Life's a Drag - and That's What Makes It Fun!

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It’s time for these queens to lip-sync…for their life!

A handful of seasoned drag performers will sashay and chante — purse first, no less — for Houston audiences at Wortham Center's Lillie and Roy Cullen Theater on September 15 as cast members from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 slay the crowd. Bob The Drag Queen, Kim Chi, Naomi Smalls, Thorgy Thor and Chi Chi Devane will bring their individual style of art, along with guest host Ginger Minj from the show’s seventh season. 

The veteran entertainers will deliver a one-night-only show filled with stand-up humor, female illusion and….we’ll just say the most gender-bending thrill this side of the Mississippi.

Regarding the smorgasbord of performers, Bob tells us, "There are so many queens that do so much in the show. People will see great make-up, great dancing and great comedy."

The cast members of RuPaul’s Drag Race and spin-off Drag Race All-Stars have been making headlines for years, and they don’t plan to Ru-pologize for it anytime soon. In fact, being slightly irreverent and poking fun at societal expectations is what these girls do best.

“We’re all born naked,” RuPaul has famously quipped. “The rest,” he added, “is drag.”

Never were more true words spoken. Drag has often been a limit-pushing activity. Without drag queens, there wouldn’t have been a Stonewall Riot. Or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Or Hairspray. Or Ursula from The Little Mermaid.

Drag didn’t always start out as a blood sport, though. It actually got its name from none other than William Shakespeare. In his time, only men performed onstage, so if a female character was needed for a production, a man “dressed as a girl” filled the role. Taking the abbreviation for this phrase, his scripts usually had these male-cum-female actors referenced as D.R.A.G. in the notes. Hence, a star – and a queen – was born from the most fabulous of writers.

Fast-forward about 150 years, and just like a fine wine, the “ladies” of the stage have only gotten better with age. They’ve become more refined…more daring…more creative.

These ladies aren’t just some type of exotic curiosity, though. Houston has a rich history of drag performers as well. Several nights a week, one can catch a drag show at F Bar, JR’s Bar & Grill, Michael’s Outpost, Rich’s, South Beach, TC’s and Tony’s Corner Pocket, and that’s not even including our Galveston neighbors at Rumors, 23rd Street and Robert’s Lafitte.

Amateurs who want to dabble can find a home in Houston too. Organizations like the Lone Star Volleyball Association and the Montrose Softball League host annual fundraisers in the form of mock drag pageants featuring an if-it-weren’t-so-funny-it-would-be-embarrassing cadre of performers, and sometimes they score a cameo from a more experienced guest to help boost attendance and donations. South Beach hosts “So You Think You Can Drag,” a weekly competition in which new talents get the opportunity to showcase their creativity. Proving that the smaller bars can launch the next great entertainer, Tony’s Corner Pocket has started a Wednesday night competition to focus on homegrown talent.

It turns out the Bayou City, no matter where you turn your luxuriously lashed eye or beat-for-the-Gods face, is filled with a wealth of flair, body pads and enough wigs to make Wendy Williams jealous.

Houston, regardless of its larger-than-life personalities and plethora of drag performers, has been underrepresented in Ru’s titular show. Despite the fact that the Lone Star State’s biggest city is home to fierce queens like Violet S’Arbleu, Vancie Vega, Roxanne Collins, Kofi Cakes, Kara Dion, Deyjzah Opulent Mirage, Lana Blake and a litany of other nationally acclaimed performers, we’ve never had a local girl make it onto the show.

In fact, Texas as a whole has had only a handful of queens to grace the cast. Season 8’s Cynthia Lee Fontaine hails from Austin. Season 7’s Kennedy Davenport performs in Dallas, where season 6’s Laganja Estranja also grew up before moving to California. Season 2's 3’s Shangela calls Los Angeles her home base, but she originally came from Texas, and season 2’s Mistique Summers spent some quality time growing up as a Texan before moving to Chicago. And do we even need to reference the Mesquite, Texas, resident and ceaselessly quote-worthy season 5 competitor Alyssa Edwards?

RuPaul’s oversight of Texas is our gain. While they might not be making national headlines, the talent who call Houston home perform several times each week for all of us local adoring fans, and we lap it up.

The truth is, it really isn’t about where they came from, though. It’s where they’re headed that matters, and the queens who do make it onto RuPaul's Drag Race can slay the competition without losing their hair over it.

Well...except for this one.

In spite of – or perhaps because of – the show’s vivacious cast members and clever editing, many of the ladies have either come from or gone on to experience large success.

Just like the skilled queens of Houston, the stars of RuPaul's Drag Race bring the talent in full force.

Adore Delano was a contestant on American Idol, and Courtney Act competed in Australia’s version of the same show. Raja Gemini has been Tyra Banks’s right-hand gal for make-up design. Chad Michaels has made a career of being a jaw-dropping Cher doppelgänger in Las Vegas alongside Coco Montrose, who can impersonate and dance flawlessly like Janet Jackson. Don’t even get Bianca Del Rio started on her Judge Judy imitation, because he’s possibly the one person who can read for filth more severely than the magistrate can.

Then, there’s the mother hen of them all: RuPaul, who was recently nominated for his first and long-deserved Emmy Award.

Need we mention his lasting impact on society? He’s been a drag performer, a show producer, a singer, a business owner, an author, a progressive activist and a beacon for aspiring talent. He even had the audacity to stomp the runway as a supermodel to the world standing directly next to the biggest names in the industry. Nobody understands the struggle and pain of strutting the catwalk in a pair of heels and cinched waist like RuPaul does – an no one pulls it off as seemingly effortlessly as Ru either.

Don’t expect him to back down from his well-heeled position, though. This head mistress has been making headlines for nearly 25 years, and he doesn’t plan on stopping now – especially with LGBTQ rights and equality having reached such a fever pitch in pop culture recently.

And just in case anyone forgot the marketing power of RuPaul to turn “dull” into “delicious,” there’s this gem:

RuPaul is calm, collected, cool and current – and, as always, he is looking good and feeling gorgeous. And did we forget to mention, he knows how to work a camera? But ultimately, throughout the competition, Ru reinforces the messages of love, self-acceptance and individuality. Because if you can't love yourself?...(All my fellow Drag Racers, fill in the rest of this sentence in the comments section.)

The legacy RuPaul has built continues with the next generation of performers, and he is building his army of well-spackled and manicured sidekicks — and we'll be the first ones in line to pick up a ticket to see this dazzling group of ladies do what they do best: put on an unforgettable show. 

Catch The Queens: Season 8 on Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. at Wortham Center, 501 Texas Avenue. Tickets range from $27.75 to $276.25. Call 832-487-7041 or visit houstonfirsttheaters.com.

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