Approaching the large gray behemoth that is the Javits Center this past weekend, one would have no idea that inside there would be a scene of overwhelming fabulousness. Over two days, 35,000 people traveled there to be part of the celebration that is RuPaul’s DragCon.
The show was laid out like a typical convention, with rows of booths laid out numerically, but any resemblance to the real world ends there; it’s more of a celebration than an expo and people definitely came to celebrate. Although the booths were hawking just about anything a boy might need to feel like a woman, the big draw was the chance to meet the various stars of RuPaul’s universe — including RuPaul — but that was a separate ticket, and required more cash.
Fans waited for hours to get autographs and selfies with their faves, but just standing in line was an adventure. The doors opened at 10 a.m., but by 10:30 the place was packed with an endless parade of stylish and creative personas that was equal parts Halloween, Mardi Gras, and Wigstock, the late but legendary drag festival. They actually closed the line for Jeffree Star, one of the event’s sponsors, at 10:30, so quite a few of his fans were out of luck.
In addition to the stars who had their own booths, there was an “Autograph Alley” that featured a revolving cast of performers who met their fans one by one.
Randy Jones of the Village People had a great time being a part of it all.
“I love all the queens”, he said. “World of Wonder [RuPaul’s production company] has put together a wonderful cast of characters.”
Another WOW celeb, TS Madison, is a transgender performer working on a different kind of transition — from adult videos to mainstream media. She participated in a one of the many panels and met the fans on Saturday and Sunday.
“DragCon 2017 is amazing,” she told Gay City News. “It’s filled with queens and everyone who wants to be a queen”.
Panel discussions, two dozen in total, covered subjects such as nightlife, fake news, the Internet, trends, fashion , beauty, and activism, with a diverse crew of many of the more popular drag queens — Sasha Velour, Bob the Drag Queen, and Naomi Smalls alongside media notables like Michael Musto and television’s Nico Tortorella (“Younger”).
Gay City News took Tortorella aside and asked him if he had ever been in drag.
“Of course !,” he exclaimed. “My drag name is Almond Milk.”
Besides the clever drag names, the exhibitors and attendees showed off some seriously fun creativity. Some looked divine, and some looked like Divine. Sashaying through the hall were kings and queens ( all kinds), Madonnas (the MTV type), showgirls, divas (of course ), witches, fairies (uh-huh), monsters, wood nymphs (garden variety nymphs, as well), movie stars (of imaginary movies), and Amanda Lepore (there is only one Amanda Lepore).
Many hours were obviously spent on putting together the outfits on parade — and many more hours on the makeup. Drag performer Meatball spent the better part of a week creating a hot pink homage to Jackie Kennedy.
“My friend inspired the look,” she said. “He had created one quite similar, and I thought that the idea of a president being dead was very relevant in this time.”
Gay City News wondered how long it took Merrie Cherry to create her elaborate look, a kind a cross between Grace Jones and Hellraiser.
“Oh darling”, she confessed, “I paid someone to make this.”
The makeup still took hours to get right.
Muffy, having spent the previous day wearing an outfit that took four hours just to get into, opted for a simpler plan on Sunday.
“I took my roommate’s old plaid shirts and tied them together,” she explained. “It took about 30 minutes”.
Ophelia Hotass summed up the general feeling of the weekend when she mentioned she was there to “celebrate drag and all of this crazy beautiful stuff that goes with it.”
Designer Garo Sparo, an exhibitor whose business is about 40 percent creating outfits for drag queens, agreed, adding that “the most wonderful thing is seeing the parents coming in with their kids [in drag]. It hits me in the heart.”
Certainly eight-year-old DQ Lactacia and 10-year-old Desmond Is Amazing are becoming very visible role models in a way that would have been impossible not so long ago.
“We’re leading into a draggier future, in the best way,” said Sparo.
One final note — an unfortunate one. When Gay City News first entered, we took note of the sign that said “Drag is not consent — please ask before taking someone’s photo” (curiously, it was positioned next to a sign informing attendees that by entering they agreed to be photographed and filmed for whatever purposes). So Gay City News asked and every potential subject and every single celebrity, performer, exhibitor, and attendee graciously agreed, with one notable exception. Despite several face-to-face requests, RuPaul flat-out refused. And, we might add, he was not particularly nice about it.