What's a drag queen? Here is everything you need to know

What's a drag queen? Here is everything you need to know

Drag is slowly gaining mainstream attention in popular culture. The gender-bending art involves individuals dressing in exaggerated costumes and accentuated makeup. So what is a drag queen? This article has all the details you need to know.

Female impersonation
A man applying accentuated makeup. Photo: Pekic
Source: Getty Images

RuPaul is one of the most recognizable faces of transvestite culture in modern society. Impersonation art is gaining more recognition, especially in major forms of entertainment, including theatre performances, music, films, and television shows.

What are drag queens?

What does being a drag queen mean? A drag queen is someone who behaves like an actual queen by putting on more exaggerated feminine fashion and makeup than an ordinary woman would wear. The purpose is to make the person, usually male, magnify female gender signifiers and gender roles, which is fun and entertaining for the people watching.

Many performers do it to entertain the audience, and it has nothing to do with their gender preference. Some use the art to express themselves, especially individuals who feel misunderstood by their loved ones. The fashion queens' art span many cultures, and anyone can do it.

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Are all drag queens gay?

Since the culture began, most participants have been cisgender men from the gay community. However, other genders, including cisgender straight men, trans women, and non-binary individuals, as well as people with varying sexual identities can participate.

Participants from the trans women community are sometimes called trans queens. Some of the most recognized celebrity trans queens are Peppermint and Monica Beverly Hillz. Cisgender women who take part in the culture are referred to as bioqueens or faux queens.

Popular culture
Drag queens were originally gay cisgender men but evolved to include people of any gender and all sexual orientations. Photo: Benoit BACOU
Source: Getty Images

Origin of drag queen

The term drag was first used in the 1870s to refer to male actors who dressed in feminine fashion. At the time, women were not allowed to go on stage and men had to take on female roles during performances. Later in the 1970s, a female impersonator was seen as a homosexual tranvestite (a homosexual putting on clothes of the opposite gender) with a superior attitude.

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In the United States, fashion impersonation culture was adopted as early as the 1880s. William Dorsey Swann is believed to be the first self-titled queen of drag and used to host drag balls in Washington DC in the 1880s. In India, homosexuality remains a constitutional offence, but drag culture is slowly being embraced in mainstream art culture and publications.

Drag kings vs. drag queens

Transvestite kings are the opposite of female impersonation queens. They are women who put on exaggerated masculine fashion to mimic the male persona. Trans men are also part of the king culture. However, drag queen performances are more famous than the king act.

Is a drag king a woman?

Transvestite kings are typically women wearing exaggerated masculine fashion that an ordinary man would not wear. But in modern times, trans men and other genders often adopt the magnified male impersonation.

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Drag performances

The participants often sing, dance, and lip-sync to keep the audience entertained. Performances can be solo or in groups and are carried out on different stages that range from small amateur stages to big theatrical acts. Popular venues where such shows are mainly held include;

  • Nightclubs
  • Gay pride parades
  • Cabarets venues
  • Carnivals
  • Transvestite pageants
Modern transvestite queen
RuPaul is the modern self-proclaimed queen of drag. Photo: Rich Fury
Source: Getty Images

Drag movies and television shows

Several films and television shows depicting drag culture have also been released. RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo is one of the most successful transvestite television shows, having won three Primetime awards. Celebrated drag queen RuPaul also earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018, becoming the first-ever female impersonator to achieve such a milestone. Some popular films and TV shows highlighting the culture include;

ProjectYearNotes
Jump, Darling2020Canadian drama film
Stage Mother2020Canadian comedy-drama
AJ and the Queen2020Netflix comedy-drama series
Number 12020Singaporean comedy-drama
Dragnificent!2019 to 2020TLC series
Drag Kids2019Canadian documentary
Dancing Queen2018Documentary reality series
Hurricane Bianca 2: From Russia with Hate2018American comedy film
Hurricane Bianca2016American comedy film
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie2016Comedy movie
Dressed as a Girl2015English documentary film
Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son2011American crime-comedy
RuPaul's Drag Race 2009 to presentLogo TV/VH1 reality competition series
What Would You Do?2008 to presentABC situational hidden camera series
The Curiosity of Chance2006Comedy movie

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Drag queen performances have come a long way and are currently being accepted by different cultures, especially in the USA. Its popularity is expected to spread to other parts of the world that are slowly embracing the LBGTQ+ community.

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Source: Briefly News

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