4 Life Lessons I Learned From RuPaul's Drag Queens

by Janel Mills
Originally Published: 
Drag Queen Katya Zamolodchikova at RuPaul's Drag Race

In the midst of the recent Ashley Madison scandal, I feel that it’s only right that I confess to everyone on the Internet that I’ve recently become involved in an intense love affair. But don’t worry, it’s cool. My husband knows about it, and he even enjoys watching as well. I guess there’s no easy way to say this, so here it goes:

I’m completely in love with RuPaul’s Drag Race.

There. I said it.

Listen, don’t judge. Watching this show will change your life. It will give you life. It will also expand your vocabulary to include slang and phrases that you never knew existed. You’ll wonder how you described any and all events happening in your life before you acquired this new set of words. Basically, RuPaul’s Drag Race is a combination of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway, cast with drag queens instead of young girls who desperately need a hug and a snack.

This show is, and I realize I’m using a word that is completely overused, but here it is anyway: amazing. It’s funny, it’s creative, it’s overly dramatic, it’s heavily edited, and it’s insanely inspiring. I love every single thing about it: the catty bitchiness, the extreme campiness, the master’s level snark, the hot guys, the beautiful women they become and the insane amount of talent and artistry it takes to pull off such an illusion.

If you happen to fall down the same rabbit hole that I did after casually catching the last 30 minutes of an episode that just happened to be on TV when I sat down one evening, you’ll soon discover that this show, and drag queens in general, have a lot to teach the rest of us, such as:

1. Self-Love

At the end of every episode, right after the lip-sync challenge (oh yes, that’s a thing that happens) but before the queens sashay away ’til next week, RuPaul closes the show by saying, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” then asks everyone in the room if she “can get an ‘amen’ up in here?” Without fail, everyone (yourself included) shouts back, “amen!”

It’s a simple message, but it’s such an important one that it warrants repeating over and over again. You’re important and beautiful and special, and you’d be crazy not to be head-over-heels in love with yourself. Once you find that kind of self-love, the love you give to others is that much more glittery and sparkly.

2. Own It

The queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race come in all shapes and sizes. You do not have to be tall and skinny to succeed in this competition. Some of the fiercest queens to ever walk the runway have been plus-size, and don’t think for a minute that being a bigger gal is seen as a weakness. These queens don’t think they’re gorgeous, they know it. If more of us walked down the sidewalk every day with this knowledge in our head instead of constantly looking for ways to “fix” ourselves to conform to some arbitrary standard of beauty, I’m willing to bet there would be a helluva lot more happy ladies walking the streets. Wait, not that kind of street walking, I meant, you know, just…never mind.

3. Beauty Is Pain

I guarantee you, nowhere else is this statement more true than in the world of drag. First and foremost, I want you to do a Google search for “how drag queens tuck.” Beyond that, though, the heels alone make me cringe. I can’t make it through a wedding reception without taking off my two-inch heels, and these bitches are strutting around in six-inch heels like it’s no big deal. They cinch their waists and stuff non-breathable foam padding under three pairs of nylons when I can’t be bothered to wear one pair of control-top pantyhose. I watched an episode once where a queen hot-glued lace to her hands and arms. Hot glue, people. So the next time you’re complaining about having to put on a pair of Spanx, think about how many craft supplies you had to use to put together your look and make a mental note to thank the next drag queen you see for their sacrifice.

4. Family Is Important

Drag queens often refer to each other as “sisters” and talk about their “drag family” back home, and there’s good reason for that. Several of the queens on the show have lived through the same kind of rejection and closed-minded attitudes that many LGBTQ youth experienced growing up, sometimes from their own immediate family. Because of this shared experience and connection both on and off-stage, drag queens create their own family of fellow performers. Just like a regular family, they may complain about and criticize each other, but at the end of the day, they would do anything to help a sister out. It’s a beautiful reminder that family is important, no matter whom you consider family.

So cozy on up to your TV and get ready to learn how to be a woman from a bunch of beautiful men in wigs. Also, be sure to block off about six or seven days of your life, because you’ll be binge-watching about seven seasons’ worth of content in that amount of time. But think about it: That’s a small price to pay to become fabulous, right?

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