“Why do men want to dress up like women?” A colleague posed that question last June when the Spokane Public Library hosted Drag Queen Story Hour, and the expected small number of protesters was fortunately met by a much larger group of supporters, many of them parents and their children waiting in line to attend the packed story hour.
To be honest, I did not have a quick answer at the time. But after pondering the question for months and while watching the current Season 12 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on VH1, and its offshoot “RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race,” here is a composite answer based on the diverse cast of “RPDR” stars, contestants and guests:
Have you ever felt like an outsider? Have you been picked on, even bullied, for being different as a minority, woman, gay, poor, overweight, underweight, tall, short or non-Christian? Drag is an opportunity to escape into a character where you can feel like a superhero, be the best version of yourself, forget your inhibitions and be strong and confident.
People wear athletic gear, business suits and women’s clothes – still others masks and costumes to sing on national TV – to accomplish this, and why not? There should be room for everyone at the table. It is a great answer, and many people can relate, including yours truly. Plus, it is an opportunity to look absolutely fabulous and highlight multiple skills and talents.
In watching “RPDR,” I am reminded of the important life lessons of acceptance, body positivity, diversity and love. In 12 seasons, plus all-star seasons, “RPDR” has been a poster child for all four. It is OK to be gay, transgender, Muslim, Persian, from a small town, survivors of abuse, different, skinny, in between and fat.
I’ve struggled with a negative self-image my entire life, so when Season 8’s Kim Chi declared she’s “Fat, Fem and Asian,” I couldn’t help but reply, “Yaaasss, Queen!” Drag queens are not for everyone. I am perplexed by the adoration for “Seinfeld” and “Game of Thrones,” but this is one of the reasons why life is beautiful: There is something for everyone.
If you are not watching Season 12 of “RPDR” or the four-episode “Celebrity” spinoff (episode 3 airs Friday night), here are some of the highlights you have missed. Guest judges and mentors have included Nicki Minaj, Leslie Jones, Daisy Ridley, Jeff Goldblum, Chaka Khan, Bob Harper and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, all of whom were inspirational and looked fierce.
In last week’s “Celebrity Drag Race,” comedian Loni Love, “Basketball Wives” star Tami Roman and actress-singer-dancer Vanessa Williams were the contestants alongside drag mentors Trinity the Tuck, Alyssa Edwards and Asia O’Hara. I shrieked when Williams first walked in the workroom, as she was in Spokane in December.
Williams performed holiday concerts with James Lowe and the Spokane Symphony, and she was the epitome of strength and elegance in a preview interview and in person. She also deservedly won the episode, raising $30,000 for her selected charity, the Trevor Project, which aids LGBTQ youth. Love won the episode, and viewers’ hearts, with her big doubts and even bigger heart.
In the first episode of “Celebrity Drag Race,” the contestants were comedian Jermaine Fowler, whose deceased mother was lesbian; “Riverdale” actor Jordan Connor, who has a gay brother and sister; and actor-model Nico Tortorella, who identifies as gender fluid and whose credits include “Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club,” “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” and “Younger.”
The drag mentors were Trixie Mattel, Bob the Drag Queen and Monet X Change, and, in a very close drag race, Connor squeaked out the win and $30,000 for Cystic Fibrosis Canada. I was rooting for the super-hot Tortorella, who was unapologetically over-the-top, defiantly refused to tuck and thanked his two heterosexual competitors for taking part in “Celebrity Drag Race.”
I will sum up by sharing that I worried about moving back to Spokane in April 2019 after living in the much more diverse cities of Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas with their much more diverse newsrooms. I should not have been surprised that I am only one of two nonwhite managers and one of two openly gay employees in the newsroom, but it was eye-opening.
But these are reasons why I am here in Spokane and at The Spokesman-Review. Every day is not easy or happy, but, in the end, it is about acceptance, diversity and love. RuPaul ends each show with the following: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?” Amen!
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