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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

RuPaul's Drag Race...Chanté You Stay (In My Heart, Forever)

On my way home today, while walking to get a burrito for dinner, I couldn't get the RuPaul's Drag Race theme song out of my head. The episode was calling to me, but more than that, I was calling out for the episode. RuPaul's Drag Race is the only thing that takes my Tuesdays from ok to !Echa pa lante!, and I often feel physically better inside after watching it. It makes me laugh, and puts a smile on my face, and mostly improves my outlook on the world in general. We'll get to this week's awesomefest, "Jocks In Frocks", in a minute, but I want to expand on RPDR first.

Let's go way back for a minute. I was a young child, 7 or 8, and I had taken to watching some show with the most incredible, inspiring performer. But I was so confused and confounded by it! Finally, I asked my mom: how does that black lady have such amazing, blonde hair? After explaining that it was a wig, she began to teach me about drag queens. When she told me that RuPaul was a man, I didn't connect it with being gay or weird or whatever, I was just jaw-droppingly astonished in that wondrous way only a child could be. I continued to watch RuPaul's show, searching for any hint that she wasn't a biological woman and finding none. I wanted to be RuPaul SO HARD and to magically transform myself into a tall, leggy, black woman with a huge head of curly blonde hair. It is fair to say that I wanted to be RuPaul when I grew up, and that many of my life choices my have been affected by that desire, something that I am just realizing RIGHT NOW. Writing = therapy.

I also watched To Wong Foo about a thousand times in, like, 5th grade, and I was OBSESSED with Noxema's fringe dress, so...yeah. Me and drag queens. We go way back.

I wish I had scanned a copy of the photo I took when I was 15 and visited Madame Tussaud's in New York. The first room is the "celebrity room" and it's supposed to be like, some weird Hollywood party where Patrick Stewart and Martin Short and Goldie Hawn are all talking in a group by a column. But OBVIOUSLY the best part is the first thing you see when you walk in the room which is RuPaul in a sparkly lavender bikini, dripping with rhinestones, wearing a Vegas-dancer feather headdress. Oh, and standing ON TOP OF A HUGE FUCKING FOUNTAIN. Clearly she has continued to make an impression.

Anyway, what all of this backstory tells you is that when you let drag queens into your heart, they become like real-life fairies. They have the magical power to lift your spirits and soothe your soul and turn a bad day into a fierce one. They can teach you about pride and loving yourself and loving others and the power of self-expression. Not to mention what they can teach you about dancing, makeup, lip synching, walking in heels, working it, reading a bitch, and the perfect combination of Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent. RuPaul's Drag Race is, at heart, a joyful show, unlike so much of the reality tv garbage that is just terrible people pulling out each other's weaves and whatnot.

This is not to say that there is no bitchery on RPDR. There is bitchery in SPADES, ladyfren. But a huge part of that is drag, and the performative aspect of drag as an art form. These are people playing characters, and although some true nastiness may sneak in now and then, it's pretty obvious that were there to be any sort of threat from outside the gay and/or drag community, these girls would stick together. The history of violence, misunderstanding, and hatred towards queers and drag performers in particular is long and awful, and one of the interesting parts of RPDR is seeing how sisterhood and families of choice help guard against negativity - as I know it does for me.

This is also not to say that I have agreed with either of the past two winners of the show. Season 1 totally should have gone to Nina Flowers (although I can't begrudge Miss Bebe who is for sure fabulous in her own right) and it is widely agreed that Tyra was a phenomenal mistake - Jujubee FTW 4EVA. But this time around Ru definitely listened to her critics (and dialed down the Santino) and it has kept the whole season riveting.

On the less sappy side of things, if you like "skill"-based elimination reality shows (ie: Top Chef, ANTM, Project Runway), you will be gaaaagging on the extravagaaaanza of the elegaaanza. No, seriously, RPDR has it all: amazing outfits, hair, and makeup; workroom drama; great and not-so-great performances; characters to love and to villainize; tongue-in-cheek yet appropriate challenges; funny, knowledgeable judges; nail-biting eliminations; and RuPaul herself as ubiquitous, Tyra-mocking host in gowns (and giant blonde hair) that you will die for. The way she laughs, oh my lord, PLUS she has the best catchphrases on any show maybe ever. And a final showdown each episode where the bottom two have to lipsynch FOR THEIR LIFE! And have I mentioned that it's all about magical, happiness-inducing drag queen fairies? What more could you ask for? The answer to that rhetorical question is nothing, there is nothing more. It's all there.

So that brings us back to this week's inspiring episode, "Jocks In Frocks". As a twist (one that I was hoping would find the return of Delta Work), the judges decided to bring back Carmen Carrera (ugh, but at least it was not Shangela) in a stupid, bitchy shirt (double ugh) that only made me think of boogers whenever I saw her face. The challenge for the remaining five ladies was to take a straight jock and to transform him into their drag sister. Similar challenges have been done in the previous two seasons, but the straight guys they brought in for this episode really brought it. Alexis' European was a drag natural, was openly flirting with him, and felt comfortable expressing his attraction to her both in drag and out and kept going on about her general fabulosity. He was being hella bi, and pretty much said as much by talking about how "metro" all his European friends are. He was also adorable, but looked a little like Lisa Cuddy in drag for my tastes. Yara's guy was kind of a lazy wimp, but he brought it in the end and hearing him say, "That's my girl!" just warms my stony, cynical heart. Carmen's guy was hot, and he told her he was doing this to help his high-school aged sibling who had just come out. It was sweet, but she's a dumbass with no personality and so fell back on her only ass(et). Manila's dude was not the prettiest, but he was so excited by the performance of it that he happily let himself play the role, and his comforting of Carmen's guy at the end ("Hey brother, don't feel bad") was, just....aaaaahhhhhh this show makes me so warm inside I need a slushie. Raja's barrel-chested Catholic went from crossing himself at the mere prospect of drag to crossing himself in the hope of Raja's "chante-ing" while watching the elimination on the verge of tears.

See? MAGIC. Hang out with some drag queens and you'll have some fun, learn something about other people, learn more about yourself, and gain a whole new appreciation for those of us who have to deal with boobs and high heels. And if you'd like to see yourself as a drag queen, you can check out The Dragulator, which is a fabulous way to waste time. Here's one of mine:

Her name is Busty Nail. Probably my best drag name to date. Hehehe...nail. Magic wand included.

I honestly could not recommend this show more highly for anyone who enjoys life or, like, being happy. Gay, straight, bi, European, whatever - just give in to the glittery parade of silliness that is drag and allow it to help you let go of whatever is holding you back. Because if you can't love yourself, how in the HELL you gonna love somebody else? For. Reals.

You can watch past and new episodes on Logo TV's website or, you know, on Logo on Mondays if you have that. They were also airing it on VH1 last season, so you can check there, too. And if you were thinking about skipping Untucked!, don't - if you love drama, it is worth your time. Oh, RPDR really is just one of the best shows ever, you should watch it any way you can.


  1. Yes, yes, yes! A thousand times over. Did I catch an Echa pa lante? Izzat Jara Sofia? That's my guess. And I couldn't agree with you more about Ms. Flowers and Jujubee, although seeing Ms. Benet in the flesh was pretty exhiliarating. This post did RPDR fucking justice. Thank you. Why does it only light up particular crowds? I wish I could be watching this shit on big screen. Carerra was really brought back? Just to show off her waif-like waist? Ok, and only one more question: who the hell is Ru's right-hand judge? Why am I supposed to care about her even slightly? Is it just me or is she vehemently off-putting. I'm placing Carerra's (failure to) return blame all on her.

  2. Yeah, Michelle Visage talks way too much, IMO, often overshadowing the fabulous guest judges. She's a makeup artist, I believe. I don't hate her, but I prefer Billy B, who is articulate AND adorable.