Friday, April 17, 2009

Drag Has Faith in Fashion

Is the drag community becoming more accepted today? Some would say yes, and others would vehemently say no. Personally I believe drag may be becoming accepted in specific industries, but definitely not universally. The fashion industry, in particular, seems to be the most accepting of and offers the most opportunities for those in drag.

Our class discussion took a turn Wednesday night to questioning whether drag was still even around, especially in Arkansas. Apparently it is. And it is in prime-time television. During the discussion I couldn’t stop thinking of one of my favorite shows: America’s Next Top Model. One of the judges, Miss J, is definitely a cross-dresser, but I can’t go as far as to call him (or is it “her”?) a drag queen. In the movie, a drag queen teaches modeling lessons during the day. He teaches how to walk, hold your chin up, and strut your stuff. How ironic. On America’s Next Top Model Miss J is the “diva coach runway extraordinaire,” being the go-so source for everything runway.

During the movie, I also jotted a question down in my notebook. When they mentioned the House of Ninja, all I thought of was Benny Ninja, again from America’s Next Top Model. Is this purely coincidence? Come to find out, Benny is indeed a member of said House. He is the go-to source for anything related to posing, on Top Model, proving again that House members can make it farther than the street balls.

I still don’t believe that the world is accepting of what I will term “hardcore drag.” Hardcore drag is where men dress up in sequins, HUGE wigs, tons of makeup, and heels higher than what I dare to wear (and that’s saying something). See my picture from my previous post for an example. She isn’t hard to miss. Perhaps that drag world in general is just moving away from the hardcore drag, though. And because they are, in a sense, tamed down, they are making it onto television. Miss J can go crazy with certain accessories, but she never looks completely ridiculous. Maybe drag today is accepted, but still not taken seriously. Miss J is a useful resource, but I also think America’s Next Top Model keeps her around for comedic purposes. It’s pretty funny to see a man dressed as a woman strut his stuff better than wannabe models. On Project Runway, there was an episode where the contestants had to design an outfit for a drag queen. And these are the hardcore drag queens. So, they are getting exposure, but then again, what is the applicability of designing a drag queen outfit in the real fashion world.

On Project Runway, there is often a strange twist in the fashion requirements. An episode once required the contestants to design outfits from car parts. Now, as much as I LOVED Korto’s woven seat belt coat, no one would actually wear it out. It was taken seriously for analyzing Korto’s creativity, but not for the fashion value it holds. The same goes for the drag queen episode. They were included as a challenge, not as a serious designer demand.

So, hardcore drag is not as accepted as tamed-down drag, which is definitely not as accepted today as gay culture. Drag queens are sparse on television (though they are present), but almost every modern show has a gay character included. Shows include gays in all seriousness; they play important roles, as friends, such as Calvin on “Greek” or main characters, like Will on “Will and Grace.” Quite honestly, I don’t think drag will ever be taken completely seriously. Men can be attracted to other men and act more or less like a woman. They just can’t dress like one.


  1. Do you think that if two men are gay that one of them has to act like a woman or at least be flamboyant? Could there be gay men who couldn't be told apart from straight men?

  2. oh I'm sure there can be. Actually, on "Greek" Calvin and his first boyfriend, Heath, are both "normal" guys, in the sense that neither is incredibly flamboyant. So, yeah, it's definitely possible.

  3. It's far from either/or as far as drag (or anything) goes. Drag is in degrees - and there are those (was it Chris from Project Runway who designed big outfits?) who are completely over the top right next to those similar to your first picture.

    As far as calling queens he or she, it's always based on the preference of the individual. If a person is transgender, you call them by whatever gender they identify. However, drag queens are, to my knowledge, not automatically "she." There are many drag queens who are straight, and I'm sure would not like to be called by the opposite gender.

  4. You make a very good point about where drag queens are more accepted. I definitely agree that drag can only be taken in a certain light.

    Also, you end by saying that men may never be "allowed" to wear women's clothes. What about women wearing mens? I don't think it would be a bad thing (if at all) in that situation. There are always those funny fundraisers where guys do girl stuff, but not really girls doing guy stuff, just because it isn't as entertaining. What do you think?

  5. I think that guys doing girl stuff can be used to attract attention at functions like fund raisers because it is not the norm. It is not abnormal and it's more socially accepted for women to wear men's clothing, therefore, it would not attract as much attention. If a woman is wearing men's clothing, she is labeled as a tomboy, not as odd or freakish. However, if a man is wearing women's clothing, he is not given that leniency.

  6. Emileigh said exactly my thoughts. Although, I find it kinda funny that women can get away, so to say, with wearing men's clothing, but men cannot get away with wearing women's.

    So much for arguing that their is a prejudice against women. There is DEFINITELY a certain prejudice against men, here...