Best Drag Queen (2002)

Empress Crystal Rae Lee Love

Drag. Some have attempted to explain the source of the word as Shakespearean. Bard Willie would often leave the costume directions "dressed as girl" in his scripts. Others say it's a reference to cross-dressing actors' long frocks dragging across the stage. The roots of the word (bleached, highlighted, tinted or otherwise) we may never know, but quite a few fellas have a grand old time in the spangled, feather boa'd world of transvestism. But when should a tranny be a tranny, and when should a tranny don a wardrobe of masculine plain-olds? That's the question our fave dragster faced this year. Rusty Mueller, and his elegant, extravagant alter ego, Crystal Rae Lee Love, were crowned male grand marshal for Houston's Pride Parade. "This is the first time a drag artist who has been chosen grand marshal has been given the option to be either persona in the parade. Before, they had to go as a man. It was gender-specific," explains Mueller in the June issue of OutSmart Magazine. At the parade, we were a tad disappointed to learn that Crystal chose to bow out gracefully and defer to Rusty. Not that there's anything wrong with Rusty, that tall drink of water. His drag persona is just such so lovely and elegant. She looks like a film star from the glamorous '30s or '40s, so it's difficult to believe there's a soft-spoken, flat-topped gentleman who works in the insurance industry beneath the wig and makeup. Never judge a book by its cover. Don't get the wrong idea from Mueller's choice. Crystal Rae Lee Love has not retired. As she puts it, "I am the empress who won't step down."


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