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Wednesday, April 26 • 2:20pm - 2:40pm
Drag As Female Impersonation, And Only Female Impersonation

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I want to focus on how the drag people are most familiar is only centered around female impersonation, contrary to the Harlem ball scene in the 1980s. Using Paris is Burning by Jennie Livingston (1990), I want to reference the experiences of this group and how drag wasn’t just an exaggerated woman, but a way to combat against societal standards. I will be using RuPaul’s Drag Race (RuPaul Charles, 2009) as a reference as well, centering on how the show has changed drag and the drag community as a contemporary form of entertainment. Paris is Burning is a documentary detailing the lives of queer people of color. It features the establishment of a community centered around nonconformity within societal expectation. The queer people portrayed in the film show the reason to compete in these balls in order to be something they can’t be, according to the world outside. It was a form of autonomy within their community to present themselves as businessmen, schoolgirl/boy, butch queen, etc. RuPaul’s Drag Race is a reality competition TV show where performers compete to be “America’s next drag race superstar.” The show places certain standards on a lot of the competitors, asking them to change their drag because it’s not “feminine” enough. Though the show pays homage to Paris is Burning quite often, the standard of drag becomes female impersonation. It eliminates any other forms of drag as those competitors are eliminated early if they don’t change into the more feminine drag. My purpose for this presentation is to show how drag has turned into what most people know of what drag is. I want people to consider why they like drag. What does it mean to them? Why do they enjoy it? Why is it funny for a man to “dress up” as a woman? I love drag because it’s able to blend femininity and masculinity. When both opposites are combined, it creates a beautiful art form that eliminates gender completely. I want to conclude by allowing drag to be enjoyable and fun, however, to know its complex history and how it’s turned into what it is today. I wanted the audience to know how it’s beneficial to the queer community, but also how it’s been taken by the straight community and how it’s been whitewashed. How it’s been appropriated, taken from queer people of color, and made for a white audience.


Wednesday April 26, 2017 2:20pm - 2:40pm
221 Karpen Hall