Drag queen

Author: Wikipedia. Link to original: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drag_queen (English).

Translations of this material:

into Russian: Драг-квин. 9% translated in draft.
Submitted for translation by katrina 27.02.2011


Drag queen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A drag queen is usually a man who dresses, and usually acts, like a caricature woman often for the purpose of entertaining or performing. There are many kinds of drag artists and they vary greatly, from professionals who have starred in movies to people who just try it once. Drag queens also vary by class and culture and can vary even within the same city. Although many drag queens are presumed to be gay men or transgender people, there are drag artists of all genders and sexualities who do drag for various reasons.

Generally, drag queens dress in a female gender role, often exaggerating certain characteristics (such as make-up and eyelashes) for comic, dramatic or satirical effect. Other drag performers include drag kings, who are women who perform in male roles, faux queens, who are women who dress in an exaggerated style to emulate drag queens and faux kings, who are men who dress to impersonate drag kings.

The term drag queen usually refers to people who dress in drag for the purpose of performing, whether singing or lip-synching, dancing, participating in events such as gay pride parades, drag pageants, or at venues such as cabarets and discotheques. In the United Kingdom, alongside traditional drag work such as shows and performances, many drag queens engage in 'mix-and-mingle' or hosting work at night clubs or at private parties/events. Drag is a part of Western gay culture; it is often noted that the Stonewall riots on June 27, 1969 in New York City were inspired and led by drag queens, and, in part for this reason, drag queens remain a tradition at gay pride events. Prominent drag queens in the gay community of a city often serve as official or unofficial spokespersons, hosts or emcees, fund-raisers, chroniclers and community leaders.


* 1 Terminology

* 2 Drag and transvestism

* 3 Drag queen names

* 4 Drag shows and venues

* 5 In films

* 6 In music

* 7 Genres

* 8 Societal reception

* 9 See also

* 10 References

* 11 External links


Drag queens at São Paulo, Brazil's Gay Pride, circa 2004, photo:Rose Brasil.

The etymology of the term "drag" is disputed. It was used in reference to transvestites at least as early as the 18th century, owing to the tendency of their skirts to drag on the ground.[citation needed] The term drag queen occurred in Polari, a subset of English slang that was popular in some gay communities in the early part of the 20th century. A folk etymology whose acronym basis reveals the late 20th-century bias, would make "drag" an abbreviation of "dressed as a girl" in description of male transvestism. Queen may refer to the trait of affected royalty found in many drag characters. It is also related to the archaic word "quean" which was used as a label both for promiscuous women and gay men (see Oxford English Dictionary definition number 3 for "queen").

Another term for a drag queen female impersonator, is still used—though it is often regarded as inaccurate, because many contemporary drag performers are not attempting to pass as women. Female impersonation, has been and continues to be illegal in some places, which inspired the drag queen José Sarria to hand out labels to his friends reading "I am a boy," so he could not be accused of female impersonation.[1] American drag queen RuPaul once said "I do not impersonate females! How many women do you know who wear seven-inch heels, four-foot wigs, and skintight dresses?" He also said, "I don't dress like a woman; I dress like a drag queen!". Celebrity drag couple "The Darling Bears" go so far as to sport full beards for their performances. Going in drag while retaining clearly masculine features is referred to as skag drag. Some performers draw the distinction that a female impersonator seeks to emulate a specific female celebrity, while a drag queen only seeks to create a distinctive feminine persona of his or her own.

La Palma drag queen

There are also performers who prefer to be called "gender illusionists" who do blur the line between transgender and drag queen. Generally transgender performers do not consider themselves to be drag queens and drag queens don't consider themselves to be illusionists, but, as with everything, there are exceptions. Often these distinctions are more generational as laws and acceptance of individuality change and grow.

Many drag queens prefer to be referred to as "she" while in drag and desire to stay completely in character. Some performers object to being referred to as "he" or by their legal name while in character. Drag performer RuPaul is an exception, as he seems to be completely ambivalent to which pronoun is used to refer to him. In his words, "You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don't care!"[2]

Drag and transvestism

Drag queens Luc D'Arcy and Jerry Cyr and friend at Montreal's 2003 Divers/Cité pride parade.

Most drag queens perform for personal fulfillment as a hobby, a profession, or an art form; as a way to be in the spotlight; or as a road to local or wider fame. Historically and currently, there have been and are a significant number of heterosexual men, generally actors, who perform in drag. There are also transgender or transsexual people, as well as straight women, who perform as drag queens.

Drag queens are sometimes called transvestites, although that term also has many other connotations than the term "drag queen". "Drag queen" usually connotes cross-dressing for the purposes of entertainment or performance without necessarily aiming to pass as female. It is not generally used to describe those persons who cross-dress for the fulfillment of transvestic fetishes alone, or whose cross-dressing is primarily part of a private sexual activity or identity. As for those whose motivation is not primarily sexual, and who may socialise cross-dressed, they tend not to adopt the typical over-the-top drag queen look.

Drag queen names

Miss Understood, who has appeared in several films and on television

There tend to be three types of drag names: The first are satirical names that play on words, such as Miss Understood, Peaches Christ, and Lypsinka.

The second type are names that trend toward glamour and extravagance, such as Dame Edna Everage, Chi Chi LaRue, Margo Howard-Howard, Betty "Legs" Diamond and The Lady Chablis. This is the type used by the character Albin in the movie and musical La Cage Aux Folles for his drag persona, "Miss ZaZa Napoli".

The third type is considered simpler but can have an in-depth backstory, cultural or geographical significance or simply be a feminine form of their "boy" name. Often a drag queen will pick a name or be given one by a friend or "drag mother" as a one-time occasion only to discover they like performing and go on to use a less-than ideal name for years. Drag queens do change names as well even using two or more concurrently for various reasons. Some examples of simpler names include Verka Serduchka, Miss Coco Peru, Shequida, Rikki Reeves, Betty Butterfield and Divine.

Drag shows and venues

A drag show is an entertainment consisting of a variety of songs, monologues or skits featuring either single performers or groups of performers in drag meant to entertain an audience. They range from amateur performances at small bars to elaborately staged theatrical presentations. Many drag shows feature performers singing or lip-synching to songs while performing a pre-planned pantomime, or dancing. The performers often don elaborate costumes and makeup, and sometimes dress to imitate various famous female singers or personalities. And some events are centered around drag, such as Southern Decadence where the majority of festivities are led by the Grand Marshals, who are traditionally drag queens.[3]

In films

* 1953 – Glen or Glenda, one of the most famous cult classics of Ed Wood, starring himself as Glen and Glenda.

* 1967 - Thoroughly Modern Millie, an American musical starring Julie Andrews, James Fox, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Channing, John Gavin, and Beatrice Lillie, notable where Fox's character dresses in drag in order to find out what happened to Tyler-Moore's character.

* 1979 – The Rose starring Bette Midler, notable for a scene in which Midler's character Mary Rose Foster performs a duet on stage in a drag club with a drag queen (played by Kenny Sacha) who is impersonating Midler as Foster.

* 1988 – Hairspray starring Divine

* 1988 – Torch Song Trilogy starring Harvey Fierstein, Anne Bancroft and Matthew Broderick

* 1990 – Paris Is Burning a documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. It chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the gay and transgender community involved in it.

* 1991 – Vegas in Space starring Doris Fish, Miss X, Ginger Quest, and introducing 'Tippi'

* 1994 – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert starring Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, and Guy Pearce

* 1995 – To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo (cameo by RuPaul), "Victor Victoria" starring Julie Andrews

* 1996 – The Birdcage starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest

* 1998 – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil starring John Cusack, Kevin Spacey and starring as herself Lady Chablis

* 2001 – Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring John Cameron Mitchell

* 2003 – Girls Will Be Girls directed by Richard Day, starring Miss Coco Peru (Clinton Leupp), Evie Harris (Jack Plotnick), and Varla Jean Merman (Jeffery Roberson).

* 2004 – Connie and Carla starring Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, and David Duchovny

* 2005 – Kinky Boots starring Joel Edgerton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sarah-Jane Potts, and Nick Frost

* 2005 – Rent

* 2006 – The Curiosity of Chance starring Tad Hilgenbrink and Brett Chukerman

* 2007 – A Shade Before Pink features cross dressing, drag queens and gender questioning. Starring Cary Woodworth and Rhoda Jordan, guest appearance by Jackie Beat.

* 2007 – St. Trinian's starring Rupert Everett as Camilla Fritton, the headmistress of the school.

* 2008 – Slingbacks and Syrup[4][5][6][7] a documentary about the House of LeMay that held its world premiere at the Vermont International Film Festival.

* 2010 – Yazima Beauty Salon the Movie featuring drag comedy/dance group Yazima Beauty Salon

In music

* "Lola" by The Kinks

* "Dude Looks Like a Lady" by Aerosmith

* "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga

* "Walk on The Wild Side" by Lou Reed


* High camp drag queens employ a drag aesthetic based on clown-like values like exaggeration, satire, and ribaldry. Pandora Boxx, Divine, Miss Understood, Peaches Christ, Hedda Lettuce, Jolene Sugarbaker and Rye Seronie can be considered examples of camp queens.

* Some drag queens exaggerate in the dimension of elegance and fashion, employing elaborate jewelry and gowns. The Lady Chablis, who can be seen in the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is an example of this type of performer. Many of these drag queens impersonate specific actresses and pop divas such as Britney Spears, Cher, Madonna, Gilla, Charo, Connie Francis, Donna Summer, Céline Dion, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle, Shirley Bassey, Janet Jackson, Spice Girls, Lady Gaga and others, emulating their high-fashion costuming and jewelry. Drag artist John Epperson has used the persona Lypsinka as a caricature of Joan Crawford, including in his play The Passion of the Crawford.[8]

* Some drag queens primarily perform in pageants, hence the term pageant queen. Pageant queens gear their act toward winning titles and prizes in various contests and pageant systems. Some of these have grand prizes that rival those of pageants such as Miss America; see drag pageantry. These drag queens can be known nationally and many work professionally year-round producing and hosting shows that specialize in drag and celebrity illusionists.

* Post-modernist drag queens; an example would be The Divine David, now appearing as David Hoyle, who regularly performed in London during the 1990s in clubs such as Duckie, in South London. He used an extreme form of presentation, with make-up that was applied roughly and then smeared across his face. His act was designed to make the audience feel extremely uncomfortable about any preconceived ideas of acceptable subject matter for a drag queen to tackle. One show included cutting up a pig's head and throwing the pieces into the audience. As such, the act bore close similarities to performance art of the 1970s. Vaginal Davis, in Los Angeles, has performed as a drag queen for many years; her genderfuck performances, often mixing male and female signifiers (also called "sloppy drag"), and her many appearances in performance art venues since the 1980s attest to her status as a performance artist. Like RuPaul, Davis is indifferent to whether addressed as "he" or "she."

Societal reception

Drag has come to be a celebrated aspect of modern gay life. Many gay bars and clubs around the world hold drag shows as special parties. Several "International Drag Day" holidays have been started over the years to promote the shows. Typically, in the U.S. drag is celebrated in early March. This year, "Drag Day" falls on March 6.

However, within the larger lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) communities drag queens are sometimes criticized for their participation in pride parades and other public events, believing that this projects a limited and harmful image of gay people and impedes a broader social acceptance. In more recent years drag queens have been prominently featured at these same events. A common criticism of drag queens is that they promote harmful stereotypes of women, comparable to blackface portrayal of African-Americans by white performers that was popular in the early 20th century. Drag queens, however, have wildly varying styles and ideologies so applying this to all practitioners is impractical.

Drag queens are sometimes criticized by members of the transgender community—especially, but not exclusively, by many transwomen—because of fears that they themselves may be stereotyped as drag queens. Canadian transgender activist Star Maris wrote a song entitled "I'm Not A Fucking Drag Queen" which expresses this viewpoint. The song was featured in the film Better Than Chocolate, performed by a male-to-female transsexual on stage at a gay club. The transsexual character, played by Peter Outerbridge, struggles throughout the movie to fit in with cisgender (non-transgender) women, and partially performs the song as an act of cathartic defiance and self-empowerment. Other transwomen reject those fears in the broader context that drag queens, many of whom are gender-variant and sexuality minorities, are more of an ally than a threat.

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