There’s More Drag Than Just Drag Race

The premiere of season 14 of the Emmy-winning competition show Rupaul’s Drag Race airs tonight, and while I still plan to watch it with my housemates, I think we should take a moment to remind the audience that Rupaul’s Drag Race (or RPDR, as I’ll shorten it to in this article often), is NOT the bible of drag nor the ideal goal for most drag artists. And just because you watch RPDR does NOT make you an expert on drag. While Drag Race has been amazing for bringing drag into the mainstream, supporting tons of nightlife performers and drag artists, and giving queer people a platform to showcase their art unlike everything else, it’s also done a lot to harm drag artists and drag as a whole.

Drag Race began in 2009 and was the first drag competition show to ever hit a mainstream audience. It was, in its early days, unapologetically queer and made some jokes that have since been removed because they were… well… Bad (looking at you “shemale”). The show was incredible for gay representation, awareness around HIV with Ongina in season 1, heartbreaking stories about gay men, and a beautiful (and sort of insanely unhinged) platform for drag queens to be seen as real artists. But it was also inherently misogynistic and transphobic. Drag itself is NOT misogynistic or transphobic, let’s make that very clear. Crossdressing, female impersonation and drag itself has never been those things. And drag has always been an art form populated by more than cis gay men: cis women are drag queens and kings, trans women are some of the original creators of drag and most prominent queens in our history, and nonbinary people have always been involved in drag since it’s earliest days. But RPDR did not showcase these elements of drag. Only cis men were allowed to audition for the show, and in season 5 one of the queens on the show, Monica Beverly Hills, revealed she had to stop her transition as a trans woman to even be on the show because they wouldn’t allow her to come if she had fully transitioned.

Season 9 of Drag Race featured the first trans woman who was out prior to being cast on the show as Peppermint. Peppermint was very open about her transness on the show, but it was rarely brought up aside from her “tragic backstory” moments to win the show an Emmy. Gottmik was the first trans man to be cast on the show in season 13 last year, who was very open about his own transition and place in the drag community, wearing runways that showed off top surgery scars on the main stage. This year also saw the return of Kylie Sonique Love, who came out as a trans woman at the end of season 2 of the show and returned to win All Stars 6 this summer as the first trans winner of the show, and this season has introduced Kornbread “The Snack” Jete and Kerri Colby, two trans women who are competing on this season. 

So certainly in later years, RPDR has started making strides towards being more inclusive and featuring trans artists on the show, but for a show that is meant to show a community that was literally built on the backs of trans women, it’s horribly behind and paints a very skewed image of drag as a whole. And it’s been, for years, not showcasing the trans people who even make up so much of the drag community across the world. So don’t go congratulating Drag Race for having a few trans women on season 14: they’re doing the bare minimum fourteen seasons late.

RPDR also had it’s first cis woman on season 3 of the UK version of Drag Race, also this year. Cis women have been drag queens forever and are a huge part of the drag scene, so RPDR’s refusal to include them and cast them on the show does not go unnoticed. Drag kings are also a huge part of drag as a whole, and not a Single drag king has ever been cast on drag race, despite the show often doing “masculine drag” challenges thatalmost feel like a mockery of drag kings.

Does this all mean we shouldn’t support Drag Race anymore? No, not entirely. While the show has tons of other issues besides these (their villainization of black queens, the heavy editing, the psychological abuse of the contestants, problematic challenges and queens, etc), it’s still a fun show and has been incredibly queer representation for years, as well as incredible for helping drag queens who would never have had the level of success and financial support the show has given them. But it’s important to be aware that there is SO MUCH MORE DRAG than just what appears on Drag Race. There are other shows that feature drag artists such as Dragula, Camp Wannakiki, La Mas Draga, and beyond that, there’s local drag in every city across the United States AND drag queens to create content online if you’re can’t find any local drag (Evah Destruction, Nemesis LaCroix, the Stream Queens network, etc.). So enjoy the season premiere of Drag Race, but don’t let your consumption of drag end there!

This week’s look is just a fun one to get hyped about the new season of RPDR cause yeah, I’m still excited for it.

Women in Drag

As an AFAB drag artist, one of the most prominent criticisms and questions I get is “How can women do drag?” And many people who are new to drag (or people who may have outdated views on drag) may wonder the same thing. Isn’t drag about female impersonation? Aren’t drag artists crossdressers? How can women be drag queens if they already have the hair and wear makeup? Where’s the transformation sis??

While mainstream media that promotes drag may have ignored women and afab people in drag forever (looking at you Drag Race), women have been drag artists and drag queens as long as drag has been around. This year we’ve started seeing women in drag getting recognition finally, even if it’s practically decades late. Both Drag Race UK and Dragula, the two most prominent drag-focused TV shows, featured cis women in their casts with Victoria Scone and Sigourney Beaver. Drag Race All-Stars also crowned Kylie Sonique Love the first trans woman winner of a Drag Race season.

But even as women in drag are getting more attention, they have to deal with far more misogyny than one would expect from a predominantly queer and supposedly accepting fanbase. So let’s set the record straight: 

  1. Women in drag are Not encroaching on LGBT spaces. Surprisingly, women can be gay too! Both Sigourney and Victoria have been open about being lesbians, and Venus Envy, another cis woman in drag, is open queer and asexual. BUT drag artists don’t have to be queer! Drag is for anyone!
  2. Drag is not just female impersonation or crossdressing. Women in drag are doing drag! Many of them pad, they all wear wigs, paint on completely new faces, and often do more to transform than cis men in drag (looking at you Joey Jay).
  3. The terms hyper-queen and bio queen are outdated and insulting! While these terms have been used to discuss women in drag in the past, most drag queens don’t associate or use them anymore. Women who are drag queens are drag queens. Same as any other queen!
  4. Women in drag are fucking incredible. They are some of the most innovative artists ever (I mean, look at Sigourney’s run on Dragula. COME ON!)

So support women in drag! And if you’re looking for some women in drag to support, consider this (non-exhaustive) list to start!

Creme Fatale (@cremefatale)

Sigourney Beaver (@sigourney.beaver)

Victoria Scone (@victoriascone)

Venus Envy (@venusenvydrag)

Femme and Fantasy


Queer people love fantasy. That blanket statement may not be entirely true, but I, as a queer person, love fantasy. There’s something so enticing about magic and inhuman creatures, the aesthetics of elves and dragons and sword fighting. There’s certainly something about escapism into fantasy worlds, for certain. Fantasy hasn’t always been the most queer-friendly genre, especially considering a lot of the classic, aggressively heterosexual examples that populated many of our childhoods. However, queerness in fantasy (and science fiction) dates back to Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” from 1928, which featured a queer relationship and a transgender character. But what really introduced queerness into the fantasy genre were Tolkien and “Lord of the Rings”. While not overtly queer, there’s certainly a lot of queer subtext in a lot of the books, particularly noticeable in Frodo and Sam’s relationship. 

Today, thankfully, the fantasy genre has become a lot more welcoming for queer stories and characters. The past decade has seen authors such as NK Jemisin, Nisi Shawl, Rebecca Roanhorse, Rivers Solomon, and many more who have stories including and centering on queer characters and relationships, and arguably more important, on non-white queer characters particularly.

For myself, my love of fantasy comes more from tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons and the shows surrounding it, such as Critical Role. While these were my reintroduction to the fantasy genre as a young adult, my interest has certainly grown from there. For a lot of my more fantastical or magical-inspired drag looks, I play into the fantasy elements that come with creatures from worlds like Tolkein’s or Gygax’s (the original creator of D&D). I draw a lot of inspiration from fantasy for a lot of what I create.


The look featured in this post is what I wore to the Michigan Renaissance Festival a few weeks back. My inspiration for it came from D&D, specifically the tiefling creatures who are half-demon spawns. There’s a certain safety I find in painting myself to look a ridiculous color or simply not even look human, because even if I play into being a more femme version of myself, I don’t have to be under the constraints of being something cis or “normal”. Walking around the Renaissance Festival, where many people were dressed up in similar, bizarre costumes like mine, my drag felt like it fit right in with the scene. 

What is Drag??

In starting this new weekly piece for arts, ink, I am aware that this topic may not appeal to everyone. It also may not be something that everyone even knows anything about– or perhaps, if you do know what the word “drag” refers to, perhaps its only from Rupaul’s Drag Race or a class on men dressing as women for Shakespeare. So, to properly discuss drag and the culture and world surrounding it, we first need to define drag.

So: what is Drag?

Drag is not dressing as a different gender. It is not putting on makeup, or gluing down your eyebrows. Doing drag does not make you trans. It is not something that can only be done by men. 

Drag is an art.

That’s it. That’s the definition. More specifically, it is a visual and performance art inherently (but not necessarily) linked to queerness and often including makeup, hair, outfits, and live (or digital, in the pandemic age) performance. There are different subsets of drag, such as drag queens, kings, and things. Not all drag queens are men dressed as women, some are cis women, or trans women, or nonbinary AFAB and AMAB people. Same goes for kings, and things don’t really have much of a gender to even be connected to in the first place. For someone to be a drag queen or king or thing or simply a drag artist, they simply have to say “I’m a drag queen. This is my drag.” And that’s it! All forms of drag, no matter what they are or in what capacity they appear in, are valid. 

Not all of them are good, but hey. We all did bad drag at some point. How else are we supposed to become good drag artists?


For this weekly column, you’ll mainly be following drag done by one specific artist: me, Pinball McQueen (see image above). The name is a pun on a Pinball Machine (try saying it out loud). I consider myself a drag nuisance (rather than a king or queen) and I often straddle the line of horror, clown, and theatre kid. I’ve been doing drag for about a year now, changing as time goes on, and creating digital performances and looks for a variety of different shows online. 

You will not be stuck with me for the entire duration of this column. I will reference, include photos of, and talk about other drag artists that you may or may not know throughout the course of this blog. 

This first week, as we focus on defining drag and introducing my drag, I’ve chosen the featured image for the week to be one of my favorite looks from last year. There’s not as much as a clear story or reference I can add to this image other than the fact that it was one of my favorites I’ve ever done. Every week I’ll focus on a more specific topic within my drag or queer culture, such as horror and queerness, dungeons and dragons / fantasy tropes, the met gala, trans representation in theatre… You get the gist. 

Hopefully, this introduction and opening weren’t too boring– and I promise next week will pick up a lot more. Until then, Pin out!

Fashion a la Polar Vortex

I feel like if I were to remember one thing about 2014 it wouldn’t be me finishing my thesis (GODDESS PLEASE LET ME), graduating, travelling, whatever . . . it would be surviving not only the first polar vortex but the second one.

The first day since ‘78 that the University of Michigan has cancelled classes. We all know this but BOOM. This is/was exciting. I had a four day weekend. I went out on a Monday.

Besides these obvious points, however, there are some other things that I cannot get out of my mind: snow/cold/chill protective outfits. In short, people’s clothing is heinous. I am (not) some queen heckling on the side of the road, but people have gone absolutely off the cliff.

1. It is -40 degrees.
I have been sick for months, and just got sick again. I’m feeling better but I know I need to cover my mouth. I have maroon skinny jeans on, a maroon winter coat with fake fur, I have a maroon baseball cap on with accompanying scarf and red headphones-as-ear-muffs. I have layers of glasses to protect my eyes and gloves on gloves on gloves. And then someone jogs by me in a spandex body suit and that’s it. And then someone saunters back from the gym in shorts. And then I see someone model walk with their coat WIDE OPEN as they cross the street. I don’t know who ya’ll are but I’m judging you. You might feel like you can stand the cold but your frozen flesh-skin-ice and I think differently. I try so hard not to judge or shame people for what they do or do not wear (because really why should I) BUT ITS SO DAMN COLD I GET COLDER JUST LOOKING AT YOU.

2. It is 30 degrees.
I’m healthy and have stopped putting a scarf over my face, and so people now walk on the same side of the road as me and don’t point as I walk down the sidewalk at them (apparently I look intimidating or eccentric as all get out). I have a reasonable amount of clothing on (basically the same thing as the -40 degree weather but this time I’m less hunched over and I might be singing/breathing the cool air in). And then someone walks by in a 7-layer black body suit and a yellow neon hat pulled OVER THEIR EYES. Hello?

3. It is 0 degrees.
It’s 11:30 at night and I leave my coat in the car; I have just arrived in Ypsi for the drag show. I start to run down the road at full speed in my skinny jeans, polka-dot top, necklace flying up and hitting my face, both hands on the hair to protect it from frizzing out . . . and then I slip. I’m screaming now, full volume, as onlookers, wrapped up in 15 layers, point at the disheveled queer sliding his way into the bar. We all can’t be winners.

The Polar Vortex has come and gone and come again. Each time we are surprised and we cope differently. But one thing remains constant: no one knows how to dress when its negative-you’re-going-to-die-temperature. And that is a subtle art of surviving in Michigan. Because at least if you’re frozen, you can still be one hot mess.

I am a professional.

I came to werq.

Cat eyes? Check. Heels? Check. Hair did? Check. Necklace? Check. Lipstick? Check. Bitch face? Check. Now I sat that Catwalk Extravaganza like I had got the day on to perform. Like I had planned the song, the mood, the scene. But baby that is next year’s tea.

There are a few things you learn at a drag show that you cannot learn anywhere else.

1) How to put it all out on the line: Wigs fly, nips slip, heels break, but you know what? That’s not the point. These ladies strut and vogue and break their ass till it can’t break no more. There is an air of confidence in whatever they do that I have not found anywhere else. There is fierceness in one twitch of the eye all the way done to the point of the toe. And I live and die for that one performance that takes your breath away.

2) How to fail in the right way: Lines get forgotten but faces never do. As long as she strikes a pose, no matter the length, the werq is being done. Every move counts and if things don’t work—and sometimes they don’t—who care? She still has the stage, she still has the audience, she still has the music. Just being with hundreds of people that support her is amazing. Time isn’t over until . . . it never stops. The curtain never falls. Because when it falls she’s done.

3) How to walk like a straight man: There is nothing more ridiculous than the girl that does not do. Her shoulders slump, her legs quake, and all of a sudden I feel like I’m watching hundreds of straight men walk around campus (the horror!). My average party trick is failing to walk in the straight way, honey, but it comes and it goes but it is at the drag show. It . . . can werq too. As long as you own it—success, failure, straight, camp, queen, diva. Plus, it allows for some great social commentary and analysis. The show is a show is show is a performance is theory is everything.

4) How to choose the right drag song: It. is. an. art. form. Science? It can’t be too fast because mmhmm legs do not gyrate well in 7-inch platform stilettos. No they don’t. Can’t be too slow, unless it’s meant to, because the vibrato jaw has to be practiced, there is no winging it ( . . . there’s tape for that . . . ). It can’t be too new because girl is not at Necto and she is definitely not country unless it’s Dolly and she can read poetry, she can just pose, she can dance in silence, but. There’s always one song where you wish you could just turn back time.

Drag shows at the U happen infrequently (cough cough @ the Catwalk Extravaganza, only?). This is a place for everyone. Inclusivity is where it’s at. Children, adults, students, teachers, the whole gamut shows up because entertainment happens at a drag show. It is a time and place to be ridiculous and fabulous and not give a care. Plus, there is some great dancing, lip-syncing, and (t)werqing that is not at the clubs nor the classroom nor the diag.

This is my type of cultural event. These are my people. This is it.