Queens of the Gold Age

Drag is back and storming the mainstream. We speak to some of the global circuit's favourite names about contemporary queer performance, and its tenacious role in transgressing normative ideas of gender and sexuality. Conformity be damned!

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The Drag Queens
Published 08 Aug 2017

Betty Grumble

Drag to me is about liberation, and about pushing back against a world that tells us that there is only one way of being. It’s about beauty and tragedy and defiant fun.


It's important because it is artistic freedom. It is gender explosion. It’s a celebration of creativity and that’s why I think drag is so important for 2017. It’s bravery, it’s courage – it’s all these words combined with tenacity… And it’s fuckin’ balls-deep in your face. The best thing about drag is that it allows you to be free.



Drag is sort of about delusion and about performing the reality that you dreamt up in your mind. So for us, it’s like Wembley’s a state of mind: we do 80,000 seaters every night, we play arenas every single night and that’s because drag allows you to live any kind of fantasy delusion you want.

Crystal Vaginova

Drag is important because it’s one of many ways of disrupting normative ideas of gender, gender dressing and performance. It’s been really important for our community historically—the LGBTQIA+ community—as a means of escape, or even finding acceptance. Drag is important because it disrupts mainstream ideas of gender... When it’s good.

Shirley Du Naughty

It seems like now more than ever that drag is entering the mainsteam, which is a really exciting thing. It means that more people are being introduced to drag in 2017, more people feel like they can get involved in drag themselves. There’s also an incredible online community and a real sense of sisterhood online, which is really important. 

Electra Cute

I do drag because it’s the most complete type of performance. The role you can create stays with you for years and years. It’s really exciting and it’s a form of absolute self-expression.

Aphrodite Greene

Drag is important today because even though it’s entered the mainstream in some ways, in terms of arguments about gender and identity we still have a long way to go. Drag can be a celebratory and joyous way of exploring those ideas.

Reuben Kaye

What is drag to me? Drag to me is anything you use to get through the day, and get through the fact that the world is turning to shit. Drag is hope. How’s that for deep and meaningful?!

Why is drag important? Because drag is a ‘fuck you’ to normality, and normality is conformity, and conformity is bland, and conformity is oppression, conformity is laziness. Drag says: here is a line that is meant to be broken – not broken to the oppression of others, but broken to the celebration of everyone. Drag is a celebration. It’s also fuckin’ difficult to take off at 4am when you’re trying to blow a guy.

Here’s the thing: drag has had the same importance it’s had since the first caveman put some fuckin’ ox blood on his lips and went ‘Yes! Fierce! Ug ug ug.’ It’s never lost its meaning; it’s never lost its importance. In 2017 it’s just had a huge exposure—because of RuPaul’s Drag Race—and that has good things and that has bad things. You take anything that's niche and underground and you give it to the public, the public are going celebrate it and get it right 50% of the time and the public are going to fuck it up 50% of the time, so as per usual it’s just going have to find its own way into the public psyche.


Drag’s not about an aesthetic, it’s about politics, and politics to disturb and discomfort normative ideas of gender and sexuality. It’s got a history of being at the forefront of transgressive performance and I think of drag as queer performance – queer people playing with what’s normal.

It’s also important to have spaces where queer people can come together and celebrate things outside of the norm together, so it’s about providing a space for queer people as well as challenging what’s normal.

With RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag has become a global phenomenon – there’s a lot of good stuff that comes out of that, but there’s also maybe a lot of aestheticisation. Obviously the look is still important, but it’s also tied into what the performance is and what the politics of that are. In my show I’m doing a piece called Theresa: The Musical, which is the sequel to last year’s Brexit: The Musical, which features quite literally Theresa May pulling the DUP out of her ass. You have to come to the show to understand what I mean, but I think you get the picture!