Tag Archives: Drag

Serving Fish: This One’s A Snapper!

By Guest Contributor Andreana Clay; originally published at Queer Black Feminist

I watch RuPaul’s Drag Race pretty religiously and have written about what I love about it here. I even watched the contrived–let’s just give Chad Micheals the crown and some prize money since, apparently, it was difficult to give Sharon Needles the crown outright–Drag Race All Stars this summer. So, when Season 5 started three weeks ago, I had my DVR ready and happily watched after a long first day of classes.

So, it’s clear I have a little bit of love for RuPaul (P.S. Part of the title comes from her). No, I don’t listen to her music, but I feel like I’ve been a champion (never gonna stop) of her work for quite some time. She’s pretty mainstream, what José Muñoz might call, “sanitized, assimilated” drag, but I just love seeing a 6-foot-tall Black man doing a pretty standard drag performance. And he’s made a mainstream career out of it. Now, I don’t know RuPaul: she may be the most fame-hungry, celebrity-grubbing, will-never-stop-using-the-pejorative-”tr***y (!)” and supporting-Shirley-Q.-Liquor (!) drag queen out there, but I have to hand it to her. She has managed to produce and maintain one of the gayest shows on television right now. In a moment when all things are gay or gay-loving, we love the gays!–she and her writers have managed to make it just a little bit gayer. Not only is it a show about drag queens from all around the world, L.A., New York, Florida, and Puerto Rico, but it is a show almost entirely made up of challenges. And I love the challenges. As others have noted, this is where the real, un-assimilated gayness comes out: the “get on your knees and put your lips in this hole” challenge; “reading is fundamental” challenges; “make videos  where you lip synch to all of RuPaul’s songs, available on iTunes” challenges; and then, there are the requisite “pit boys” with muscles and fully stuffed briefs. Just crass. Gay. Lovely. Plus, there are regular references to ball culture past and present with phrases like, “Extravaganza,” the aforementioned “reading” challenges, etc. I love it! Sometimes I squeek with glee at each offering. It’s refreshing in a moment of increasingly assimilated gay television (“Queers–regardless of race, gender, or class–are just. like. you, everybody!” so sayeth the stock gay characters on current shows).

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Vogue Italia’s ‘Haute Mess:’ Racist, Ignorant, or Brilliant?

All images courtesy Vogue Italia

By Fashion Correspondent Joseph Lamour

That’s right: what you’re seeing above is actually something that’s in the world’s current fashion bible. Vogue Italia’s March 2012 issue features this spread, aptly titled “Haute Mess”, and features a bevy of the world’s most beautiful women obscured by everything but the kitchen sink.

I’ve got to say right off the bat that Coco Rocha is one of my favorite models in the entire universe–I often gasp in Minnie Riperton octaves when I come across her (and this is one of the reasons why) but, until I read the credits, I had no idea she was even in this spread. The same goes for models usually familiar and amazing like Joan Smalls and Jessica Stam. Fashion most of the time is supposed to enhance or highlight the beauty of the wearer, but sometimes–like in this spread–it’s trying to challenge what your idea of beauty is. But does this shoot succeed or offend? In looking at this shoot, I couldn’t decide whether or not it included subtle or overt racist tones, if it was ignorant to the message it would provoke…or that it so beautifully over-the-top it was actually brilliant.

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Magtrabaho Ka!: Manila Luzon, Drag, and the Politics of Self-Orientalization

By Guest Contributor Eric Zhang

“I am the beautiful Asian who’s taller than 5-foot-2,” Manila Luzon (né Karl Westerberg) says in her introduction video. She is one of 13 contestants competing on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race to win $75,000, a lifetime supply of makeup, a headlining drag tour, and the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar.* She is also one of four Asian American contestants to have been featured on the series – the others include Ongina from Season 1, Jujubee from Season 2, and fellow Season 3 contestant Raja.

While drag performance has historically been tied to working class communities of color – the documentary Paris Is Burning in particular follows the tradition of drag balls in 1980s Harlem, and the significance of drag subculture in the lives of queer African American and Latino men – Asian American queens have not been very well represented in the drag circuit. The prominence of Asian American contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race, thus, caught my eye. As a queer Asian American man who has dabbled in drag (inspired in no small part by Drag Race), I became interested in the ways in which these queens were represented – and chose to represent themselves – on television. While these queens are, of course, not necessarily defined by their race, two of the contestants use a rhetoric of race in their performance: Jujubee and Manila Luzon. Because Manila is competing on the current season, because her drag persona centralizes a racial discourse to a heavier extent than Jujubee’s, and because the racial politics of her performance has actively been challenged on the show itself, I will narrow my focus on her.

Manila Luzon’s persona makes heavy use of a kind of pan-Asian motif: a quick glance through her website reveals images like sushi, chrysanthemums, and Japanese katakana; costuming choices that include a cherry petal dress with an obi, a cheongsam, and a Thai headdress and brass fingernail extensions; and a tongue-in-cheek reference to Chinatown. On the other hand, her drag name explicitly marks her as Filipino – Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and Luzon, the island on which Manila is located. The discrepancy between Manila’s pan-Asian character and her identity as Filipino American, in fact, provides a key source of tension in her performance: is she relying on Orientalist stereotypes and tropes to build her character, or is she using drag to perform her Pinoy pride?

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