RuPaul’s Drag Con is three days of shows, spectacle, goodies, glamour, and above all…DRAG QUEENS! For anyone like me who deals with a little or a lot of anxiety, it can be one hell of a stressful, albeit amazing experience. This, and a lucky schedule change, is why I only got to attend DragCon on Sunday, notoriously the most mellow day of the weekend. Perfect!
To some, this convention was their first experience, but for me, it was a trip down a furry, pink memory lane filled with ghosts from the past. I sought out some of those fantastic phantoms and met new friends to talk about their con experiences this year!
My first visit was to the island oasis ruled by queen Brita Filter. Brita was on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12, which included lots of drama and a Zoom finale in the heat of the 2020 lockdown. I met Brita in 2015 at her weekly show at the now-extinct West Village bar Boots and Saddle. The growth and tenacity she has exhibited as her star has risen has been beautiful to witness. Brita endured scores of negativity since the airing of her season and in turn became very open on social media about her journey with mental health. What a joy it was to see my brave friend flash me the brightest smile in NYC. This is Brita’s first DragCon as a Drag Race queen, having previously worked with Alyssa Edwards‘ booth with fellow queens and the members of Stephanie’s Child – Lagoona Bloo, Jan (RPDR Season 12, RPDR All Stars 6), and Rosé (RPDR Season 13). “Now it’s crazy that all of us are doing crazy things and half of us are on Drag Race!,” exclaimed Brita when asked her how she felt being at DragCon this year. “It’s really special…we started as a family and we continue to be a family. And just to talk about the things that we’re going through. Drag Race in itself is a whole other beast on top of doing drag, so being able to have other people that understand you is really special.” That feeling of camaraderie and acceptance was abundantly flowing through the entire convention center.
“It’s amazing to be able to have ‘repeat offenders,’ as I love to call them come and say hi and see me with their family or their friends that I see every year,” shared Biblegirl, self-proclaimed “Internet Reality Trash” and CEO of Drag Queen Merch. “It’s always the most enriching and fulfilling experience to see people literally growing before my eyes and seeing how their relationships with their parents or their guardians or family as a whole have developed and evolved and shifted. I’ve been able to literally watch queer youth grow up and find their identities and transform into who they want to be while their parents are still in the picture. I’ve seen point A to B. It’s just, everything is very special. Before the work and all the profit and the business end, I love being here because of that aspect. Period.”
Next, I had a moment of *gay panic* when I walked by the Dark Garden Unique Corsetry booth behind which stood three stunning mavens, all modeling their exquisite products. They gifted me with an incredible experience of being fitted for a corset and let me tell you, body euphoria is REAL! Marianne Faulkner, Dark Garden’s Creative Director and Associate Designer shared that this year at DragCon “Everyone is really excited to show their best self and see everyone else all decked out and be super authentic and celebrating. I also love that this year, not only is this a queer show, but I feel like everyone is just really leaning away from binary concepts of presentation and styling… It’s so exciting to see masc-presenting people not necessarily being drawn towards the things that are more stereotypically masc… Feeling free to explore different colors and silhouettes. Just being themselves.” If you are a person who wears or has ever had an interest in wearing a corset, Faulkner and company will take great care of you and find you exactly what you need to fulfill your fantasy!
While I was gushing over the “Cupid” style under-bust around my waist, Carrie Morissey, the designer of iconic jewelry and accessory brand ISLYNYC stopped by to purchase a heart-shaped beret also designed by Faulkner and to throw a little more gas on my growing fire of self-love and realization. This was another blast from the past! We both remembered meeting each other back at the Brooklyn Bushwig festival in 2017! In fact, when I asked her what her favorite part of being back at DragCon this year, she spoke on that very subject – “Seeing people I haven’t seen in many years and having people remember each other and be like, ‘OH MY GOD!’ That feeling over and over again.”
My favorite booth this year was one that took me by surprise – The Divine Museum. I stared in stunned silence at the makeup case belonging to the late, great Divine aka Harris Glenn Milstead, resting next to Divine’s costumes including the white dress from the play The Neon Woman and the classic John Water’s film Hairspray. I got to meet Noah Brodie, CEO of Divine Enterprises, LLC who shared with me how it feels to carry on the legacy of Divine: “It’s an absolute honor… Sometimes we’ll have packs of folks that comes into the museum and I’ll hear someone say, ‘WHO’S DIVINE?!’ and then all of a sudden, their friends with them will school them on Divine.” As a pre-established fan of Divine, I was thankful for the chance to feel so close to an icon the queer community lost far too soon.
Finally, I got to catch up with two more queens I got to know before their RuPaul’s Drag Race debuts – Alexis Michelle and Dusty Ray Bottoms who were both thrilled to be sharing a booth this year. “We’re always at the opposite ends of the convention, so it’s nice to be here and be able to kiki with her and meet all of our people,” smiled Dusty Ray as her husband Marc Singer re-buckled her shoes. “We did the pink carpet on Friday. Sitting backstage and seeing all the franchises… all the faces from all the seasons, it was just so surreal. It gave me goose pimples just to be a part of all that experience.” They couldn’t be more right! The final Drag Race convention before the 2020 shutdown took place in NYC in September 2019, after the premiere of Drag Race Thailand, but a month before the premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Since then, 9 franchises have been added to the Drag Race roster and there are 4 more on the way. This “chosen family” as Alexis Michelle called it gets bigger every year.
With that, I took a few more trips around the shopping stalls before wrapping up my day and getting off my aching feet. Heals and concrete are not comfortable friends. As I headed home, I thought back on the brilliance of miss Brita Filter who chose the “island fantasy” inspiration for her booth to honor her heritage with the bonus of not requiring heals. GENIUS! She also gave me a bit of advice that I will now pass on to you: “[When] I started drag, I was really afraid, so I started doing something every single day that I was afraid of and it made me stronger and I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t follow that. So, if you want to do something in life, just keep on doing it and if you’re afraid, just do one little thing every single day that you’re afraid of and then you’ll have the courage to do it again.”
Challenged accepted, Brita.