Today, drag culture has become a phenomenon in popular and mainstream culture, with many queens taking inspiration from Golden Age aesthetics; big curled hair, long lashes and elegant gowns. London based Queen, Jesse, believes old Hollywood influences are without a doubt inspiring many drag looks, “I think to some degree, old Hollywood influences every queen. So many icons in one period is hard to overlook.” Despite the recent influx of drag culture, many are unaware of the development drag has undertook to become part of society today.
Dating back to the early 1870s, pantomime saw the birth of the ‘dame’, which evolved to the rise and growth of ‘drag’. Theatre and pantomime were a safe haven in which cross dressing was seen as acceptable and creative, with men often dressing as women to characterise femininity. Drag as entertainment, continued until the 1920s and 1930s, with the first gay bars and LGBT communities developing. This period was known as the ‘pansy craze’.
Following years of acceptance and freedom within theatre and pantomime, American society in the 1950s and 1960s became more controlled and unaccepting. If men were seen dressed as women, or even carrying a certain amount of female clothing, they could be arrested. Strict totalitarian regimes saw drag culture become oppressed.
It wasn’t until the 1980s drag became more mainstream culture, with the 1990s known as the Reign of RuPaul. RuPaul is a supermodel, singer, presenter and all round entertainer whom is recognised for his activism and involvement within the LGBT community. After recently acquiring a coveted spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, RuPaul continues to popularise and promote drag culture.
With drag culture now being considered a popular art form, many queens take their ‘dragspiration’ from old Hollywood glamour. RuPual’s cult TV show which has a respectable 10-year span, sees thousands of queens audition to take part in the ultimate drag queen talent contest. Not only is there a $100,000 cash prize, the chosen queens are often catapulted to stardom following their appearance on the hit show.
From club appearances, music albums, films, and even fashion week debuts, the queens are now considered celebrities of popular culture. Season winners, Sasha Velour, Jinx Monsoon and Violet Chackhi, tour globally promoting their alter egos. Despite each queen creating their own unique and iconic look, many queens are inspired by the Golden Age aesthetic.
Christel Mett, a Berlin queen and performer believes old Hollywood influences every queen, “the hairstyles, the brow shape, even the facial expressions. It’s nothing more than good old Hollywood with a breath of fresh air.”
A photoshoot with Sasha Velour taken by photographer, Lucas Blair (see above) bears similarities to Hollywood actress and icon Heddy Lamarr. The arched brows and long lashes are reminiscent of the Golden Age beauty trends, with Sasha’s infamous uni-brow trademark adding her own unique twist. The long gloves and flowing luscious curls add a touch of old Hollywood glamour, with the fashion queen being renowned for her show-stopping and ‘extravangaza eleganza’ looks. The season nine winner received rave reviews during her stint on the hit TV show, for her ability to blend vintage glamour with contemporary fashion. London based queen Jesse reiterates this, “Sasha’s taken old Hollywood glamour and brought it to a new dimension”.
Another queen notorious for her Golden Age inspiration is New York’s beauty queen known as ‘The Face’, Miss Fame. Miss Fame’s Instagram page is filled with stunning photoshoots and tutorials of old Hollywood inspired drag. One of her most iconic looks is inspired by infamous German actress and singer, Marlene Dietrich (see below). The sleek blonde bob, thin arched brows, slick of eyeliner and a touch of lipstick bear a striking resemblance to the Hollywood icon. Christel describes Miss Fame’s Hollywood tribute as “a piece of finest art”, with the exquisite make-up emphasising the queen’s true talent. Drag has only recently been considered an art form, with queens showing off their skills in make-up, dressmaking, singing and all round entertaining.
Burlesque queen and season seven winner Violet Chachki is recognised within the drag community for her divine beauty and clinched waist. Both Violet and Dita von Teese (see above) wear a bright red lip and bold eyeliner, reminiscent of Hollywood legend and glamour icon Marilyn Monroe. Violet Chachki’s slim physique blur the lines of the gender norm, with her feminine features exaggerated. The drag queen, singer, burlesque star and model made history being the first drag queen to land a lingerie campaign. The pin-up inspired ad for London brand, Playful Promises, saw Violet model a selection of vintage-esque bustier bras, high-waisted underwear, corsets and garter belts. The queens modelling career has gone from strength to strength, with the fashion industry taking advantage of the stars ‘uniqueness, nerve and talent’, after Violet closed Moschino’s Fall 2018 menswear and womenswear pre fall show.
It is clear to see Violet Chachki’s Golden Age inspiration, with the queen becoming a star in her own right, following in the footsteps of legendary vintage-inspired dancer, Dita von Teese.
From “dusty cellars and murky clubs, to the mainstage where it belongs”, Christel highlights the evolution of drag culture, “now drag queens are slowly getting accepted and not only as cheap entertainment but also as artists, hard workers and visionaries.” The development of the once niche community is clear to see, with over 1 million viewers tuning in to see the pilot episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars, drag culture is now a phenomenon within mainstream culture. Queens are now becoming recognised for their undeniable talent and skills, with drag finally getting the recognition it deserves and showing the public it is truly an art form.
Watch Drag Race season 10 on Netlix now.
All Hail Mama Ru