It's not easy to ignore the cultural phenomenon that is RuPaul's Drag Race. Now in its sixth season, the Logo reality show has brought the art of drag back into the limelight, introducing it to a new generation. What was once a dying performance practice, largely relegated to older gay bars and special events has made a strong comeback in mainstream clubs. Here in Houston, hotspots like F Bar and South Beach now do weekly shows, sometimes featuring special guests from Drag Race itself. There's no denying that drag has returned to the forefront of gay culture.
All that said, I am a latecomer to the church of Ru. I've seen the celebrated drag queen perform live a couple of times (an incident with a high-powered fan while opening a club in Austin in 2009 almost caused her to lose a wig). And I've certainly enjoyed my fair share of the resurgence in quality drag shows. But I confess I'd never watched an episode of Drag Race. It always seemed that things were busy around the start of the season and TV took a backseat. Once a few weeks had passed, I figured I didn't have time to catch up so I decided to tune in next year.
It's not easy being the only gay at a party who doesn't get the Drag Race references. Terms like "sashay away", "halleloo" and "throwing shade" rapidly made it into the vernacular of gay men. I found it difficult to comprehend the excitement of friends who simply had to see the queen from this season or that one when they came to town to perform. I didn't get it. What was so special?
This season I had a reason to watch. A performer I've known for many years is competing this round, and the opportunity to see her go head-to-head with other fierce drag queens was too great to pass up. I settled in solo for my first Drag Race viewing at home last night. Popcorn-check.
From the start, I'm very impressed by the production value of the show. I know the comparison has been made many times before, but it really is a super gay, no-holds-barred, every-girl-for-herself version of Project Runway-and it's awesome.
In the season premiere, only seven queens were introduced, with the remaining seven set to take the stage next week. There will be plenty of time to dissect the pluses and minuses of each performer. But for now, I'm just going to offer two-word descriptions of those that strutted down the runway last night.
Adore Delano. Hot mess.
Laganja Estranja. Amazingly flexible.
BenDeLaCreme. Campy fake.
April Carrion. Exotic shade.
Vivacious. Overly serious.
Gia Gunn. Vicious queen.
Kelly Mantle. Just tired.
JRs is hosting Drag Race viewing parties every Monday night throughout the season.
Confessions of a Drag Race Virgin: Episode 1
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 by A.J. Mistretta