The Melanin Dynasty

It’s impossible to talk about modern mainstream drag and Rupaul’s Drag Race without looking at the iconic Melanin Dynasty, the name for the slate of Drag Race winners since season 11 that are all queens of color. Let’s do a quick Drag Race history lesson! (no, I won’t say “herstory” lesson. I think that’s stupid.)

Season 11 saw the crowning of winner Yvie Oddly, a surprise underdog with one challenge win (though she deserved more) to frontrunner Brooke Lynn Hytes’ four wins. Yvie and Brooke Lynn’s finale lip-sync to Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” was iconic, and showed exactly how deserving of the win Yvie was. Seriously, her reveal of the stoned head on the back of her own head gave me chills! Yvie has since released a rap album during her reign and it highkey slaps.

Following Yvie’s win was All Stars 4, which technically saw a tie of winners. But we chose to actively ignore Trinity “The Tuck” Taylor’s win, cause she’s been in hot water since then (a story for another day). Instead, we look at the other incredibly deserving winner, Monet X Change, a former contestant from season 10. Monet was a powerhouse on her season and All Stars, and has since remained a huge name in the Drag Race-sphere, hosting the popular podcast “Sibling Rivalry” with season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen, as well as hosting the official recap show for Drag Race for the current season.

Season 12 saw the crowning of Jaida Essence Hall, a beautiful pageant queen who showed she was one of the funniest members of the cast that season. Jaida’s reign was one of the shortest and took place during a pandemic, which is pretty awful for her, but she’s made the most of it with modeling, hosting the Halloween show for Drag Race, and looking stunning overall. Season 12 also saw the first-ever Black winner AND Miss Congeniality duo, with Jaida and Heidi N Closet.

Following Jaida’s crowning was All Stars 5, which many consider just a season for Shea Coulee to finally get her crown. Shea was a frontrunner and fan-favorite back on season 9, losing out in the final lip sync battle to eventual winner Sasha Velour in one of the most iconic Drag Race moments ever, (which included a wig pouring rose petals out of it). Shea was the clear winner of All Stars 5, from the moment she walked in and announced “I’m blaaaack!” She absolutely dominated, 

Season 13 crowned Symone, who was the obvious frontrunner and winner the entire season and is currently our reigning queen. Symone brought everything to her season, she was an obvious winner from the moment she walked through the werkroom doors. She brought fashion like no one had seen before on the show, bringing Black culture and iconic references with every look that made her always stand out. Season 13 also saw another winner and Miss Congeniality duo with Symone being paired alongside Lala Ri.

Armed With Style and a Message, Symone Earned Her 'Drag Race' Win | Vogue

So why go through this history of the past five~ish years of Drag Race? Drag Race and drag in general often is full of racist practices, especially in booking and producing shows. Even though drag culture and ballroom culture, which a lot of drag comes from, were created by Black people, especially Black trans women. And while the show is imperfect, we can appreciate the incredibly talented winners of the past few seasons, and the current ruling Melanin Dynasty.

What “Makes Up” A Drag Queen

Makeup and I have a very strange relationship. I’ve gone through phases of wearing a full face, wearing no makeup, nothing but red eyeshadow, winged eyeliner, funky colorful eyeliner… you get the gist. I started experimenting with drag makeup two years ago, and back then everything on my face mainly came from drug stores. And to be totally fair, most of what I use two years into my drag career still comes from CVS and Target, since a lot of it is cheap and totally works! So I’m gonna break down the makeup I use on the regular for my drag, and my favorite brands to buy from!

The look I’m using utilizes most of the makeup I use and pretty much all of my favorite brands! As seen above, it’s a green medley artistry look with funky eyeliner shapes, glitter and sparkles, and my distinct black lip and lack of brows.

Like most drag queens, I use Elmer’s disappearing glue sticks to glue down my eyebrows. Surprisngly, those kindergarten glue sticks are still the best for glueing brows! I use elf Hydrating Face Primer and cover my brows with The Crayon Case concealer in the lightest shade, as well as my foundation in Wet n Wild photofocus Stick Foundation and Krylon Paint Stick in “TV White”, a staple of many drag queens. My eyeliner is NYX’s Epic Wear eyeliner, and I use Kim Chi Chic Beauty’s The Most Conealer in shade “White” to create my eye crease. And then the fun stuff:

The greens and yellows here are part of the Mango Tango and Virgin Mojito palettes from Kim Chi Chic Beauty. The glitter on my lips and nose is from Midas Cosmetics in shades “Soul” and “Mermaid”. All the eyeliner detailing is either NYX or Glisten Cosmetics, and the black facepaint on my neck is from the Amythest Painting Palette. My go-to black lip is a mixture of NYX Epic Ink eyeliner and Sephora black liquid lipstick.

Besides my drug store basics, I try to mostly shop from queer-owned, black-owned, or other small businesses for most of my makeup. The Crayon Case is an amazing black-owned beauty brand themed around school supplies, Midas Cosmetics is a afro-latina-owned indie brand that offers cruelty-free and vegan glitters and eyeshadows, and Beauty Bakerie (which I didn’t use for this look) is a black-owned makeup brand themed around, you guessed it, a bakery! My current go-to brand is Kim Chi Chic Cosmetics, created and owned by Kim Chi, an Asian drag queen who’s makeup artistry is To Die For! Her brand has adorable themeing with teddy bear palettes, drink-themed eyeshadow palettes, adorable heart-shaped blushes and highlights… literally the cutest brand. So if you’ve learned anything from this article, it’s that Pinball is Obsessed with KCC Beauty and that cheap makeup doesn’t have to be bad makeup!!



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)