If reading is essential, then teaching is the natural next step.
Two of the three New York City queens selected to compete on season 15 of the multiple Emmy-winning show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” were featured guest speakers in a class at The New School this week.
Luxx Noir London and Jax swapped the RuPaul runway for The New School’s John L. Tishman Auditorium in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village on Thursday to discuss the far-reaching impact of the show on contemporary culture. They also discussed the seemingly unstoppable rise of drag as an art form, and the fierce backlash that followed.
The two queens also shared some helpful tips on how beginners can master a lip sync: “In terms of makeup, always do more,” Jax said; “Know the song like the back of your hand,” London added.
At just 22 years old, the East Orange, NJ, native of London, is the youngest contestant of the season and one of the current favorites. Jax, a native of Queens, New York, is a former competitive cheerleader whose elimination at the end of episode 8 sparked a social media furore.
On Thursday, the two “Drag Race scholars” were the guest speakers in a class examining the evolution of the art of female impersonation and how the show has contributed to a change in contemporary culture.
Led by renowned drag historian and author Joe E. Jeffreys, “RuPaul’s Drag Race and its Impact” is a one-semester course added to the school’s liberal arts faculty in early 2019.
Drag performance is a “vital part of gay culture and something we can learn from,” Jeffreys told the Daily News. “I think it’s indigenous queer acting by the people, for the people, and by the people,” he added.
Once seen as the essence of underground queer culture, drag has become a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, and an extremely lucrative business, over the last decade or so.
Performances in which the actors wear clothes and adopt gestures of the opposite sex date back to ancient Greece. But it wasn’t until “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” debuted in February 2009, that drag exploded into mainstream passion, while serving as a catalyst for an ongoing culture war.
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Until the second half of the last century, people in the US could be arrested for failing to wear at least three gender-appropriate items of clothing. Today, drag performers wearing gender-expansive fashions are the featured guest speakers in a class at a prestigious New York college.
The vast majority of students in the class of nearly two dozen are young, heterosexual women, a reflection of the demographics of the show’s audience according to Jeffreys.
They have “some remarkable perspectives on what drag is and where it’s headed,” he said, highlighting their experiences as viewers who grew up watching the show.
However, the explosion in general popularity of “Drag Race” has come at a cost.
As the old form of cross-dressing as an art gained more visibility, a pushback from conservative politicians soon followed. Fueled by a false “grooming” narrative pushed by members of the far right who characterize LGBTQ people as predators, lawmakers in several states have introduced laws to severely restrict drag performances.
Last month, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law a bill targeting drag performances, the first of its kind in the nation. On Wednesday, RuPaul issued a statement criticizing lawmakers who back such bills. He praised the work of drag queens, calling them “the marines of the queer movement.”
“I would say that drag queens and trans women, specifically trans women of color, are at the forefront of the queer liberation movement,” London said. “They were taking a lot of hits, they were fighting for our spaces, so I definitely think for the most part, (they) are definitely the ones who are definitely at the forefront of progress in our community,” she said.