Drag Becomes Mainstream
Say goodbye to niche, and say hello to over-saturation and world domination.
The popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race increased exponentially after its forth iteration, thanks to social media, aggressive “branding” and merchandising by former cast members, fan full-service, hyper-individualism, inroads made by LGBT+ causes, and highly enterprising drag event promoters. With the huge success of RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race Season 2, and the show’s decision to move to VH1 (a major network with a bigger audience), coupled with multiple prestigious awards won by the show – including RuPaul’s multiple Emmy wins – further cements the show’s viability and status as a rising behemoth.
In addition to this success, 113 former cast members (and growing) are making waves in their respective careers — closing deals with majors brands in fashion, music, entertainment and beauty industries — or having sold out shows worldwide, most notably Miss Fame, Carmen Carrera, Bianca Del Rio, Kelly Mantle, Trixie Mattel, Katya Zamolodchikova, Bob the Drag Queen, Raven, Delta Work, Shangela, Alyssa Edwards, and Laganja Estranja, just to name a few. The “noise” the cast members put out in public are a never-ending advertisement for the show, and with drag in general.
It takes ten years to establish any business.
Rumblings about the great news today, as published by Variety.com, has been going on for a while. RuPaul has mentioned about it in his podcast with Michelle Visage, “What’s The Tee?” or at some other venue or press interview. The press announcements today didn’t came as a surprise but it’s thrilling that it’s finally official.
Film and Syndication
Two films featuring Drag Race cast members, in a lead or supporting role, has been released in the past couple of years, “Hurricane Bianca” (2016) — its’ sequel is already in post production – and “Cherry Pop” (2017). Drag films these days are still a niche. They rarely get wide theatrical release.
“World of Wonder, which produces the acclaimed series “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” has announced that they are developing a comedy feature film.” Titled “Drag Queens on a Plane,” the film would star RuPaul. On the maiden voyage of Glamazonian Airways, RuPaul has packed the flight with drag’s finest. But some evil trolls who don’t believe in loving yourself are on board and will do their damnedest to bring the plane down.”—Joe Otterson/Variety
Perhaps the RuPaul “biography” film (loosely based), as hinted in the podcast, will be announced at a later date, unless this is it.
With Drag Race syndicated, it opens up the door for professional drag talents all over the world to compete for the title in their own country or region. Drag Race Thailand” just very recently held its cast press conference for season one, and is scheduled to premiere on February 15 on LINE TV. Casting Call for its’ second season is already set for February 2.
It’s the second international version of Drag Race after “Drag Race UK.” But unlike the former, it doesn’t seem like, based on the press release, that RuPaul will make an appearance. Although it’s too soon to tell. RuPaul was guest judge in the latter’s finale. Drag Race in other countries are already in the works or is being shopped around to networks. The Thailand version will either convince those on the fence or make them notice.
With the exception of drag events in a nightclub or theater, drag conventions are the biggest wholesale opportunity for fans to meet their favorite Drag Race cast and meet other like-minded people in just a few days.
Ever since RuPaul’s DragCon proved in 2015 that a convention with cast members (and TV personalities who appeared on the show) serving as corner stone is viable, other drag conventions from all over started to happen. If only to cater to growing drag fans market not reached by RuPaul’s DragCon. Up until 2017, DragCon was only held in Los Angeles.
RuPaul’s DragCon recently was held, for the first time, in New York city on September last year. Austin International Drag Fest was founded in 2014, a year ahead of RuPaul’s DragCon. Dragapalooza, which is more about performances, held its first event in 2016. And in the international arena, Drag World UK was established in November 2016 and held its first convention in 2017. These events were created to cater to a growing demand from fans to meet drag personalities, particularly those who previously appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
All these drag-themed conventions rely on the appearance of former Drag Race cast members to pull in attendees. RuPaul only participates in DragCon. But so far all these conventions have been successful, and growing!
RuPaul’s DragCon will return to Los Angeles Convention Centre in May 2018 for three days instead of two.
But Wait, There’s More!
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10 is anticipated to air right after the conclusion of RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race Season 3, which is scheduled to premiere on January 25.
With talents, artists, services and businesses cashing in on Drag Race and drag, in one way or another, World of Wonder and RuPaul has effectively created a new drag industry microcosm.
Thanks to social media and drag tutorials created by established drag talents, young folks are able to dabble in drag and master it in a short period of time. Producing looks that are polished off the bat. But it’s not just a handful of newcomers, it’s slowly becoming an avalanche. The Holy Grail is still making it far (and win if possible) on Drag Race. It’s still the ultimate Golden ticket. With Drag Race syndicated that may change too.
Remember “American Idol”? It was amazing and groundbreaking, then it tapered off after season six and eventually got canceled. With Drag Race, there is so much to explore in the art form. It’s not strictly subject to the same limitations as singing – lyrics, notes, and vocalization. Drag can go as far as the talent’s imagination takes them. Drag Race Achilles’ Heels will unlikely be creativity, but it may be over-saturation, overcrowding, or cultural shift.
Drag may have become mainstream, and fan base is expanding. But just like the internet cafés during the dot-com boom, where establishments were popping up like mushrooms, but unfortunately there weren’t enough clients to sustain them all. Fortunately, for professional drag entertainers (as far as Drag Race cast are concerned) the world is still hugely an untapped market … for now.