dancing/lip-synching mini-challenges. The season 10 premiere reached 1 million viewers.
What Does Drag Have to Offer The Uninitiated?
A common RuPaul refrain is ‘We’re all born naked and the rest is drag!’ (he even released a song about it). Drag is an opportunity to dress up, show off, and be our best selves. It’s an opportunity to be silly, recognize the fleetingness of this life, and celebrate the wonder that is you!
The nine-to-five capitalist culture we live in could well learn a lot from drag. Hierarchy, seriousness, and self-effacement are too often central tenets of the Western work model. Importing the principles of drag into the workspace could be very liberating for workers and employers alike. Let’s take a look at three of the best lessons from RuPaul-style drag:
1. Be Fierce, Not Shady
Despite the supposed cattiness of the drag world, its actual message is to be supportive of each other. Drag involves being fabulous and celebrating one another’s fabulousness. It involves recognizing and celebrating the courage involved in allowing oneself to stand out.
In Paris is Burning, a documentary about drag balls in Harlem (where contestants compete on a catwalk for Best Dressed/Executive Realness/Schoolgirl chic and so on…), the MC announces to the floor before the show begins:
Give the contestants a round of applause for nerve. Cause with y’all vicious [people] it do take nerve. Believe me. We’re not going to be shady, just fierce.
Being fierce, not shady [read: mean], should be the motto of all professions and workers. It puts a premium on quality and talent, and saves on unpleasantness. The drag queen spirit admires not only one’s own fierceness but also that of others. It is therefore a helpful reminder to sometimes step back and enjoy others’ talents – not at the expense of your own, but as a complement. This is particularly welcome now, in the age of social media, where, unless we actively make space for and accept others’ greatness, we risk feeling constantly inadequate.
2. Be Not Too Serious
There is something about the word ‘fierce’, that means it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Go put in a fierce court performance, go deliver a fierce board meeting proposal. The performative nature of ‘fierceness’ allows us to enjoy our work, and realize it is not, in the end, the be all and end all of us (we’re all born naked and the rest is drag, remember). This is a winning strategy. Four-time world all-around gymnastics champion Simone Biles swears by injecting fun into her gruelling gymnastics regime.
3. Money Isn’t Everything
You don’t need to have the most money to be rich in drag world.
In Paris is Burning iconic drag queen Pepper LaBeija explains how the queens competing in the drag balls “don’t have two of nothing. Some of them don’t even eat.” Competing in the balls fulfills their “fantasy of being a superstar.” And some of them are really good at it, even when they have no money. This is your daily reminder that money isn’t everything. You can be money-rich but soul-starving - and that ain’t good.
Pugsley’s Paw Rating
I give drag 5 stars! Drag helps you celebrate yourself and enjoy life’s fabulousness. What more can a pug ask for?