- RuPaul Andre Charles
(One of history's most famous drag artists)
Drag is a gender-bending art form where a person dresses in clothing and makeup meant to exaggerate a specific gender identity, usually of the opposite sex. While drag's main purpose has been for drag performance and entertainment, it is also used as self-expression and a celebration of LGBTQ+ pride.
Drag Queens dress in exaggerated women's clothing and makeup to assume female roles and presentation. Drag Kings dress in exaggerated men's clothing and makeup to assume male roles and presentation.
History of Drag
Drag has deep roots in western culture, specifically in theatre. Drag performers were featured as far back as ancient Greece and carried on through Shakespearean times. The term “drag” was first used when straight men wore long pleated skirts and blouses and exaggerated makeup because women, in particular, weren't allowed to perform publicly on stages until the 1660s. This began later as a trend for men where they used the drag platform to entertain straight and/or closeted men for money in a secretive space in conservative British society where homosexuality was taboo.
In the U.S in the nineteenth century, female impersonators began to use the medium as a performative art, especially in vaudeville shows. In the 1880s, the first drag queen, William Dorsey Swann, hosted drag balls at his home. By the early twentieth century, drag was tied to the LGBTQ+ community and it was no longer part of popular mainstream entertainment. Instead, performances became a major aspect of city nightlife, especially in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City. After the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City and through the 1990s, gay culture and gay pride built mainstream support and with that came popular drag culture as well.
The term “drag” is said to come from how dresses would drag across the floor as artists performed. Furthermore, 'queen' was considered a slur for a homosexual man. This word was reclaimed and viewed in a more positive light, initiating a movement that inspired the queer community to create a space to express their identities away from the strict gender norms prescribed by society.
"When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do."
Drag, A Pop-Culture Phenomenon
In the twenty-first century, drag is especially popular because of the reality competition TV show RuPaul's Drag Race. RuPaul is the most famous and influential drag queen in history, starting in the 1990s with his hit 1994 song Supermodel (You better work). RuPaul's Drag Race, created in 2009, now gives a national platform for up and coming drag performers everywhere to earn their spots as top influencers in the community. The show has won two Emmy awards.
Drag in India
There is historic evidence to show that drag has been a part of Indian culture since the beginning of time. According to ancient scriptures and texts, there were a lot of men performing as women, just the term 'drag' was not denoted to this art form. India's very rich culture depicted an overt representation of drag in the folk culture along with the religious texts. Even though the subculture is much less popular when compared to the West, it has been on a steady rise since the last five to six years. Most of which can be credited to Keshav Suri and the Kitty Su franchise. Suri, being the youngest executive director at The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, introduced drag culture in India, inviting winners of RuPaul's Drag Race such as Violet Chachki, Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 and Derrick Barry to perform at the nightclub Kitty Su. This created a performance platform for local drag queens where their talent is being nurtured and appreciated with great acceptance.
"Drag is there to remind culture not to take itself too seriously. All of this is an illusion."
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