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All the world is a drag stage

OPINION

  • RuPaul is hugged by guest judge Debbie Reynolds.
RuPaul is hugged by guest judge Debbie Reynolds. (Los Angeles Times file photo )
June 20, 2013|By Nikki Lynette, @nikkilynette | For RedEye

If you haven't heard of "RuPaul's Drag Race," then you must be living under the world's most heterosexual rock.

Not only is the show a hit, but it's the only hit on the Logo network right now. That makes it pretty obvious that it's not only gay folks who are watching. So let's be honest: Am I the only one who's noticed drag culture is influencing mainstream culture?

These days, stuff that used to only be part of the drag scene is being embraced by women everywhere. Major cosmetics brands are offering drag makeup tutorials to the public, people are throwing around the word "fierce" like crazy, and the more avant-garde styles of dress that used to be considered too extreme for everyone except drag queens and Lady Gaga are being praised and imitated. It's as if drag queens have invented a new branch of femininity and shared it with the world—and that's badass.

Since I can form my opinions only from the outside looking in, I decided to ask a few of Chicago's fabulous drag queens for their input. It was awesome.

Sissy Spastik is a six-year veteran in the drag game who believes there is more to drag culture than most folks understand.

"Drag is an art and it takes a lot of time and effort to do," she told me. "Like anything, you must have passion in this business."

When I asked about her views on the public's attitude toward drag, she said, "Drag culture has definitely influenced mainstream culture. Now I feel as though everyday women look at us queens for inspiration."

I get it. I would be a liar if I said I never got makeup tips from a drag queen. And a lot of the time, their tips are better.

Khloe Dai, who recently celebrated her one-year anniversary as a queen, believes that drag and pop culture work in tandem, influencing one another in more ways than one.

"Since having the show 'RuPaul's Drag Race' and the numerous drag shows on Halsted and now branching out into the other parts of the city and suburbs, I think that the public has embraced the art and really enjoys what a queen has to offer," she said. "It's truly a great thing."

Kim Chi, the host of one of the biggest circuit parties in the Chicago gay scene, got really specific about why she believes "RuPaul's Drag Race" has had such an effect.

"They took an underground subculture—with rules and a language all its own—and shared it with the world at large," she said. "Now people use words like 'shade,' 'beat,' 'hunty' or 'reading' without fully grasping their meaning or the cultural context that birthed them."

Sure, "Ru Paul's Drag Race" rocks, but hey ... it's just entertainment. All three of the queens I talked to describe drag as an art form with a culture all its own. That means the true influencers are not only the queens competing on TV, but also the ones who are in the clubs, at the parties and on the stage.

They're keeping drag culture alive while simultaneously changing the world. Kim Chi told me she's even started seeing straight girls bring their boyfriends to her shows.

Wow! All hail the queens!

RedEye special contributor Nikki Lynette, a Chicago native, is an indie recording artist whose music appears on MTV, VH1, Showtime and more.

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