Shante You Stay: What I’ve Learned from Binging RuPaul’s Drag Race

With Season 8 ready to ki-ki as of tomorrow, fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race are bursting with anticipation over the new queens, the new feuds, and the shade of it all. This weekend, laid up with a sprained foot, I decided to re-watch all seven seasons on Logo as part of their Runway to 100 marathon. While I’ve watched every season multiple times already, it was somewhere on day three (or was it four?) that I deliriously realized just how much the prancing pageants of queens have taught me about life–and I don’t just mean how to execute a flawless cut crease eye.

My love for drag performers goes deep. Ever since I was a little thing, I was obsessed with musical theater. Productions like Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cabaret, and Chicago were my gateway into the world of glamour. The older I got, I discovered the classic documentary Paris is Burning and began finding my way to drag shows. Gender performance was, to me, the ultimate way a weird, not conventionally attractive little girl could find her way in the world. I saw these glorious, hilarious, creatures decked out in all of their drama, and I knew I could be beautiful like that someday. So it’s understandable that my love of RuPaul’s Drag Race is a very tender one–afterall, if you can’t learn to love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else? 

After three days, seven seasons, and multiple crazed Facebook statuses, here is everything I realized I’ve learned from watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.

1. It’s Okay To Fall Down–Get Up, Look Sickening, Make Them Eat It

The words of Season 4’s Miss Congeniality, the large and in charge, chunky yet funky, Latrice Royale have become my personal mantra. The plus sized queen was beloved by everyone who met her, and charged through her season with determination and class. Having done time in prison and overcoming more than her fair share of tragedy, Latrice’s world view was focused on making the best choices for herself. When faced with adversity, she vowed not to crumble and instead picked herself up, put on another layer of banana powder, and told the world where to stick it. Her philosophy reminds me to use my own beliefs as the ultimate litmus test of personal success–am I making myself proud? Am I living for myself? Am I dismissing the haters? Because I should be, just like Latrice.

2. Feel Sexy in Anything, Even A Body Bag

The punk rock glamour ghoul who dominated Season 4, Sharon Needles reminded me to embrace my authentic self, even if other people accused me of being scary. Sharon’s own sense of self was so powerful that it out shined other “pretty” queens and paved the way for creepy little weirdos like me to see a drag leader who represented a darker aesthetic. Sharon redefined glamour in the world of drag and has since gone on to the be the face of PETA and star in productions such as Peaches Christ’s Addam’s Family Values and The Craft. Her bravery and commitment to her brand send a fierce message, validating everyone who has ever been the outsider: someday you will fit in, and the things that make you strange will make you remarkable.

3. Without Dirty Thoughts, There Are Only Dirty Dishes

Arguably, Katya (another Miss Congeniality), who was robbed of the crown in Season 7, is my favorite Drag Race star of all time. Her surreal sense of humor, compelling sense of character, and ability to embrace her strangeness so thoroughly made her stand out as one of the most talented contestants ever. In and out of drag, Katya gave me…feelings. Feelings a straight lady like myself hasn’t really felt for someone presenting as a women. Her dirty jokes made me blush a little, and I found my heart pounding a bit harder whenever she was on. I didn’t bother unpacking these thoughts and instead, like Katya, just reveled in the confusing filth. She showed vulnerability and such heart that I couldn’t help but adore her, and I still hear her thickly accented voice in my head reminding me that when it doubt, I should just show people my…you know, never mind.

4. Not Today Satan, Not Today

Season 6 winner Bianca Del Rio took nothing from anyone. Her sharp jabs, plentiful tea, and secret sisterly loyalty paired with her ferocious talent made her a standout–even if people were a little scared of her. And that’s what I learned from Bianca: it’s okay to speak out. It’s okay for people to be afraid of you. It’s okay to be a bad ass bitch who is in charge of her mothertucking business and not apologize for making anyone else uncomfortable. Bianca treated her experience as a gift, and didn’t cringe under digs about her age. Instead she continued to forge ahead, using all of skills to pull ahead of the pack. But Bianca wasn’t completely unfeeling, and in fact was the first queen to step in and help her competitors out when they needed it. She was truly a big sister, and like all big sisters, sometimes they punch you in the stomach when you least expect it.

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