Drag has always influenced mainstream pop culture

Alhi Leconte/ Staff Writer

Many aspects of drag and gay culture have been appropriated into mainstream media and pop culture. Apart from the money, this appropriation stems from society’s obsession with taking things that are already in existence and stripping them of their origins to brand them as new and trendy.

However, because of its underground roots, most people don’t know about drag’s influence.

RuPaul Andre Charles rose to fame in the ‘90s in the drag scene. His fame went mainstream after releasing an album that spawned a hit song. RuPaul has since been known as one of, if not the most, famous drag queen, and his success opened many doors for him in the entertainment industry. Being a popular figure in entertainment gave him a career in modeling, television, movies, music and more. His most notable work is creating an LGBT-themed reality television game show called “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

The premise of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is to have a selection of drag queens battle to win a crown and the title of “America’s next drag superstar,” which is decided on by a panel of judges. Weekly challenges and performances are used to determine contestant elimination.

In other words, the show is a delightfully over-the-top queer version of “America’s Next Top Model” and “Project Runway.”

“Throughout the history of the gay-rights movement, drag queens have always been at the forefront,” RuPaul said to The Washington Post. “We threw the first brick at Stonewall and this show gives us the chance to not only tell our history, but to inform young people about the rich cultural heritage that their brothers and sisters before them have created.”

In its eight years, the show has immensely impacted the LGBT community. It has increased visibility and sparked conversation on important topics such as gender, sexuality, and representation.

The most authentic thing about the show is how it’s unscripted, which allows the queens to speak about things like their journeys of self-acceptance and self-love in an honest manner. Creativity, femininity, coming out, and comfortability in queerness are some of the barriers that the queens speak about. The outrageous and fun loving vibe of the program, on top of its informative nature, inspires LGBT youth.

The show continues to revolutionize pop culture in its repurposing of lip sync and pushing it to a much wider audience. Thus, eliminations on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are decided on by lip sync performances between two drag queens. There are now mainstream equivalents of this, like Jimmy Fallon’s “Lip Sync Battle,” but drag queens have been doing lip sync performances for decades, revolutionizing and perfecting the act of miming a song.

In an interview with Vulture, RuPaul said, “It’s a poor ripoff of our show. Regular, straight pop culture has liberally lifted things from gay culture as long as I can remember. And that’s fine, because guess what? We have so much more where that comes from. Take it!”

From music and dance to lingo and social media GIFs and memes, drag has always influenced mainstream pop culture. Even lingo such as “throwing shade” and “yas” originated in gay and drag culture, which was then popularized and brought to mainstream pop culture.

“Drag has always been thought of as the stepchild of show business or even of the gay-rights movement, and [now] these girls are at the forefront of gay culture and of pop culture,” RuPaul told The Washington Post.



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