Born Naked

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Modern drag is very much an entertainment-driven performance in which a person dresses extravagantly to amplify overexaggerated male or female characteristics.

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Some queens do drag because it is their way to express their feminine side in a society that prohibits showing that. Queens also gain a lot of confidence being on stage performing in front of a crowd with a group of people appreciating them and what they do. Other queens look at it as creative medium. As a man who has only dressed up as a grandmother once for Halloween, I will be the first to tell you that make up is hard to do!

Makeup takes a lot of artistic skill to achieve the look you have in your mind, and some queens find this self-expression to be a form of art in itself.

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Whether it be comedic relief to take the edge off or a rally to vote against a pumpkin president, drag will always be the first voice heard from the community and will always be ever-present. Standing amongst hundreds of chattering people in a dimly lit room, my eyes flutter back and forth from the stage to the people surrounding me. Watching queen after queen putting the bass in their walk down the runway, I ponder on how we got to where we are today.


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I saw members of a shared community who have so much love for one another. Drag creates a sense of belonging and safety because you are in an environment amongst people who feel the same way as you. At a drag show, I feel safe because I know that the people around me will always care and support me, as I would them. To the future generations of queer youth coming to McMaster, I say this: do not be afraid to be who you are and share it with the rest of the world. Queer time, Halberstam explains, comes from the collapse of the past and shaky relation to futurity gay men experienced during the height of the American AIDs crisis, but they also see queer time, significantly, as exceeding the terms of its arrival.

If queer time can be thought alongside automedia, within drag performances that are not about straight lives, narrative histories and straight time can come into view. Much has been written about drag as a performance that creates a public, for example, as part of a queer world-building project that shoots unpredictably through spaces beyond performance locations Berlant and Warner We argue that a concern with the relationship between time and identity in RPDR is an attempt to open up, through digital networked media, a queer understanding of time that is in relation to drag of the past, but not always in a linear way.

The current visibility of drag in popular culture is characterised by a shifting relationship between drag and media: what was once a location-based, temporally specific form of performance which occurred in bars, has been radically changed through the increased contact between the media forms of performance, television and social media.

These queens now speak to audiences far beyond their local communities, and to audiences who may not have any knowledge of the queer subcultures that have nurtured generations of drag performers.

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Under the auspices of RPDR , drag queens have gained a level of cultural visibility that produces fascinating, and complex, encounters between subcultural identity practices and mainstream media tropes. Amongst her many tasks—being fierce, flawless, hilarious, and able to turn out a consummate lip sync performance—the newly visible drag queen is also a teacher. In so doing they can provide fresh insights into the social function of media platforms and their genres in the context of queer lives. They can refer to classic drag queen performance culture, and they make use of classic drag performance as a genre, but their transnational media presence and access to more recent forms of identification to describe themselves, such as trans, genderqueer or nonbinary, mark their identity presentations and performance presences as a departure from other forms of drag.

In what follows we examine the statements about drag and the autobiographical statements presented by RuPaul Charles and Sasha Velour the winner of RPDR Season Nine to demonstrate automediality as a powerful practice for queer world-making and living.

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As we have observed at the opening of this essay, queer time is an oppositional practice, a refusal of those who belong to queer communities to fall into step with straight ideas about history, futurity, reproduction and the heteronormative idea of family, and a way to understand how communities mark occasions, conceptualize the history and traditions of subcultures. RuPaul did not at first conceptualize himself as a drag star, but as a punk musician in Atlanta and then as part of the New York Club Kid community, which developed when New York clubs were in danger of closing because of fear of the AIDS epidemic Flynn.

RuPaul became adept at self-promotion and image-building while he was part of these rebellious punk and dance club subcultures that refused gender and lifestyle norms Lettin There was no narrative of mainstream success that RuPaul—a gay, gender non-binary African-American man from the American Midwest—could follow. And he decided that rather than look for a model of success to follow, he would queer the mainstream model for success.

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Snatch Game, a popular segment where contestants have to impersonate celebrities on a queer version of the Match Game series, is a double test. To succeed, contestants must understand how to impersonate celebrities past and present within a camp aesthetic. But the segment also tests how well drag queens understand the genre of game show television, a genre that no longer exists on television except in the form of Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy , and that many of the RPDR contestants are not old enough to have seen, performing witty taglines and off-the-cuff jokes they hope will land in a very tight time frame.

The point of Snatch Game is how well a queen can perform, how good she is at entertaining and educating audiences, and how well she deals with an archaic genre, that of the television game show. Crucially, it exemplifies the complex way that media forms are heavily cited and replayed in new combinations in order to say something real about the ways of living of a specific artist or person. Velour queers time with her Dietrich in order to demonstrate her unique sensibility and identity.

This element of drag is clearly connected to the aesthetics of camp that have a long tradition in gay and queer culture.

Original theories of camp theorized it as a practice of taste and interpretation Sontag —camp described a relationship to the objects of popular culture that was subversive because it celebrated the artificiality of aesthetic forms, and was therefore ironizing. In her re-casting of camp, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick argues:. This reframing of camp emphasises affect, attachment and forms of relation as ongoing processes for the making of queer life a process , rather than as elements of queer identity a product.

This is the positive power of camp as form of automediation for queer world making: media forms provide resources that queer subjects can draw on in assembling a performance of identity as modes of embodiment and ways of being that can be cited the specific posture of Dietrich, for example, which Velour mimics and in terms of the affect required to marshal the performance itself.

This narrative of the world-changing power of the beauty of drag refers to the visibility of the new drag queens, who through television and social media now have thousands of fans across the world.

Velour suggests that in its newly visible forms outside localised queer cultures, drag as a media spectacle offers an important alternative to the pressure for queer people to assimilate to dominant forms of living, those practices, forms of attachment and relation Halberstam associates with straight time.

This creativity draws on popular culture as a resource and site of history for queer identities, an evocation of queer time. The queer time of drag as a performance genre has an increasing presence in media forms such as television, social media and print media, bringing autobiographical performances and narratives by drag artists into new venues. This multiple remediation of drag recasts queer cultural practices beyond localised subcultural contexts into the broader media cultures in order to amplify and celebrate queerness as a form of difference, and differing, as automediality.

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Berlant, Lauren, and Michael Warner. Butler, Judith. New York and London: Routledge, Crowley, Patrick. Daw, Stephen. Flynn, Sheila. Halberstam, J. Boston: South End, Poletti, Anna, and Julie Rak, eds. Poletti, Anna. Rak, Julie.