Revived dragshow is showcasing diversity
Since the creation of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2009, drag, the art of men dressing as women and performing variety shows, has gained a large following and prominent place in pop culture. The specific type of drag that has become mainstream via television, that of lip-syncing-for-your-life and over-the-top drama, tends to differ from a purer performance. Now, in a return to the art form’s roots, Wigstock, a drag show that originated in the 80s but died off in the early 2000s, has been resurrected.
A one-day drag extravaganza, Wigstock takes place in New York City and first came about, according to an article in the New York Times, when an inebriated group of queens found themselves spontaneously performing for the homeless. Eventually, it became a yearly ritual.
The revival is being held in an area of Manhattan known as Pier 17, which is having its own sort of revival and rebranding that began earlier this summer. Neil Patrick Harris and Lady Bunny are producing the event, which will feature Drag Race alumni including Alaska Thunderfuck, Willam Belli, Bob the Drag Queen, and Bianca Del Rio. Harris himself has alluded to a possible performance during the show, but nothing is confirmed.
Much of the lineup features lesser-known queens who have not appeared on Drag Race though. Bunny, who was roommates with RuPaul before both found fame, disagrees with much of the stigma Drag Race has created around its art form.
“There is practically a uniform now,” she said in an interview with Mic in February of this year, “where it’s like your nose has to have the hieroglyphics painted on it to make it look as small as possible. There has to be highlighter here and you can’t wear a flat wig. Yeah you can—if you can pull it off!”
Bunny recognizes Drag Race as revolving around the niche subculture of pageant drag, which is all about glamour, whereas Bunny’s drag is not. She is known for being unapologetic and constantly parodying popular songs to which she lip syncs, making them more vulgar or political. Bunny was even asked to be a judge when Drag Race was in its conceptual stage but declined. She and RuPaul have a long standing, but delicate, friendship.
Wigstock seems to be Bunny taking a stand against this pageant drag that has become the mainstream.
“If drag is an expression of self, why are we telling queens what to do?” Bunny asked during her Mic interview. She also pointed out queens such as Trixie Mattel, who appeared on Drag Race but is known for playing instruments, singing live, and performing standup comedy on tour—something many drag queens do not do. While Trixie is not part of the Wigstock lineup, Bunny is a passionate advocate for showcasing the different types of drag that Drag Race tends to shut out.
“I want to see people doing song after song of what they do best,” Bunny said in the New York Times, “and let everyone applaud and appreciate on their own terms.”