Maddie – aka Stella Marbles – who featured in part II of this series here – is certainly not in it for the fame. She dedicates her time promoting diversity and encourages her community to do the same. She wishes above all for people to learn more about queer history and not focus so much on RuPaul’s Drag Race as the only representation of drag queens.
Superficiality is probably the most prevalent accusation resulting from the popular TV show. The direct impact on the community is that many up-and-coming queens feel the need to look a certain way. “I see so many people up and coming, that just look like the last one, and for me, drag is not like that,” says Matthew, 22. “I don’t want somebody to tell me I look like one of the drag queens from RuPaul.”
Matthew, known on the scene as Tequila Addams, is a DJ, a night club host and a drag artist. He has recently put his studies aside to focus on his work on the scene and establish himself as an artist. Matthew’s ultimate goal would be to avoid working for someone at all costs and instead run his own club nights, something that is set to happen in September of this year.
His current success is a result of consistency through posting his work on social media and regularly attending nightclubs as a host, consequently making a name for himself in the industry. “I feel less pressure now, I’m more established, people know me,” Matthew says. Now that he has recently added DJ to his CV, the entertainment virtuoso can enjoy a slightly less hectic lifestyle. However, with growing competition in the field, his work still requires a tremendous amount of keeping up with social media.
Social media is the most important and powerful tool nowadays for drag performers and Matthew gets almost all his bookings through Instagram. Something that he considers hard to manage at times. “I used to feel like I had to post all the time, but now I don’t,” he says. “It was becoming an obsession, so now I’m trying to limit my time on it,” Matthew adds.
Now that the average person associates a drag performer with RuPaul’s Drag Race drag queen contestants, drag artists are gaining more recognition. Matthew has often been asked to have his picture taken with passers-by or by random people on the tube or in nightclubs. “There are a lot of straight girls!” he grins.
Because of society putting such an immense emphasis on trends and valuing a culture of popularity and public recognition, people tend to obsess over the idea of talking to someone potentially famous. Many would see drag artists as one type of drag queen, and assume everybody doing drag is what they have seen on TV. As a result, drag performers have to cope with certain stereotypes people put on them. “Many people expect me to act fake and all like “yas queen” ”, Matthew says. He continues: “I get that people set certain expectations, but I set my own expectations, so I’m happy the way I am.”
Performers that do drag would rather not be associated with how mainstream media has portrayed the art of drag. For a large majority of drag queens and artists, they do not want to be compared to drag queens from any TV shows. “I don’t want to be a Ru-girl, I don’t want to fall into this cookie cutter type of drag,” Matthew says. “People’s idea of drag is narrow, they are just not aware of the different types of drag,” he adds. This is what mainstream media has brought into drag: a stereotype and a small perception of the art. Drag is a spectrum, even more so, it is now an umbrella term for an entire group of drag categories such as drag queens, drag kings, drag artists, bio-queens, and so much more.
Matthew, aka Tequila Addams, has evolved a lot through the years. Because of what drag has become in the eyes of the public, Matthew’s drag has become more in touch with the art itself, based on a simple form of aesthetics made for Instagram. “I don’t consider myself a drag queen anymore, I just kinda, flow somewhere in the middle”, he says. “Obviously I love the feminine things, but my whole view on drag has changed. Not in a bad way, but I’m just more cultured, I know more about it. I don’t know much about queer history, but I have more wisdom.” Tequila Addams has become more than a hobby reserved for the weekend. For Matthew, transforming into Tequila has become a way of life. More importantly, the persona of Tequila Addams goes beyond a drag performance and an Instagram post, it’s a reflection of Matthew’s personality, creativity, and way of breaking the norms. As he explains: “I like to think of myself as an alien, without any genders.”
With mainstream media contributing to people’s growing acceptance over queer culture, more spaces are now open for LGBTQ+ people to exists freely and safely. Additionally, there is a growing representation of diversity on mainstream media that is slowly but surely starting to benefit the LGBTQ+ community.
In the drag community, there are now more opportunities for work and spaces to perform -particularly in London. Although not yet considered the “norm” in society’s eyes, and still very misunderstood and discriminated against in most places in the world, the art of drag is becoming more popular among the general population. “I like the idea that everybody is available to do it. So people doing drag have the opportunity, and they’re not going to be antagonised or anything for it,” Matthew says. However, the title of “drag queen” needs to be earned. “People can put on their heels and stuff, but if that’s all they have, it’s dull. I want more substance, I just don’t like people looking the same. Just because you put a wig and heels on, doesn’t make you a drag queen.
Ultimately, making drag part of mainstream media is an opportunity to educate people on queer culture and history. It is also an opportunity to open people’s eyes to an entire spectrum of what the art of drag has to offer. People that are a part of the drag culture, whether they are performing camp queens, bio queens, nightclub hosts, and more, are making queer history on a daily basis.
Hopefully, mainstream media will one day capture the true essence and meaning of drag.
Header photo: Lewis as Acacia Dali