If you’re into drag queens, you’re likely watching RuPaul’s Drag Race in its ninth glorious season. If you’re a fan of the show, you probably also watch Untucked. If you’re a little obsessed, like most of the bloggers and social media accounts dedicated to drag queens, you also watch everything World of Wonder, Hey Qween, and YouTube have to offer.
But in my opinion, Drag Race doesn’t really show us who we’re watching, and I didn’t really get to know anyone from that first episode until I watched Untucked. While Lady Gaga dominated most of the first episode, for obvious reasons, it was important for us to see a bit more about the queens when they weren’t competing against each other and had a drink to relax.
We’re never going to get as raw with the queens as the Untucked of the early seasons because people are definitely self-editing more and more. But there’s something to be said about what the queens aren’t saying in the show.
For example, James Mansfield didn’t say much, which said a lot. If you’ve ever hung out with any drag queens, you know, their personalities, while differing greatly, tend to be grand and very verbose. And why not? They’re in their outfits, with their wigs, their makeup and we went to see them, not the other way around. So it is all about them. But what these queens may or may not be prepared for is each other.
Sharing the attention may not be what they’re used to. It may be a matter of just overwhelming the senses or a case of fish changing pond sizes, or just pond mates in general. They’re plucked out of their routine, put into this routine, and mixing with people they’ve not worked with before, in an environment they’re not used to, without any of their normal “cheerleaders” to cheer them on. (Excuse the pun)
If they’re lucky, they manage to find a member of “their tribe” as Ru would put it. They’ll partner or group up with like-mined individuals, or geographically similar queens. But for those who don’t quite fit just right, they’re often left to fend for themselves. And it seems like those who don’t have that cheering squad with them are left to cheer for themselves. And baby, “if you can’t [cheer for] yourself, how the hell you gonna [cheer for] somebody else?”
But what I found most endearing about James’ departure, “be kind”. We all know there are about a dozen or so queens every year who have to go through intense scrutiny for being on this show. However long their stay, they’ve made it to this show. Yes, their booking fees go up. Yes, they’re on these posters as “Ru-girls” now. But they’re also carrying this weight with them. “With great power, comes great responsibility” and that responsibility is they must now deal with more criticism than the hundreds of thousands of drag queens in the world who are not on the show because they don’t reach the living rooms of millions of people.
They’re not just competitors on a show though. I think Untucked allows you to see the people behind the queens. So if you’re not enjoying the “after show” on Saturday with Untucked on YouTube, you’re missing out. My hope is you’ll see these PEOPLE and their flaws and understand, they’re people first and that queen second. It’s fine to have a favorite, to express your support for your favorite and even say something on social media about it. But try to remember, if you’re going to spread mean, hurtful things to these people who are trying to make a living through their art, there’s a person under there. A person like you or me, who’s gone through things we have no idea about. So listen to the silence and learn from it. We need kindness more than ever and I urge you to spread that instead of the cruel thoughts you can easily keep to yourself.
Being mean is easy, step your game up and try a little kindness queen.