The Ultimate Makeup Advice, Courtesy of RuPaul’s Drag Race Contestants
Can you believe the first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race premiered in 2009?
Since then, the show’s contestants and its namesake host have helped push the boundaries of queer representation in the media, while picking up 10 Emmy nominations and four wins along the way. Last year, RuPaul covered Entertainment Weekly’s LGBTQ issue, officially introducing the show to a wider, mainstream audience.
That's not to say that RuPaul has escaped controversy on the path to success. His statement in a recent interview questioning whether transgender people should be allowed to compete elicited plenty of criticism. "Drag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it's not men doing it, because at its core it's a social statement and a big f— you to male-dominated culture," he told The Guardian, despite the fact that the show has previously brought on contestants in transition. Soon after, he took to Twitter to issue an apology. "Each morning I pray to set aside everything I THINK I know, so I may have an open mind and a new experience. I understand and regret the hurt I have caused," he wrote. "The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement. You are my teachers."
Despite criticism from season 10's own Drag Race contestants, the show's premiere on VH1 Thursday felt celebratory, the queens delivering fierce runway looks and plenty of sass. But one thing’s for sure: not everyone understands the art of drag—at least not yet. To clear the air, we turned to none other than all 14 of season 10's stars.
VIDEO: What Queen Latifah Would Do If She Were Queen for a Day
Below, the queens reveal the common misconceptions they've witnessed plus the beauty tips we wish we knew earlier.
Why is drag representation important right now? There's a difference between fame, popularity, and relevance. Drag is very mainstream right now. Does it mean it's relevant to the world? Not necessarily, but we can make it relevant by using drag to talk about important issues that are relevant.
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? The biggest misconception about drag queens is that you can know anything about them. There are as many different kinds of drag as there are drag queens. So when you meet a drag queen, give them a blank slate. You don't know anything about them just because they're in drag.
Give us one beauty tip women can learn from drag. True beauty comes from wild confidence, so forget all the details of the makeup. You look beautiful in people’s eyes if you’re happy and confident. That’s real.
Which celebrity’s wardrobe would you steal from? Nicole Kidman's because she is thin as you dare and doesn’t care. And she’s not afraid to take risks and fail sometimes. She’s not safe and I love that.
Monét X Change
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? It’s that drag is this easy thing to do. Drag is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn how to do. No one rolls out of bed knowing how to do it. If you think that you’re sitting in your apartment doing your makeup and because you can paint a pretty face that you’re gonna be a good drag queen—no. That's not how it is. You have to leave your apartment. Go to see shows. That’s how you learn how to do drag, by seeing veterans in the field do it, by seeing them talk, perform. You cannot learn drag from the computer or on the Internet. You have to go out and experience drag.
Give us one beauty tip women can learn from drag. A little bit of highlighter goes a long way. Just take a little dust and put it on your cheeks, the ridge of your nose, and a little on your forehead and you’re good to go.
What’s the most commonly misused drag term and its actual definition? "Fierce!" From the old-school terms. You have to learn and use your voice to give the intention of the fierce.
Dusty Ray Bottoms
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? I had a friend who was kind of against drag and I had her come to my show and after letting her see my show and knowing my past, she said to me, "I’m glad that I got to come to your show tonight because it made me realize drag is just theater." It is just a different form of live theater. You’re putting on a costume, you’re wiggling, and you’re telling a story of the night or you’re doing your live improv theater of the night. I think that’s what makes a great queen.
Give us one beauty tip women can learn from drag. Put more makeup on! When people are really good at their makeup it looks like they’re not wearing that much, so people think that it doesn’t take that much makeup to cover it up, but actually, you need to put more on to make it look like you don’t have any on.
What’s your first-ever drag memory? One of those moments is RuPaul coming down from the ceiling in To Wong Food, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. And the other one is Divine playing Tracy Turnblad’s mom in Hairspray.
What’s your first-ever drag memory? My first time seeing To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. When I saw that movie I was a kid and I remember being like, This is different. Those are men dressed up like women and that's what I do when I’m in the bathroom by myself. I [used to] get my towel and make a little wig and pretend.
Give us one beauty tip women can learn from drag. Exfoliate every day and drink a lot of water. Try to get as much sleep as you possibly can. I’m a firm believe in naps. Get a nap in whenever you can. Simple beauty is the best beauty.
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? I think that people think that drag queens are big, scary creatures and, some of us are! As well, some of us aren’t.
What’s your first-ever drag memory? I remember watching makeup tutorials from these people online that I only knew of as boys in makeup, but then they would have their drag persona come on the channel and I was like, There’s this person doing a guest spot? Oh! I see now. They’re the same person.
What’s the most commonly misused drag term and its actual definition? The one that I see most commonly misused would be the word "realness." [If someone is dressed in a red sweater, some people will say,] "You’re serving red sweater realness." [That's wrong because you're literally] wearing a red sweater! If you’re dressed in a business suit and you look like you could be going off to Wall Street to go to work, then you are serving "executive realness." It is giving the illusion of which, not literally, you’re going to J.P. Morgan, but you're not. If I’m wearing some giant, padded, crazy business suit, that’s not realness, I’m just wearing executive.
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? I think people that aren’t educated think that we're just freaks that want to dress up in women’s clothing. However, they do not know the history of drag. You see it in Shakespeare. How can you love Romeo and Juliet? Honey, Juliet was played by a man. You can't love Hamlet and say, "Oh, it's so great!" All the women? They were men, boo boo. Back in the '70s and the '80s and the early '90s there were so many kids that were homeless because they came out and it was the drag queens that took them in. Drag was their saving grace. We're not weirdos. We make a lot of money. Some people strip. We wear a wig and a dress and we twirl around and we pay mortgages, honey. Actually, honey, I paid off my damn college tuition, thank you very much. If you can't pay for yo boat, yo house, yo apartment—put a wig on a dress.
What’s the most commonly misused drag term and its actual definition? I would say "sickening." I remember saying the term sickening around my clients. I used to be a hairstylist before all of this. They used to go, "What? Sick-ening?" And I would go, "No. Not sick-ening. Sickening means detestable, gross, but sickening! It's [like] one syllable. Sickening! That’s it." Sickening is the term of over-fabulous. "Gag" means that I can no longer take it. I'm gagged. "Realness" truthfully means that whatever you’re presenting in that moment looks exactly like whatever you were trying to present.
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? It's OK that some people are transgender that perform, but I feel that the misconception is that all drag queens live as women or want to. I’ve had a lot of men stop dating me or have issues with me doing drag. It's an art form. It’s a form of expression. People need to understand that it’s a job and there’s a difference there. There’s a line between my life and my drag persona.
What’s your first-ever drag memory? Probably To Wong Food, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. I was probably 15 or 16 and I was amazed. I walked around in my mom’s heels and her nightgowns when I was little, so I was living my drag fantasy at a very young age. To see it come to life in a movie on television was eye-opening.
Give us one beauty tip women can learn from drag. Contour! contouring can go a long way and it can reshape your face. Contouring and highlighting was probably biggest game changer for me when I really nailed it down and learned how to do it.
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? The biggest misconception that people have about drag queens is that we're crazy, that we're mentally ill, but we're actually just human beings. We breathe, we sleep, we believe the same way that you do, and we love the same way that you do. Mama Ru [Paul] said it best: You’re born naked, and the rest is drag. Whether you identify as male and you’re dressing up in men’s clothes or you’re a female, dressing up in women’s clothes, you’re putting on drag. You’re putting on those clothes because you feel expressive for that day on how you want to present yourself. That’s how we feel when we do drag.
What’s the most commonly misused drag term and its actual definition? Just last week I used the word "bitch" in a show. A straight girl had no idea that I was implying that when I say bitch, it was coming from a place of endearment. She raised her hand and she said, "Why do you keep calling me bitch? That is not nice. Can you say something nice without being offensive?" And I said to her, "Sweetheart, I’m actually being lovely right now by calling you that." We say "bitch" when we love and like the person that we're talking to.
Give us one beauty tip women can learn from drag. Don’t wear makeup! People love you naturally. But also, spend money on your primer because that’s going to elevate the way you look with makeup. That sets the foundation and that is the first step of looking good.
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? One, that all drag queens are sexual deviants, because that is not true. We are also not [trans]. We are drag queens. We do it for entertainment. In the 18th century, drag meant dressing to resemble a girl. We do over-exaggeration femininity in the entertainment spectrum. Another assumption is that all drag queens do drugs and alcohol. I know so many people that have never even touched drugs.
Give us one beauty tip women can learn from drag. Don't forget to wash your face every night before you go to bed and to moisturize. When you wake up in the morning, wash your face and moisturize. Those are the two most important things.
What’s the most commonly misused drag term, and its actual definition? "Gag!" Gag is probably one of the most misused because when we say, "We're gagging!" it's not because we're actually sick. It means you look so fierce and so fabulous that we are getting sick with nausea because you are ruining our lives by how amazing you look. It's just an over-exaggeration, but that’s what were gagging on.
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? People might think that drag is a sexual experience, and it can be if you’re into that sort of thing. I came to drag because boy’s clothes just aren’t as exciting. I want to be sparkly. I want to draw attention. I used to be a male model and it was the most boring thing I’ve ever done in my life. We don’t get the good stuff; the girls get the good stuff. Now, I’ve got some good stuff.
What’s your first-ever drag memory? It was the Tina Turner movie with Angela Bassett. She does 'Disco Inferno' in Vegas and there are drag queens dressed as her in the audience. I was like, "What was that?" I had to be 6 years old. Tina Turner's story in general, and just her strength—my whole drag persona started with Tina Turner, absolutely. I was a 6-year-old boy tying scarves around my head and my waist and doing "Rolling on the River" for my grandmother.
Which celebrity’s wardrobe would you steal from? Daphne Guinness has the largest collection of McQueen and Gareth Pugh and Iris van Herpen that you’ve ever seen and I need that. I wouldn’t care about RuPaul's Drag Race if I had those clothes. She doesn’t care about anything.
Vanessa Vanjie Mateo
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? That drag isn't a career. They think we live our lives as women, but they don't know all this comes off and some of us live our lives as men. There's a wide range of drag impersonation and female impersonation. It's complicated, but I feel like they don’t understand us until they watch a little bit of the show.
Give us one beauty tip women can learn from drag. Do what we do but take it down, like, 12 notches. Don't contour as hard. Do not put as much eyeliner. You will look crazy!
What’s the most commonly misused drag term and its actual definition? "Get these cookies!" That’s my own personal lingo. Some people don’t know what it means, so I’m here to educate. Get these cookies is [something you say] when you know you are a badass bitch.
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? One of the biggest misconceptions is that we do this because we want to be women. And don’t get me wrong. Some people do get into this industry and then transition. We’ve seen it before. It happens, but not all of us want that. I still enjoy being a boy. But I still wanna be a lady, too.
What’s your first-ever drag memory? Probably when I saw my first drag performance. I remember there was this one girl and she was a big girl and I was like, "I wanna be her!" I was like, "If she can do it, I can do it."
Give us one beauty tip women can learn from drag. To never be afraid. Test the boundaries. Go wild. You want a blue eyeliner? Put on a blue eyeliner! You wanna do a purple eyebrow? Do a purple eyebrow! Makeup is creativity. It's fun.
Blair St. Clair
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? I was actually raised in a very conservative household, and I grew up with a very strong moral compass, a very strong background in religion. A common misinterpretation of drag queens is that drag came from a lot of underground clubs and a lot of hiding and secrecy. In turn, drag queens sometimes represent negativity. That’s exactly not the case. People can come from any form of life and become a drag queen, not just necessarily someone that’s not as cultured.
Which celebrity’s wardrobe would you steal from? Emma Roberts from Scream Queens because it was just absolutely everything I love. There’s feathers and light pastels, and it's pretty and cute and sweet and perfect. I love it.
Give us one beauty tip women can learn from drag. Always highlight more than you contour because when you contour, you can create a lot of lines in your face and create a lot of harshness. Highlighting just makes you reflect light and appear softer. Another thing is lashes—always.
What are the most common misconceptions people have about drag queens? The biggest misconception that people have about drag or drag queens is that it’s just fun and games. Drag is a valid form of art just like a woman that goes through a breakup and writes a play about it to express herself. Our drag is the same way.
Which celebrity’s wardrobe would you steal from? It would be Donatella Versace.
Give us one beauty tip women can learn from drag. The idea of makeup is to accentuate the features that you have and teach you how to love yourself. There’s beauty in your natural features, so don’t try to change your face.