Male actors dressing in female clothing was introduced with the birth of theatre, but in the 1870s, drag culture hit the scene through an exaggerated and burlesque-like twist. In the 1950s and 60s, even though dressing up as the opposite sex was viewed as a crime, drag performers still traveled throughout the U.S. Since its inception, drag has been a political statement referencing culture and art in different time periods to exaggerate a female or non-binary persona.
Throughout the years iconic figures have presented the art of drag to the masses, including Julian Eltinge, one of the top-earning entertainers of the 20th century, and Flip Wilson with his character “Geraldine Jones.” In 2009, RuPaul’s Emmy-winning-show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” became the first drag TV competition on air, transforming its culture for years to come. Season 12 finalist, Crystal Methyd, and Marti Gould Allen-Cummings, candidate for the 2021 New York City Council, share how arts and culture like these shows and others have influenced their drag art.
Inspiring the Next Generation
Crystal Methyd, known for being the out-of-the-box queen on season 12 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” is brightening up the world with their colorful and over-accessorized drag looks. “Drag started as a vehicle for me to challenge my conservative mother’s view of queer culture,” Crystal shares. “As I continued to do drag, it evolved into a platform by which I could channel my creativity through gender expression.”
To this day the beauty of how drag culture has evolved allows the expression of gender fluidity through the use of make-up, hair, and fashion. For Crystal, “drag is all about referencing pop culture. If your drag doesn’t represent arts or culture, you’re doing something wrong. I pull inspiration from my mother’s Mexican heritage, movies, video games, and other artists.”
Understanding their individuality, Crystal became a frontrunner and fan favorite on “Drag Race” for remaining authentic while switching up their aesthetics. As Crystal points out, “I’ve never felt any pressure to fit into the norms of drag, because they are ever-changing.”
Carrying this confidence in their art, Crystal acknowledges the important platform the TV show has offered the LGBTQ+ community. “I feel proud in the small role I’ve played in inspiring the next generation of performers.” Continuing to share their art with the world, Crystal looks forward to upcoming tours in UK and Australia, as well as staying in touch with fans through YouTube and Twitch.
Queer Voices Must Have a Seat At The Table
Marti Gould Allen-Cummings is breaking barriers in the political space as the first drag queen to run for New York City Council District 7 in the 2021 election. For Marci, diving into drag art was out exploring gender and art, and combining the two.
As their persona evolved over the years, arts and culture played a pivotal role in their drag art. “We are constantly learning and growing and evolving with the world around us,” Marti explains, “implementing this into who we are as people, so it is no different for drag,” citing influences by drag personas like Peppermint, Sherry Vine, Justin Vivian Bond, and Shequida.
As drag evolves and explores new spaces, Marti is opening doors for drag queens in politics. Their interest began by understanding that the art of drag is political, and working with such organizations as The Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBTQIA Youth and The Hetrick Marin Institute. This involvement has enabled Marti to see the needs of the queer community firsthand.
In preparation for the 2021 elections, Marti hopes their activism will inspire others. “I didn’t have role models growing up that were like me, so I hope my running helps young queer people to get involved. We need representation at the table. There are only eight non-binary elected officials across the country.”
In the meantime, Marti is getting us ready for the holidays with the release of a duet album with their husband, entitled “A Very Marti Holiday,” which is available on all streaming platforms.
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