It’s not every Monday that a co-worker looks over to me and says, “You still have glitter in your hair!” But nothing was average about last weekend. It marked the first edition of RuPaul’s DragCon in N.Y.C., bringing a family-friendly celebration of drag culture to Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center while allowing fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race to interact with their favorite stars from the show.
The event included a retrospective of RuPaul’s unforgettable gowns as well as panels with designer Isaac Mizrahi, Younger star Nico Tortorella, and fashion guru Carson Kressley. Drag queens donned their best and brightest looks while running merchandise, and a giant pink runway perfect for a midday strut stood in the center of it all. And with the help of exhibitors Marc Jacobs Beauty and Lemonhead LA, it was a full on glitter fest.
Almost a week later, I’m still trying to scrub the sparkly remnants of the convention off of my body. But I can’t stop thinking about being a part of something so positive. About 35,000 fans attended the World of Wonder-produced weekend, which came on the stylish heels of previous DragCon events held in Los Angeles. All ages were welcome, and it was amazing to see 8-year-olds being fierce and having more confidence than I have at age 25.
The weekend kicked off with an inspiring speech from RuPaul himself. “My queens: We are all ambassadors to these young, gorgeous kids who are going to walk through this building today and tomorrow,” he said. “With what’s happening politically and socially, they are the promise of America's future. And that's why DragCon is so important.” Later, he was joined by 10-year-old drag star Desmond is Amazing for the ribbon cutting, and let me tell you, it was a moment.
Perhaps Nico Tortorella put it best as he choked up when I asked him how it felt to be a part of DragCon. “We’re living in a time right now where this is the resistance in so many ways,” he said. “I mean, you have little kids walking around in drag and every race, color, and size here. It’s so beautiful, and this giant room with a huge amount of happiness, love, and acceptance is so important in today’s political landscape.”
DragCon allowed people to express themselves as they’d always dreamed—and the drag queens themselves were not immune. “Fashion evokes everything for me,” said fashion risktaker Detox while sitting in a fluorescent neon green Plexiglass tub at her booth. “When I walk into a room, I just like to make a statement. So you have to look at me, I’m a character. I think that’s what fashion has always been to me.”
Barbie-inspired Trixie Mattel explained why she chooses to channel the iconic American doll. “I can dive into whatever occupation or hobby I want, because the history of American style is cataloged into the doll I represent,” she said.
Long-legged beauty Naomi Smalls revealed that her look was inspired by the 1995 film Unzipped (a behind the scenes documentary about Isaac Mizrahi’s 1994 fall collection) during the “Drag Does Fashion Week: A Fashion Affair” panel.
“I remember watching Isaac’s documentary and becoming obsessed with Naomi Campbell,” she said before showing off her best runway walk to the cheering room. “My appreciation for fashion starts from the women who wear it. I grew up loving '90s supermodels.”
“Fashion is an extent of character and that the great thing about being a drag queen, and you can be anything you want to be—including a Disney Princess,” said Ginger, who served up fairytale realness in her Snow White costume. “The fun thing about drag is finding the beauty in things that other people find to be tacky or ‘less than.’ So go parade it for the world to see!”
Post-makeover, Ginger asked Lactatia to be her flower girl in her upcoming wedding—and then announced that she was getting married at that very moment, in the middle of the panel, at DragCon. The crowd went crazy as her fiancé walked in along with RuPaul judge and ordained minister Michelle Visage, kicking off Ginger’s very own happily ever after.
But despite all the fun, there were a few serious notes throughout the weekend. On Sunday, journalist Drew Elliott led a panel that tackled how the drag queens handle haters on social media.
“I have zero time for negativity,” said RuPaul season seven winner Violet Chachki. “Anything negative, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, anything too sassy? Immediately block. Block and move on.”
Drag star Derrick Barry echoed the same sentiment. “Block, block, block, block!” said Barry, explaining that it’s not even worth it to clap back. “I’d rather take the time to like a comment or comment back to someone that came to my page and left something inspirational or something of value.”
Luckily, Barry has supporters among fellow queens. “I will literally block people that say negative things about Derrick Barry on my page,” season 9 contestant Farrah Moan chimed in. “Seriously, don’t say anything about Derrick.”
On a more positive social media note, Drew asked the girls about the most memorable likes or follows they’ve received, and Violet’s answer didn’t disappoint. She talked about the first time that Dita Von Teese tweeted at her (the two have established a friendship since, and are currently on tour together).
“It’s really cool to see someone who I respect so much and who is one of my biggest inspirations as far as aesthetics and drag and showmanship,” said Violet. “Everything she does is perfection. She’s the ideal woman to me, and the more I work with her the more I fall in love with her.”
The more time I spent surrounded by these drag queens, the more I fell in love with them. As my first convention came to an end, I could safely say that it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
Being in the room with thousands of people cheering each other on with no negativity and celebrating the queer culture was an all-time high for me. Sure, I got to meet a lot of drag queens I admire. But most importantly, I left truly happy with who I am: a confident gay man covered in glitter.