Top photo, Ru cuts the ribbon to kick off the first DragCon in the Los Angeles Convention Center. Photo by Regina Carpinelli.
Hot takes on this weekend’s convention from the people who were there: a culture writer and Bay Area drag great.
Grace Towers ~ performer, promoter
It was interesting to see how many middle aged, Middle American married women were out for a ‘ladies weekend’ at DragCon. It really brought to light the reach that RuPaul’s television show has, and the effect it’s had on visibility and acceptance for Drag as an art. It was also great to see so many youth at Los Angeles Convention Center.
Most genres of Drag were represented on Saturday, but I wanted more. There were a few bearded queens, pageant queens, a couple faux queens, trans personalities, and even a few drag kings.
The con also brought into conversation the topic of quality vs quantity. Drag is in such a state of flux and what once was is no longer. Accepting that change is the only constant has allowed for the growth and development of Drag as an art form to be taken beyond the normal constraints of the ‘gay bar’. I realized I was expecting some kind of performance element to the con, which was not satisfied — I left a bit hungry for some fierce performance.
The panels were silly at times, but I can see the appeal in learning how to tuck like Willam and learning Alyssa Edwards’ tongue click. It may be that I wanted to see aspects of my own personal journey addressed — more conscious conversations about gender, normative presentation, sexuality versus gender, binary spectrum of gender and the ability to use the stage as a place to make a statement. But I guess that just means I have to come back in a different capacity next time ;] All in all my friend Sarah Probemhere said it best, ” I am happy it exists.”
Grace Towers is a San Francisco queen. Check her underwear party Bulge on Thursdays at the Powerhouse.
Emily Savage ~ culture writer
Like the early stages of any pop cultural phenomenon — and much like the early seedling of her show itself — RuPaul’s first ever DragCon was something of a disorganized shitshow. But a glorious, glitter-covered shitshow. Days later and I’m still shaking shiny flecks from my person.
How did we get here? RuPaul’s Drag Race, the surprise hit reality competition program on Logo, a lifestyle television station with both eyes shining toward LGBTQ issues, is entirely built off the cultural revolution of drag itself. Mama Ru never lets her contestants forget it. But the fact that this reaches households across the United States and beyond? That’s not something to take lightly.
After seven seasons of building up a veritable stable of reliably entertaining and thought-provoking performers, Ru & Co. decided to take the natural next step (after albums, films, perfume, makeup, dolls.) And so it was, And there I was: DragCon in downtown Los Angeles on a breezy weekend in May.
The stars were all there — Katya, Alyssa Edwards, Raven, Detox, Jinkx Monsoon, Milk, Gia Gunn, Jujubee, Latrice Royale, the list goes on. They stood in their brightly decorated booths offering signatures, selfies, glamour shots, rhinestoned hats and clutches, makeup, hugs and shade. The lines of fans were endless, snaking down long convention hall aisles then flipping back around and twisting like braids of excited and be-wigged ribbon dancers.
But despite the crowds, everyone seemed genuinely amazed to be in the presence of such convention hall sanitized spectacle. Eyes were wide, and thickly coated with liquid liner and rainbows of shadow. Queens without booths arrived decked out in full regalia, mirrored disco balls, gadgetry, spiky bitchy boots, bloody bucket fasteners. The buzz of activity was constantly punctuated by screams of admiration as one queen or another sashayed through the crowd and the recognition set in.
Another sign that DragCon marked drag’s arrival in new lands: Baby drags in the crowds, including writer Jazper Abellera (a.k.a @BOYTWEETSWORLDX), who live tweeted the events unfolding, and teen sensation Brendan Jordan (you’ll recall him shimmying and throwing shade in a viral news clip out of Vegas last year) who debuted his Lady Gaga drag at the convention after being painted by Drag Race alum Phi Phi O’Hara.
But it wasn’t just upstarts. Wading through the convention floor, you could always spot a white-painted Sister of Perpetual Indulgence from the legendary San Francisco clan of queens.
Upstairs there were even more lines, but for film screenings (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Paris is Burning) and panels on topics like, “So You Think You Can Vogue,” “Fierce Mother Tuckers” and “Comedy Queens.”
During this “Indie Music Queens” panel, famed horror queen and Season 4 winner Sharon Needles spoke passionately about the difficult life of a drag performer and the dedication to the craft (any craft) one needs to be successful. She noted the best way to stand out in the crowd. Or as she put it: “Don’t bore me.”