Iulian Suman recently expressed his frustration about Drag Race’s format. But do you think it’s still relevant? Writer Rilli Willow does…
Rilli Willow: When talking about the relevance of RuPaul’s Drag Race, we need to look further than our own position in life.
I regard myself as a super-privileged person. I live in Both TLV and Berlin, two of the most open-minded, “be who you want to be” cities on this planet. I’m an artist, I’m queer, I’m married to a cisgender man who’s also a drag queen. We both live comfortably in our own skins, openly exploring our identities, and surrounded by people who are like us.
Drag Race is entertainment
So we have the privilege to watch Drag Race just as a TV show. To us, it’s no news see this form of art, or to hear personal stories from people who’ve experienced struggles we can relate to. From this privileged perspective, yes, I agree that the show is losing some of its charm through the seasons.
And as an old-time fan, it pains me. I miss iconic un-produced moments like the “sugar daddy” speech of Shangela in season 3, or the emotional lip-sync between Raven and Jujubee in All Stars 1. I miss crying like crazy when watching Roxxxy Andrews telling about her Mom deserting her at the bus station on season 5, and I miss laughing when watching Katia shading and reading her about it on All Stars 2.
Rehearsed replaces rawness
Indeed, it does feel like we’re missing out on lots of drama, laughter, and creativity. That’s how it works when a show is being renewed through the years in all forms of reality TV. Contestants are learning the show and coming with a plan. They are coming with well-tailored dresses, stories well build, tears well shed, and slogans well put for their well thought of merchandise to sell at the Drag-con and online. All is true.
So why do I still say Drag Race is relevant, and even important? That’s exactly why. Cause I’m not the person who needs this content. I’m already living it.
We still have our struggles
But a Trans woman was murdered on the eve of “Transgender Day Visibility,” and another one killed herself last month. Lots of children are still terrified of living outside the closet. Some kids are still saying “gay” as a curse, while some parents are still telling their kids not to wear a “girly” dress or act with too much “boyish” behaviour, and you can’t be both.
Drag Race can still teach us
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So filled with pride and inspiration on this Tuesday afternoon, as I reflect on the recent INCREDIBLE experience of being included as a part of #TrailblazerHonors by @VH1!✨If you're unfamiliar with the ceremony, it's a celebration shining a spotlight on today's most respected politicians/entertainers/artists/activists/allies & icons who dedicate their time and commitments to improving our amazing women, worldwide. (It also was the first televised LGBTQIA+ awards ceremony in the U.S. !) Needless to say, it is such a huge honor for me as a #trans woman to be able to be recognized for work that has never once seemed like a job, but more so a life purpose. •• I'll be sharing photos & clips from this momentous day all week (starting with these GORGEOUS portraits of @laith_ashley and I by the iconic @ramonarosales) leading up to the full show debut FRIDAY at 9/8c on #VH1! Be sure to share & tune in!🏳️🌈💙💗💙#transisbeautiful #misspeppermint #laithashley #transgender #transrightsarehumanrights
Even inside Drag Race there are lessons to be learned for the LGBTQ+ community. Like Ru saying Trans woman have no place on the show, and then making amends for it, apologising, and bringing Gia Gun to all stars 4 after her transition.
Having Sonique, Monica Beverly Hillz and Peppermint talking openly about their struggles as trans women has also been valuable for our community. Ongina and Trinity K talking openly about being HIV positive, and Blair St Clair talking about being raped. These subjects are still taboo in so many places, families and communities. And I’m sure that in every dark place like that, there is at least one kid who can use the light of knowing that he/she are OK, no matter what they wear or who they love.
Drag Race is far from being mainstream. The day it will be, will mean that most of the world has embraced the LGBTQ+ community and gender-fluidity as part of it – and this is what we’re hoping for. So until then, it is more relevant than ever.