The Inspiration of Drag

Through the viewing of the documentary Paris is Burning, I began to understand the context and foundation of what we see drag as today. My only experience with drag had been through RuPaul’s Drag Race around my middle school years. It was not until I had seen the Drag Show that Haven hosts each semester, that I experienced Drag in person. I never understood how much drag related to Muñoz’s ideas of the stage as an escape. After seeing how the people featured in Paris Is Burning would treat the Balls as an escape allowed me to understand drag in a different perspective. Pepper LaBeija said, “When I first started going to balls it was all about drag queens who were interested in looking like Las Vegas showgirls, back pieces, tail pieces, feathers, beads and all that… it started coming down to just wanting to look like a gorgeous movie star like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor. And now they’re went from that to trying to look like models; like Iman and Christie Brinkley and Maud Adams and all those children.” This statement relates to the idea that partaking in the Balls helped make the disadvantaged participants feel like they were part of to social elite. A specific thing said in the movie that I remember was that the young people of color would feel like white executives by wearing fancy looking, upper-class clothing. I never had thought of drag outside of the context of pure performance. I didn’t see it as an encouraging place where anyone could be what they wanted to be. Drag used to be something that confused me, but after seeing a Drag Show for myself and watching Paris is Burning I understand that Drag holds an important place for those who feel like they cannot represent who they really want to be outside of a Ball, or the stage itself.

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2 thoughts on “The Inspiration of Drag

  1. I had the same reaction as you during the white executive category during Paris is Burning. I always thought of drag as a performance, but Paris is Burning also made me aware that drag is a safe place. People can be anyone they desire to be during the show/Ball and everyone in that room is there to watch their art. I’ve come to re-understand drag as not only a performance for whatever night, but as an ongoing creative outlet where one can evolve, it’s a creative evolution that the person goes through and I think through that creativity, individuals who do drag, like in Paris is Burning, find their utopia.

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  2. I have never seen an Drag shows either, but the movie “Paris is Burning” also served as an eye opener to me and gave me a little insight in this world. This documentary showed us how these people in this community used these “Balls” to escape, which may have served as their Utopias. They had a chance to feel famous and elite and luxurious for the time being, but when they left they were a queer colored person out in a big city. This minority in the big city found a community where they were accepted and found families within each other. It is incredible to see the “then and now” with drag shows. In this film, they did the shows within their own communities and away from the public, but now its common to go to a drag show and is seen as an “elite outing” if someone goes out into the city to see one of these shows!

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