RuPaul’s All-Star Drag Race 2012

RuPaul’s All Star Drag Race

I am only half alive when RuPaul isn’t on the air. I have barely survived over the past few months, eating flavorless food and breathing stale air.

But all that changed on Monday night.

Ru’s back, bitches!

This season is different: Ru has brought back twelve of the top queens from the past seasons. We have Nina Flowers, and Pandora Boxx, and Shannel! We have Yara Sofia, and Manila Luzon, and Latrice Royale!

Naturally I have my favorites. I love Manila (though I notice many of the queens on the show aren’t crazy about her; I suspect she’s pretty high-intensity in person). And Chad Michaels is a consummate professional, and I never before realized how very beautiful (both as a man and as a woman) Shannel is. And Nina Flowers is as funny and energetic and engaging as ever, and Latrice is herself (as always).

I’m not a drag queen myself; I have no impulse to dress as a woman. (I only wish I had that much fashion sense.) But I love the energy, and commitment, and bravery that the queens on the show have. I love their humor. I actually think I learn a little something about color and design when I watch them put their outfits together. So I suppose this counts as educational television too.

Also, I think there’s a deeper subtext here, about performance as a natural human act. Don’t we all construct characters and perform them for other people? Don’t you portray one person on the job and another at home? Don’t you act differently with your family than you do with your friends?

I thought so. Me too.

So: if you’re going to create yourself as a character, make yourself a memorable character, or a beautiful character. Or (preferably) both.

There’s a moment in the Mahabharata when Yudisthira, a prince in exile, is sent into exile with his four brothers. By the terms of a wager they’ve made (and lost), they must spend a year in hiding. Yudisthira asks his father, the god Dharma, what to do. And Dharma says: “Let your disguise be guided by your most secret desire.”

So Yudisthira, a gambler, becomes a teacher of gambling. His brother Bhima, a glutton, becomes a cook.

And their brother Arjuna, the greatest and most powerful warrior in India, becomes a woman.

And he goes on, after exile, to win the war.

You go, girl!

RuPaul’s “Untucked”


You know by now how absorbed I am by every new season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”  We are getting very close to the end of Season Four, and have our final four drag queens (although, in a not-so-surprise twist, they’re bringing back an eliminated contestant next week, just to extend our agony.  And it had better not be Kenya Michaels.)



Everyone has a favorite reality show / competition; this is mine. Partner doesn’t share my fascination with Ru and the goils (though I’ve caught him watching the show once or twice).  So I have to gossip about it with the only person in my office who’s also a RuManiac: my friend Tab.  Tab is about twenty-five years younger than me, and much more in touch with the modern gay world (he just made a sweep of Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, and gave me a critique of the gay / social scene in each city).  We swoon and flutter over every week’s drama: Sharon NeedlesPhi Phi O’HaraLatrice Royale! Chad Michaels! DiDa Ritz! “I like Latrice,” I said the other day.  “I can see her winning.”



Tab looked at me very severely.  “Latrice will not win,” he said definitively.  He’s probably right.  It’s gonna be a gunfight between Sharon and Phi Phi at the end, with Chad as the spoiler. 



But every week’s episode of “Drag Race” has its own outtakes reel, shown immediately afterward: a half-hour show called “Untucked.”  It’s a montage of backstage gossip between the contestants, with a lot more personal revelations and a lot less makeup and sequins.  Tab told me that he thinks “Untucked” is more interesting than “Drag Race,” and I have to admit that I’ve begun to fall under its spell.



This week’s “Untucked” was terrific.  We were down to five drag queens.  One – Phi Phi – is really no one’s friend.  The others – Dida, Latrice, Sharon, and Chad – were sharing stories about being bullied and beaten up in school.  Dida was surprised with a video of her mother wishing her luck, which moved her to tears.  Chad said that the bullies who’d made her school life hell were now trying to reconnect with her on Facebook (I’ve had the same experience), and that she had no interest in reconnecting with them.  Latrice said that she’d been approached in the same way, but that he’d been reminded that there had been some good times in school too, and that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.



It was a profoundly human conversation.



Growing up gay is tough, believe me, I know, I was there.  But most of us, gay or straight, were mocked and bullied as kids.  It’s therapeutic to hear people talk about it – the good and the bad – and think about our own situations, and try to relate.



Maybe Tab is right.  Maybe the gowns and makeup and heels on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are the less important things.  Maybe the heart-to-heart personal stuff on “Untucked” is actually more vital.



(But the gowns and shoes and makeup are fun too.)



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