DRAG TIP #1
First, I’d like to say that in no way am I saying that I am an expert in the art of female impersonation. I know that there are gonna be some who are gonna take me to task on my opinions about what makes a good drag performer, but perhaps my thoughts might help some new performer out there. As a queen who has seen many stages and crowds since 1985 and being a DJ as well, I think I have a few valid points. So, here it goes……
My first piece of advice is a simple thing. Since I have been in Toronto the rise in popularity of Drag Race has fooled a lot of kids out there into believing that it is the Holy Grail of what it takes to be a drag queen. And one of the things I have noticed in this town (which I imagine is happening everywhere) is that a majority of the queens think it is okay to let your song start and walk on afterward. I say that unless you are actually doing live vocals and making a grand entrance, you should be center stage when the first words of your lip synced number has begun. If you practice this every time you hit the stage not only will it help you capture your audience’s attention, but if you are being videotaped it would be nice to get all of the performance.
Being a sufferer of Whitney Houston disease (meaning not being a dancer), I rely highly on my ability to sing or a tight lip sync. It’s great to have a queen who is able to move on stage, but often I notice that a lot of dancers forget about their lip sync at certain points. We have to maintain all aspects of the performance. Performing in your hometown in front of your friends who are cheering you on and buying you drinks allows many queens the luxury of giving a pass on some aspect of their stage show. But if you ever dream of performing in other towns or countries, you need to have some discipline and standards.
A good friend of mine who was a cast member of the Broadway show “Cats” back in the 90s told me a great secret about being on stage (especially doing drag or creating a character). “There is freedom in structure.” which means that once you have a good foundation and knowledge of what you are going to do on stage you can do anything. So, knowing your material backward and forward will allow you to concentrate on what you are going to do with your hands or work on your facial expressions to convey the emotion of the songs. Because when you think about it…..it’s just like acting and creating a character when you do drag.
And remember….the majority of the gyrls on Drag Race look great, but how many are actually talented. Have you noticed that some of the challenges on the show don’t have anything to do with actually improving as a performer? I have said it before and I’ll say it again…that show is one of the worst things to ever happen to drag. Sure the exposure has brought female impersonation to the mainstream, but at what cost? It used to be that if you were good at your craft you could get booking all over the world. That’s all been replace with celebrity drag queens who don’t necessarily have any talent at all. Not saying that all the gyrls on that show in all of its seasons have been talentless. There have been a few who had followings and great stage shows before they went to the show. But it seems like these days you can’t get work unless you are on Drag Race. And with all reality TV, you are rewarded for bad behavior….it makes good ratings (even if most of it manufactured by the producers). Meanwhile, the actual talented queens are being ignored and forgotten.
Who will be the next Sylvester? Who will be the next Divine? Who will be the next Jim Bailey? Or Charles Busch? These were innovators who changed the game. The majority of the queens out there don’t have an ounce of talent that these legends did. Instead, they have a lot of friends who like them and encourage them via social media or at their local bars, but a true test would be if you could go to a place where you don’t know anyone at all and entertain a crowd. If you are not willing to play the game that the producers want you to play on Drag Race you will be eliminated and kicked off the show.
So, back to my original point….