The Queen of Dragdom has done it again. Already responsible for bringing the gender-bending art form into the mainstream via Billboard-charting pop music, staunch activism and a hit reality TV competition series, the grand dame of drag, RuPaul, seems unable to rest until queens everywhere achieve their rightful place atop thrones the world over. Next stop: Los Angeles.
For the first time ever, a convention celebrating drag, queer culture and the right of self-expression has been created for mass consumption. Dubbed RuPaul’s DragCon and put on by L.A.-based production company World of Wonder, the two-day event invades the Los Angeles Convention Center just in time to kick-off Pride season with a palpable sense of community and a healthy dose of outrageousness. “The fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race are very diverse, but they share one thing in common—they all think out of the box and dance to the beat of a different drummer,” says RuPaul. “DragCon will give all of these like-minded people a chance to meet their tribe live and in person.”
With a full slate of programming that includes moderated panel discussions, tutorials, film screenings and autograph sessions with some of your favorite Drag Race queens, musicians and film/TV stars, DragCon is entering the public consciousness with a bang. “I’m excited about the ripple effect DragCon will have on pop culture,” RuPaul says. “The idea that all of these people may recognize one another from social media and get the chance to meet in person is phenomenal. It will create a dialogue that no other convention could even come close to.” Indeed, DragCon seems poised to become a regular SoCal draw similar to Comic-Con, the world-famous entertainment and comic convention that is itself considering a move to Los Angeles from its 45-year San Diego digs.
In addition to nearly every Drag Race queen in fans’ collective memory, DragCon will feature a diverse roster that includes Jody Watley, Big Freedia, Terri Nunn, Martha Wash, Jenifer Lewis, Jonny McGovern, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Frank Decaro as well, making it clear this is a convention not simply for those interested in the accoutrements of gender play. “DragCon is not only for drag queens and the people who love them,” says RuPaul. “Drag embodies a philosophy that says, I know this is a world of illusion, and I’ve chosen to have fun within that realm. I remember my high school teacher saying, ‘RuPaul, don’t take life too seriously.’ It was the greatest lesson I was ever taught, and that is what all of the participants of DragCon have in common. We all use every color in the crayon box.”
Those hoping for a glimpse of the queen mother herself are in luck, as RuPaul plans to give the event’s keynote address on Sunday. Asked for a preview of the wise words he’ll no doubt have in store, RuPaul says, “The overall message is the same message I have given throughout my career, which is know thyself and learn how to love yourself. It’s the message I give to all of the girls
who have come through our television show, in fact—all roads lead to self-awareness. It’s the reason I am still in the game after so many years.”
With all the symposia and appearances that comprise DragCon, we asked RuPaul if there was any definitive not-to-miss event of the weekend. As it turns out, nothing could possibly top the communal aspect of the convention. “Really, just being there with your tribe is what this is all about. Yes, lots of panel discussions, merchandise and superstars, but the people who are flying in from around the world to connect with one another is the real attraction.”
The positive response to a first-of-its-kind event like DragCon is evidence of something quite extraordinary—namely that drag and its trappings are a phenomenon stretching far and wide, from gay teens to their soccer moms, jocks and cheerleaders to their chemistry teachers, in large part thanks to the Logo network’s most successful property. It’s an achievement not lost on RuPaul. “The television show RuPaul’s Drag Race has changed the entire landscape of drag in the 21st century,” he says. “The show is broadcast in over 100 countries around the world. It’s safe to say that this is the golden age of drag.”