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I’ve been a theatre kid all my life and was often given male roles as a kid (probably because I was loud and didn’t mind playing those roles). As I got older I shifted to doing more behind the scenes work and was especially intrigued by the face painting camp I did in high school and the creative special effects makeup courses I took in college. In college, the LGBTQ club and The Theatre Department I was enrolled in both held drag shows and drag felt like a great way to blend playing with creative makeup and performing.
I originally had a drag queen persona because my understanding of drag was super limited until I found out that drag kings and club kids existed and learned that I could find a form of drag that I better connected with. Exploring ways to express and perform my drag helped me understand both my own gender and sexuality and how I wanted to comment on gender and sexuality through my drag.
I definitely have seen a shift in the representation of drag kings. I think a lot of references when I first started out were drag kings emulating and commenting on cisgener/heterosexual men. There are plenty of kings that still do and that is a 100% valid form of drag, but I think we’ve also seen more kings getting more flamboyant with their drag, emulating and commenting on queer and fluid forms of masculinity. For drag kings specifically, we’ve seen a shift from male impersonation and natural makeup to more exaggerated forms of makeup — bolder contours and highlights, colorful eyeshadows, blush and more.
Drag culture is becoming more and more about seeing how you can keep pushing your aesthetic — whether it’s the details in the outfits, the blending and details in the makeup and/or how you perform. I think people definitely expect more when it comes to makeup, regardless of the type of drag. Artists are paying more attention to how it reads on camera and making sure it’s visually appealing — especially in this past year of quarantine where we were only seeing drag content online!
I’ve had a strange relationship with the beauty industry. Makeup has always felt like a performative process, something used as a means to transform myself. As a result, I’ve felt disconnected with beauty makeup and often don’t use it in my daily life. The beauty industry is not great about creating products for people with darker skin (I remember my makeup teacher having to create a contour color for me in college because the contour in the darkest makeup kit was my foundation color — and I wasn’t even the darkest student in the class). Makeup for darker skin is improving but it’s still a process.
Doing drag was when I really started to like how I looked with makeup on and made me start to evaluate what about looking like a multicolored androgynous being was so comforting that I wasn’t connecting with in my normal skin tone and with beauty makeup. I’ve learned to be more comfortable with who I am out of drag but it’s definitely still a growing process.