Without ascribing too much importance to a reality television program—albeit, a super groundbreaking, forward-thinking, deeply enjoyable reality television program—the crowning of Sasha Velour as winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season nine felt meaningful. She was the season’s most “arty” queen, flouting what could be considered a traditional drag aesthetic by sporting a bald head and penciling in a burst of bushy hair between her brows.
The queens behind the second L.A. edition of the multi-day drag event Bushwig consider Velour a “sister,” and not just because Brooklyn’s their mutual home base. According to Babes Trust, a co-founder of the festivities along with Horrorchata, their event also represents drag’s philosophical departure from being just female impersonation.
“I think that impersonation was drag’s true form,” Babes says via email. “Men impersonating women for Shakespeare plays. Impersonation of the female in these early forms can also be accredited to the cross-dresser. Nowadays, I think people do drag for many different reasons, for example a lot of the trans girls come through the drag scene, as it’s a safe space for them to explore themselves and gender.”
She continues, “Our drag now is more of a hybrid of performing arts, club-kid culture, and impersonation, but an impersonation that’s so extreme that it mutates—mutant drag!”
This year’s festivities consist of a Saturday pre-party at Faultline in East Hollywood and a Monday afternoon-to-evening poolside party at the Ace Hotel called Drag Queens on Acid. Last year, Bushwig’s festivities took place during the same weekend as RuPaul’s DragCon (which returns to DTLA in May), an event that’s been a testament to the mainstreaming of drag culture. Bushwig has positioned itself a sort of punk-rock alternative to DragCon, inviting queens from the Boulet Brothers’ online series Dragula, as well as L.A. nightlife legend and paraplegic queen Goddess Bunny. They just announced that German transgender pop sensation Kim Petras will be performing live at the Faultline party.
Brooklyn-based Brian Kelly, who performs as Didi Disco and handles communications for Bushwig, sees today’s drag as a reinterpretation of gender rather than a way to simply recycle traditional roles. It’s an opportunity to break down gender, wipe the slate clean, and start fresh. The goal, he says, is to “make people think about why we think a drag queen has to have their penis tucked so you can’t see it—why is it so wrong for someone to not wear a wig, not wear eyelashes, walk around the club in flip-flops? You know someone is doing it well when they’re expressing their own personal truth through what they’re wearing.”
Really, he says, if you’re calling it drag, it’s drag. “If they’re bringing it, they’re bringing it,” he says. “And theres no rubric for what bringing it means.”
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