The Drag Race
9pm. On a Tuesday. Downtown DC.
It was a madhouse. A crowd of people, young with beer bottles held in paper bags, and old with bemused smiles on their faces, straight with hoots of aplomb, and gay with evaluations of each others’ velor dresses, families with children dressed as bumblebees all crowded together moving with and around each other like slightly melted molasses.
I cradled my camera like a baby in front of me, and sucked in my stomach as I attempted to get closer. It was the DC Drag Race, a pre-Halloween tradition that involved nary a car and many a queen.
The race itself lasts about a minute; I missed it, in fact. Fifty men or so, all in the mandatory high heels, most in elaborate dresses, costumes, and face paint, tottered and raced their way down two blocks of street. But the main event of that night wasn’t the titular race. It was the preening and photo-taking that came before and after the race.
The costumes were breathtaking. It was like an ‘I Spy’ book from my childhood. I spy… a Pan Am stewardess, Marilyn Monroe, a lamp, two roller skating lady bugs, Lady Gaga, seven butterflies, Griselda from the musical Cats, two swans, Nina from Black Swan….
Drag queens were interviewed about their costume inspirations. Some queens called out to young, cute men and told them to get their picture taken with them. Women avidly asked the queens where-ever did they find their shoes? The police tried to control the flow of the traffic on the street, and did not look particularly pleased. It was wonderful to feel the vibrancy of the crowd that even a relatively staid city like DC can possess.
I have no thesis on humanity based on this experience. I am not going to talk about how the presence of minority drag queens was reassuring, or the lack of drag kings a problem. It was just nice to see how popular this tradition has become, and how accepting people were of it.
Plus, I wanted to the post the pictures.
Have a favorite? Vote for your favorite drag queen in the comments section below.