Pride & Joy Day 10: It’s a Drag

[Today’s donation was made to Emergency Release Fund. Click here to see my Pride & Joy Project 2020 Daily Donations List.]

I remember watching RuPaul’s “Supermodel” video for the first time on MTV Asia back in Jakarta in 1995, and it became one of the videos that brought so much great joy into my young gay life. I can only think of two other such videos: Kylie Minogue’s “I Should Be So Lucky” and Lisa Stansfield’s “Change” and neither of those two videos feature a black, tall, slender, sassy and fabulous man in campy costumes. The twelve-year-old-me related so hard.

Then there’s RuPaul as Rachel Tension, descending from the ceiling of Webster Hall, wearing a sparkling Confederate-flag gown a few minutes in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar – my all-time favorite movie. I must’ve rented the laserdisc a dozen times when I was a student in an all-male Jesuit Catholic school in Jakarta, watching and rewatching it every weekend.

(It’s worth mentioning that one of the drag queens in the New York pageant scene in the movie is the incomparable Miss Coco Peru, whose quarantine videos on YouTube have given me so much joy and knowledge. The fact that I now live less than 15 miles away from her is surreal.)

The truth is, RuPaul’s Drag Race (and Drag U) saved my life. It was March or April 2013 and I just had a bad breakup. I needed something to binge-watch and this was before Netflix became what it is today. RPDR was still on Logo and the episodes were playing for free (with ads) on the website.

I’m not as obsessed with RPDR as I used to be. Come to think of it, I never even watch Untucked because I’m only interested in the aesthetics and how the contestants present themselves in each challenge. Besides, I’m such a coward when it comes to seeing people in uncomfortable situations (I couldn’t even finish Welcome to Me and the Swedish film Force Majeure).

I know, I know. “She doesn’t support black people.” “She’s transphobic.” “She fracks.” “She’s racist.” “She’s only interested in making money.” “And she’s a baaaaad actress.

Don’t meet your heroes, amirite? And in this day and age, we don’t have to meet our heroes to (think we) know them. There’s social media. We can scrutinize and question whatever they post and whatever they don’t post.

But it is a fact that RuPaul has played a major role in making drag culture (and by association, the LGBTQ community) more visible. Change comes through visibility and representation.

Every time I wear this shirt (and I usually wear it on Wednesdays because #onWednesdayswewearpink), I stand up taller. I feel fiercer. I’m reminded I don’t have to be ashamed of my femininity. And I thank RuPaul for that. Condragulations indeed.

Photography by Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta.