The Changing Face of Drag: Can it Survive Online?

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Lockdown has completely changed the drag scene; we are beginning to see more digitalised performances from Digital Drag Fest to even RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12 finale being filmed from home. Has this completely changed the name of the game?

Drag artists are constantly evolving and changing the way they perform from the 80s ball scene to the current use of social media for ‘look’ and ‘fashion’ queens. Covid-19 has provided another way for drag artists to utilise their social media and creativity skills to the next level to help further support their career. For example, queens such as Felix Le Freak and Crystal Methyd have been experimenting with creating, shooting and editing music video style videos to post across social media. This has been an incredibly new way to view drag as drag is heavily performance based and now we are seeing drag transformed to a new medium. For example, Crystal’s Drag Race Finale performance saw her dress as a mother and baby bird and ‘spit’ food into the baby’s mouth whilst lip-syncing to ‘I’m Like A Bird’ by Nelly Furtado. This bizarre and odd video wouldn’t have surfaced if it wasn’t for coronavirus which is only showing the diverse nature of drag.

Famous global drag tour, Werq The World, has started bringing the live drag experience to the home through their livestreams which have been hosted to raise money for drag queens who have had their shows and income impacted by Covid-19. The livestream saw multiple queens put their own take on performing on video, for example Drag Race season 10 winner Aquaria lip-synced to Dua Lipa’s ‘Physical’ with a fully edited video featuring projections of colours, anime, merging pop culture phenomenon’s with her performance. It was edited in a flawless manner showing drag can have the same effect from the home as it does on the stage. On the other hand, Drag Race season 7 winner Violet Chachki did not just lip-sync but performed a full-on burlesque performance using an aerial hoop to do some epic dance moves that were totally gag worthy. The difference in the way they performed drag to a global stage has shown the world the wide variety of drag that many often do not see.

However, the issue with online / livestream drag shows is the sustainability, drag has known and built a reputation for being a performance-based profession. Due to government guidelines inside, shows cannot take place. This negatively affects drag artists especially those who are not lucky enough to call themselves ‘Ru Girls’. In terms of monetary income many unknown drag performers have found it difficult to continue drag whilst under lockdown as a majority make their money through live performance. Covid-19 has transformed the way we consume drag and it has certainly proven drag can take place online, however the difficulty lies for those who do not have the social media following to profit off online drag shows.

Covid-19 has certainly impacted the drag scene and has given us a new look into the way we understand and view drag. Though it is not the same as experiencing the thrill of a live drag performance, drag artists have proven we can still enjoy a show form the comfort of our own homes. Online drag allows performers more space for creativity with creating content however what is lost is audience interaction, a huge part of a drag show.

Support your local drag performers by watching and consuming their content. In the meantime watch Season 12 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Jaida Essence Hall, perform her finale lip-sync to ‘Get Out’ by Ciara.

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Editor 2020/21 and a History student with a Britney Spears addiction.

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