Fans from all over shed tears, dressed as their favorite queens and represented a safe zone in a time of prejudice and scrutiny.
With over 40,000 attendees, Emmy-award winning drag queen personality RuPaul returned with the third annual DragCon April 29 – 30 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Contestants from current and past eight seasons greeted fans with a runway performance, panels and one-on-one experiences.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” is a reality competition television series, which documents the search for America’s next drag star. For nine seasons it has been a platform welcoming all walks of life to compete in the art of drag.
“In terms of this administration, it’s the first time in history, the overwhelming [U.S.] population feels it’s against them,” said Bob the Drag Queen, a member of the panel Teen Vogue Presents: What Is Drag In Trump’s America? “Straight white people now feel ‘what do we do?’ But people of color are like ‘this has happened to us for over 400 years.’”
Bob joined other contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race”: Eureka O’Hara and Alaska as the packed room booed to the name of Vice President Mike Pence and Caitlyn Jenner.
Season five runner-up Alaska embraced the life of drag during the Bush administration and found it as an outlet for freedom of expression.
“I felt angry and thought the mass media sucks. The anger of feeling lied to, showed drag is real,” Alaska said. “We’re so fake that’s something real comes through. It was out of anger when I first started. Trump being put into office, the anger was reignited and showed there’s a lot more work to do.”
A new addition was the premiere of Kid’s Zone, created for young children in order to vocalize equality and acceptance at an early age. An interactive space from a bounce house to face painting and featured “Michelle Tea’s Drag Queen Story Hour” program, where drag queens read books to children in bookstores across the nation.
“I see this Kids Zone, and that makes me smile so big and so happy, to know that the world has now changed,” said notable contestant of the series Alyssa Edwards. “People are not just celebrating LGBTQ, ABCDEFG and all that, they’re celebrating lives and I’m glad we don’t have to identify with something other than just being human.”
The convention hall was engulfed with over 200 vendors selling drag-related merchandise, including wigs, makeup, platform heels and prosthetics. Lines queued to over four hours to meet contestants.
Valentina, the current season’s fan favorite, started off as the underdog. She has taken the show as a way to express her culture and identity.
“It’s showing to straight audiences what it’s like to be unapologetically flamboyant and not giving a f—,” Valentina said. “There’s nothing more flamboyant than a drag queen. We are men in dresses and we play with gender and we are here to show we’re having a good time and this is an art.”
Laganja Estranja of season six praises the show in discovering herself.
“Drag is bringing people together because it’s a form of expression, like dance and theater. It combines all the elements,” she said. “It speaks to a lot of different people, lot of different artists and backgrounds. It’s the culmination of everything together.”