Here are the pieces I did for an LGBT art show! I wanted to portray famous drag mothers from Paris is Burning as patron saints of the queer community since they’ve done so much to help said community progress and develop. I also feel that gay men and trans women of color tend to be pushed to the wayside in terms of LGBT history, so this was my way of honoring them. Happy Pride, everyone!
The trans performer was featured Jennie Livingston‘s 1990
documentary Paris Is Burning. The seminal classic explores the New York City
ballroom culture of the 1980s and the Black, Latino, and LGBT communities
involved with it.
Willam: Season 4: Was disqualified from the race for breaking rules, has built a huge internet following. Possibly has more views and subscribers than any other queen that has been on Drag Race. Has possibly the largest music career out of all the queens as well.
Pearl: Season 7: The “most improved” queen of the season. At the start of the race, the judges critiqued her possibly more than any other queen, however she ended up making it to the top 3 and had quite a good chance of winning. Since leaving Drag Race, Pearl has been doing many things with her career including releasing music and being in a video for Vanity Fair.
Kim Chi: Season 8: Fan-favorite. Kim Chi was the most unique queen on her season. Her aesthetic combines Anime, Glamour, Doll, and Cartoon all into one. Could definitely go far in the competition.
Trixie Mattel: Season 7: Another fan-favorite. Although Trixie’s style in clothing is somewhat basic, Her makeup is shocking, humorous, and glamorous all at the same time. She has reached several milestones after leaving the race which includes releasing merch, making an album, co-starring in a web series put on by WOWPresents.
Valentina: Season 9: Was the fan-favorite, gained more followers on instagram per episode than any other queen in Drag Race history. Seemed very kind and caring until many other queens on her season spoke of shady things shes done both on and off the show. Her elimination shocked many viewers as a lot of people, including RuPaul herself, expected to see her at the top.
Adore Delano: Season 6: Adore is known as the fan-favorite of all time. She is the most followed Drag Queen on instagram. She even has more followers than RuPaul herself. Was in the top 3 of her season and some consider her to be the “true winner” of her season as she has had a lot of success after the race with both her drag career and her music career, the two of which overlap as well. She will most likely be on All Stars 3, as RuPaul has offered her a position to which her response was “I’m probably down.”
Shea Couleé: Season 9: Shea’s season had many fan-favorites, Shea being one of them. After Valentina’s elimination, Shea or Sasha were expected to win the competition. Shea’s runway looks are always very strong. Shea has already begun expanding her drag career by releasing an EP. Viewers should have a very high expectation for her to win All Stars if she races.
Aja: Season 9: Great concepts for fashion. Serves a very fierce lip sync. Although she didn’t do great in her season, I’d expect her to have grown and be able to do very well in All Stars if she were join.
Naomi Smalls: Season 8: With outstanding runway looks and makeup skills, Naomi was also able to prove that she can do more than just be pretty. She was in the top 3 of her season and was expected to win by many.
Ornacia: Season 6: Icon. Hasn’t returned because it wouldn’t be fair for the other queens to have to compete against a legend like her. Yes queen. Slay.
The 1920s ushered in a new era of social acceptance of minorities and homosexuals, at least in heavily urbanized areas. This was reflected in many of the films of the decade that openly made references to homosexuality. Even popular songs poked fun at the new social acceptance of homosexuality. One of these songs had the title “Masculine Women, Feminine Men.”
Homosexuals received a level of acceptance that was not seen again until the 1960s. Until the early 1930s, gay clubs were openly operated, commonly known as “pansy clubs”. The relative liberalism of the decade is demonstrated by the fact that the actor William Haines, regularly named in newspapers and magazines as the number-one male box-office draw, openly lived in a gay relationship with his lover, Jimmie Shields. In 1927, Mae West wrote a play about homosexuality called The Drag, and alluded to the work of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. It was a box-office success. West regarded talking about sex as a basic human rights issue, and was also an early advocate of gay rights. With the return of conservatism in the 1930s, the public grew intolerant of homosexuality, and gay actors were forced to choose between retiring or agreeing to hide their sexuality.
An influential transgender gay rights activist (1944 – 1992). One of my eternal sheroes. She played a major role in the “Gay” Rights Movement early on and was highly involved with the Stonewall Riots. For decades her work has been talked over and erased, but she lives on in many a young queer heart! <3
On Sunday, November 17, 1901, police raided a private party and arrested forty-one men, nineteen of them were dressed as women. Those in drag were publicly humiliated by being forced to sweep the streets — “women’s work.” The 41 were taken to an army barracks and inducted into the Mexican army. At least some of them were then put on a train to Veracruz, sent by ship to the Yucatan, and made to serve in the army as it was putting down a Mayan insurgency.
Here is how El Popular reported the story on November 20:
Last Sunday night, the police of the Eighth Precinct were informed that in the house located at number 4 La Paaz Street, a ball was being held without the corresponding permit. They immediately moved in to surprise the culprits, and after having encountered numerous difficulties in trying to get the partygoers to open up, the police broke into the house’s patio where they found 42 individuals who were dancing to the excessively loud music of a local street band.
When they noted the presence of the police, some of those who were dressed in women’s clothing attempted to flee in order to change out of the clothes of the opposite sex; but as the police understood the gravity of the situation, they did not allow anyone to leave, and all 42 including those still dressed as women were taken to the station from which they were then sent to Belem Prison, charged with attacks on morality, and put at the disposition of the District Governor.
As a complement to the previous report, we will say that among those individuals dressed as women, several were recognized as dandies who are seen daily on Plateros Street.
These men wore elegant ladies’ gowns, wigs, false breasts, earrings, embroidered shoes, and a great deal of eye makeup and rouge on their faces.
Once the news hit the boulevards, all kinds of commentaries were made, and the conduct of those individuals was censured.
We will not provide our readers with further details because they are summarily disgusting.
It was said that many of those arrested came from highly respected families with ties to the government of dictator Porfirio Diaz. Some of the earliest newspaper reports, like this one, had it that 42 were arrested. That number later dropped to 41, which generated even more rumors. One had it that the elderly lady who owned the house was one of those arrested, and she was later released. Other, more sinister rumors had it that one of those arrested was one of Diaz’s nephews.
El Popular may have been reluctant to provide details, but in subsequent days it was happy to imagine the scene for its readers:
If only we had seen them in their resplendent hairdos, their fake cleavage, with their shiny sparkling earrings, with their falsies like the ones worn by anemic bimbos, with their corseted waists, their dancing-girl skirts like inverted tulips, their buttery tights, their shoes fringed with crimped gold thread and colored glass beads, and all of them bedaubed in white powder and rouge, prancing about in the fandango with their perfumed and curly mustaches.
On November 23, El Pas published this account of one group of prisoners being transferred to the train bound for Veracruz:
The men-only ball that was raided by the police continues provoking talk in all social circles, by virtue of the fact that many of those detained are perfectly well known, since among them are men who stroll day after day down the boulevards showing off their stylish and perfectly tailored suits and wearing sumptuous jewels.
As we stated in yesterday’s issue, 12 of those captured in the house on the fourth block of La Pazz were sent to Veracruz along with seven thieves who were also conscripted into the armed services.
At 5:30 in the morning, the hour at which attendance is taken in the 24th Battalion (that is being remitted to the port of Veracruz), those called on first were the 12 individuals who had been at the famed ball, and after number 13, who was apelado [a term for a rough, lower-class urban Mexican] was called, he replied on hearing his name, “Present, my Captain,but let me go on record as saying that I am being conscripted as a thief; but I’m not one of them,” and he pointed to the group of dancers.
This provoked the laughter of those present, because not even a thief was willing to be confused with the perfumed boys, as they are called by the soldiers from the barracks
A very amusing scene developed in the the barracks of the 24th Battalion when the repugnant ones arrived wearing their magnificent overcoats, along with hats and nice patent-leather shoes. The captain of the recruits made them all strip without delay, and then handed out the rough but honorable articles of clothing that are given to recruits.
With tears in their eyes, they stripped off all their clothes, some of them begging that they be allowed at least to keep their nice silk undergarments, a request that the captain denied, since, he told them, there they were just the same as everyone else. He didn’t even allow them to keep their socks, and they all began to cry as they put on the shoes that would replace their lovely patent leather ladies’ shoes.
The government paper, El Imparcial, took plains to deny that the army was foolish enough to send any girly-men to the front lines:
All of the prisoners have been sent to Yucatan, but not as it has been said to join the ranks of the valiant soldiers taking part in the campaign; they will be employed instead on such tasks as digging trenches, opening breaches, and raising temporary fortifications.
Today, the number 41 has become slang for homosexuality or, more specifically, “faggot” or maricon. As the former revolutionary general and National Defense Secretary Francisco L. Urquizo explained in 1965, “The influence of this tradition is so strong that even officialdom ignores the number 41. No division, regiment, or battalion of the army is given the number 41. From 40 they progress directly to 42. No payroll has a number 41. Municipal records show no houses with the number 41. No hotel or hospital has a room 41. Nobody celebrates their 41st birthday, going straight from 40 to 42. No vehicle is assigned a number plate with 41, and no police officer will accept a badge with that number.” Some of the early LGBT advocacy groups in Mexico incorporated the number into their names, just as many similar groups in the U.S. have leveraged “Stonewall” as a shorthand for the struggle for gay rights.
The Legendary RuPaul and the late Willie Ninja, founder of The House of Ninja, members were known for their artistic and elegant flair of voguing! Willie was nationally known for his style of voguing and appeared in many music videos !
I met and partied with Willie before. Talk about nice! He was an awesome person. May he rest in peace.
Both have left a stamp in Black History, The Ballroom Scene/Culture, LGBT History, Dance, and the Arts!
Willam: Season 4: Was disqualified from the race after breaking rules. However, she has one of the most popular youtube channels amongst Drag Race Alumni and has what is possibly the most successful music career of all Drag Racers including RuPaul herself.
Pearl: Season 7: Was the “Move Improved” queen of her season. She has a unique style that no one has yet to display. She had amazing runway looks and rarely had an unflattering angle on the show.
Kim Chi: Season 8: Known as the fan-favorite for her season. Her style is a one of kind mash-up of Anime, Artsy, and High-Fashion. I would expect her to get to the top 3 of All Stars if she were to join.
Laganja Estranja: Season 6: Although she had emotional issues during her season, she is a fan favorite and has come a long way since leaving Drag Race, I think she could do well in the race as she has matured a lot during her time off the race.
Trixie Mattel: Season 7: Although style is not very original, her makeup is one of a kind and has yet to be executed better by anyone else. She can carry a tune and is another fan favorite.
Valentina: Season 9: One of the most beloved queens in Drag Race history. Although she isn’t the most followed queen, she has gained followers faster than other girl in her season. Although she was elimated, she was one of the best in the competition and would surely kick ass if she came back to the race.
Adore Delano: Season 6: Most likely going to be on All Stars 3, as RuPaul offered her a position on the season to which her response was “I’m probably down.” Possibly the fan-favorite of all fan-favorites. She has one of the most successful music careers of Drag Race. She is the most followed queen on instagram, with more followers than RuPaul. Commonly critiqued for her outifts and style on the runway, she probably expects to be out of her comfort-zone the entire competition.
Is a common belief that wigs and hair extensions are a very modern thing, actually they have a long history - The wigs started to be used by the ancient Egyptian, and the remarkable 17th century & 18th century eccentric wigs made history. But they were used in the glamorous ladies from the Old Hollywood? Yes and very often for some specific characters in movies. In the first photo of the post, for example, Marilyn Monroe is using long hair extensions for her role in the western ‘Rive Of No Return’ (1954), and there’s also this photo of Mamie Van Doren wearing hair extensions in 1963. As many of you guys know, bleaching really damages your hair - and decades ago it wasn’t different. Jayne Mansfield started to bleach her hair in 1954, and in this photo of her on the set of 'The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ in 1962, she was not wearing a wig, you can see that her hair is pretty short here. So, especially for the Blonde Bombshells, wigs were very often used because of the years of hair damage. In the 1960s a new type of synthetic wig was developed using a modacrylic fiber which made wigs more affordable. Reid-Meredith was a pioneer in the sales of these types of wigs. Diana Dors is wearing a short platinum blonde wig in the photo taken in 1963.
American activist, Stonewall Riots instigator, “Queen Mother” and “saint.” She moved to New York City in 1966, where her outgoing, ebullient personality made her a well-known fixture among the drag queens and trans women on Christopher Street. She was often homeless, but she was also known for giving her last few dollars away to someone who might need it more. When asked what her middle initial stood for, she would say, “Pay it no mind.” She was present in 1969 when the police raided the Stonewall Inn, proclaiming “I got my civil rights!” and throwing a shot glass at a mirror. The “shot glass heard around the world” is believed by some to be the inciting action of the ensuing riots. After Stonewall, as “crossdressers” were being shunted away from the mainstream gay rights movement, Johnson and her close friend Sylvia Rivera founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR. Securing a run-down apartment, they took in as many drag queens and transgender youth as they could, then hustled the streets to raise money so that their children wouldn’t have to. In 1972 she joined the queer performance troupe Hot Peaches, and in 1974 Andy Warhol painted her portrait as part of his series “Ladies and Gentlemen.” She fought for LGBTQ rights all her life, and later joined ACT UP to advocate for people with AIDS. In 1992, shortly after the Pride March, Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River. The police ruled it a suicide, and refused to investigate the death further.
photo frame, and the various photos in it, has been my favourite thing about
the bears since it appeared at the Montreal show. So far we’ve seen:
Frank ‘foo-foo’ Lamarr, Larry Grayson (!!!!! still not over it !!!!!!),
John Inman, Quentin Crisp, Stella Artois (identifying her was good work), Mado
Lamotte, Liberace, Bette Davis, Judy Garland and Ken Dodds.
not really trying to decode the bears (although I got as excited as anyone else
with the countdown). As I’ve said before the only message I take from the
bears is that they are consistently presented as gay and occasionally presented
as Harry and Louis. And everything I want to say about them comes from those
two observations. I love the photo frames, because that’s where the bear
tableaus engage most with queer history. I think the queer figures appeared in
those frames are an exploration of quite a specific theme – and I think that
theme is important.
Frank Lamarr and Larry Grayson both started their working lives
as drag acts. There was a demand for that in the 1940s and 1950s, a
circuit. Entertainment was a way for working class gay men (boys really
Grayson left school at 14 to start work) to earn a living and be around other
gay men. Sex between men was still illegal, but queer culture had a place in
mainstream entertainment – pantomimes and drag acts in particular, but also
highly camp comedic acts. All these acts were connected to much older
cultural practices that had developed as part of the marginal lives queer
people lived (the history of queer people in the entertainment industry and the
cultures that developed is fascinating and goes back well before the twentieth
century – polari is a fascinating place to start if
you’re interested). By the time Lamarr and Grayson were getting started these
sorts of acts were a coded language that everyone understood.
I’ve written a little bit about Frank Lamarr who remained a
Manchester drag act his whole life and became a cultural institution. Danny La
Rue had a similar career to Lamarr, but was London based and did a lot of work
in Pantomine. Larry Grayson and John Inman’s careers went in a different
direction from Lamarr’s (John Inman had started as an actor, rather than as a
drag act, but operated within the same cultural sphere as Lamarr and Grayson –
he worked a lot in Pantomine). In the 1970s, both Inman and Grayson got jobs as
highly camp television performers – Grayson presenting game shows and Inman in
the sitcom Are
You Being Served.
Here they were bringing
camp queer characters to a British television audience for pretty much the
first time (The Carry On film series started in the 1950s, but the BBC moved
much slower). These characters, and the actors who played them, were
operating in a new environment – sex between men was legalised in 1967 and
obviously the 1960s and 1970s was a time of huge cultural and political
upheaval – both of which meant there was a small space for queer representation
that hadn’t existed before. Quentin Crisp’s autobiography – The Naked Civil Servant – was turned into a television play in
1975. It was part of the same wave of queer visibility – a visibility limited
to very camp characters – but a new visibility nonetheless. But it was a
much more high culture version of the story – John Hurt who played Quentin
Crisp won a BAFTA (this was appropriate and reflecting the endless importance
of class in British society – since Crisp himself was middle-class while
Grayson and Inman were working-class).
All the queer figures that have featured in the frames have been
part of the coded camp queer culture that Inman and Grayson took to
television. In fact for a long time
Liberace was most famous in Britain, because of his part in a legal dispute
about that code. In 1956, a columnist
from The Daily Mirror (Louis’ least
favourite tabloid) described Liberace as: “…the summit of
sex—the pinnacle of masculine, feminine, and neuter. Everything that he, she,
and it can ever want… a deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling,
chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling,
fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love.” Liberace sued for libel. In response The Mirror claimed that they hadn’t
meant to imply he was gay (they obviously had – pay attention to the phrase ‘mother
love’ – it’ll be back) and Liberace testified (untruly) that he was not gay.
The Mirror lost and Liberace got awarded reasonably substantial damages. Here queer codes fell apart when exposed to public
and legal scrutiny. Everyone was denying that they meant what they very much
Mado Lamotte and Stella Artois are contemporary
drag queens - and they are keeping that much older culture
alive. I think this video of Stella
Artois, which I found on youtube, is very interesting:
Two things Steve Phillips says while getting ready to perform as
Stella Artois are I think particularly relevant. He talks about performing as a job. All of these figures were working
entertainers and all (even Mado Lamotte and Stella Artois) started working at a
time where the only way you could be visibly queer and an entertainer was by
working as a drag act, or in Pantomine or in other high camp comedy. Then
Phillips quotes Barry Humphries who said that if Dame Edna Everage (Humphries
drag persona) was punched in the face then Humphries wouldn’t have a
bruise. Which is such a powerful statement
of both the homophobic violence that these performers faced and the way that the high visibility of drag acted as armour and helped people negotiate violence and oppresion.
The bears have been exploring a very particular of queer
entertainment history (Divine fits this same theme – although an American independent
film version – very visibly queer, but in the 1970s at least, not out. Although given that Divine was the first such
figure it’s possible that he was chosen as part of the queer history of
Baltimore and the development of a theme came later). These are performers who were visible through
their campness, but often not out, and were consciously part of a long cultural
tradition of men who had created very similar spaces in very similar ways. With each additional figure I become
convinced that the bears are being curated by at least one person who is
actively interested in queer history. These figures are not picked just because they are prominent or famous,
they are picked because the people picking them have something to say.
I say people, I mean Harry
and Louis. There were really good reasons, even before Louis began his
latest quest to make sure everyone knew his involvement with the bears, to
think they were involved. I want to start with 2011 Sugarscape videos (which contain answers to all of the world’s most important
questions). Literally 8 million things happen in this 75 second video
(and I have so many questions - mostly did Harry really say “that he’s
gay”, but also it’s just occurred to me what Louis meant hen he said he’d been
teasing Harry loads).
But most relevant to the
bears is Louis’ reaction to his boyfriend mentioning Eleanor and thereby
implying he’s straight: “How very dare you”.
Louis’ comment is a
reference to a recurring sketch in the Catherine Tate show (you can see every
example here). In this
sketch, Derek is a highly camp character who hits all the coded ways that Inman
and Grayson conveyed to television audience that they were gay, but acts
absolutely outraged when a character assumes he’s gay – “how very dare you!” is
sketch itself is referential – contrasting a hyper-stylised, coded,
marginalised gay culture with a society that is more open (and I could say a
tonne more about it than that, but I want to get this finished – so I’ll leave
it for now). And Louis’ use references
both the sketches and the culture.
That’s not the only reference Louis made to camp British
culture of the 1970s in November 2011. When
they went on Alan Carr (who is a direct descendent of Larry Grayson in
particular – camp for a whole new world) – Louis greeted him “Hello Gorgeous”
and then told Carr that he would out-camp him during the dance-off. Then there’s the interview where he talks about Harry in a dress (link because I can’t get the embed code to work).Both what he’s
saying and how he’s saying it are so much part of that particular camp, coded
way of talking.
I think there’s
an important distinction to be made between Louis’ very brief, active references
to camp culture, and this interview:
incredibly gay in form and in content, but in different ways. In the sugarscape interview (from January
2011), Louis is describing gay experiences and comes across as quite camp – but
neither is particularly deliberate. By
November the same year he was consciously adopting coded language that had a
long association with gay men in entertainment.
(there are other example
which are a little more general than those I’ve mentioned - he talks about
bringing Mr Camp in
another sugarscape interview and described himself as flaboyant in New Zealand
in April 2012).
We can’t know
why consciously camp Louis shined so briefly (and if anyone has any earlier
examples I’d really like to see them).
But I believe (I think it’s a reasonably common belief) that somewhere
between auditioning on X-factor with a girlfriend and the UK media blitz of
autumn 2011, Louis Tomlinson became someone who was quite comfortable with
being seen as gay. I’d go further and say that part of this was embracing the conscious,
coded, queerness of camp British culture.
(Every post is
improved by a video of this G-A-Y performance, to make the point about how
happy Louis was)
But he only
got the briefest window to share that part of himself. It was one of the first
things that got taken away – it was one of the first thing that got taken for
him. There’s a huge sad irony there –
that this code that was developed specifically so that gay men could be visible
in a time when they were completely marginalised – was taken away from a young
gay man, because it was too gay, in a supposedly more liberal time.
Pearson’s father first saw him perform in drag as Foo Foo Lamarr he threw a bar
stool at him. Larry Grayson and John Inman bought that coded queerness that
Lamarr’s father found so threatening straight into people’s living rooms. What
I love most about the bears is their exploration of the different way that
generations of entertainers have found ways to be openly queer, even though
their sexuality was marginalised, criminalised and terrorised.
There is a final layer of queer history to this – history that is being
made now. Within the context of a One Direction concert queerness is once
again in the margins (albeit also under the spotlight for that one concert in
London). The bears elaborate queer codes are tucked away from the stage.
Because their owners cannot (yet) be visible in the way that the people
they put in frames have been.