RuPaul's Drag Race- Sashay Away?

Laura Buckle explores the glamorous world of drag and its impact on the fashion industry

Laura Buckle
6th November 2017

When American drag competition, ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’, hit our screens back in 2009 the whole world went hysterical for the drag industry and the notion of their everyday double-life. For many, RuPaul has produced an international platform for the art of drag and more and more people are adoring the transformations, cosmetics and costuming behind every style from the legendary queens. Yet, it’s not just us viewers who are ‘living for’ the reality show, international fashion houses are also doing their best to snatch RuPaul’s latest star.

Undoubtedly, fashion has forever been a vital part of the series with each episode involving a fashion related task; whether it be designing and creating garments from trash or walking the runway in ‘high fashION’ couture inspired by Commes des Garcons or Chanel. When the likes of Season two queen, Raja or Season seven beauty, Miss Fame, took to the runway like a duck to water, the world went crazy for their runway-ready pieces. Take, Season seven queen, Violet Chachki’s tartan number from episode one… This could easily be mistaken for an autumn/winter release from a Vivienne Westwood collection! RuPaul’s Drag Race without fashion would simply not be the ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ as we know it.

Even fashion faces such as Jeremy Scott and Marc Jacobs have been judges on the show, and models like Gigi Hadid and Chanel Iman, have also starred on season eight’s ‘Snatch Game’. But it doesn’t stop at famous appearances from celebrities. Miss Fame is now also rubbing shoulders with supermodel Miranda Kerr through her scouting by IMG Models and Laganja Estranga, Season six, has also been spotted on a recent Marco-Marco runway, showing that the involvement of the drag queens goes both ways in the fashion industry.

It’s true, the borderline between drag and fashion is becoming narrower as the seasons go by and the fashion world is ‘obsessed’ with it; as shown by the New York Times. But, with only around 30% of the show being ‘serious fashion’ and the majority being about humour or impersonations (which a lot of drag audiences love).

Have drag queens really inspired cat-walks of the world? Or are the faces of fashion just huge super-fans of the show?

Perhaps we could see Miss Fame’s pieces on a Paris runway, but for comedy queens like Bob the Drag Queen or Bianca del Rio (previous winners) it’s clear it is not on their agenda to be an active part of the fashion world. Queens such as Alaska have literally walked the runway in a bin bag and relied on their charm to sail through the competition. And it’s worked, with Alaska snatching the ‘All Stars 2’ crown, so what does that say about fashion on the show?

It’s subjective. Some will look at the show and see clear ‘fashion’ whereas others may simply see ‘dress-up’, ‘amateur’ and ‘unprofessional’ in regard to the runway. Designers will continue to appear on the show but the real question is whether they’ll continue to hire the contestants or begin crediting drag designs. Yes, RuPaul’s Drag Race is fashion motivated. Yes, RuPaul’s Drag Race is best friends with some of the fashion world. But Is RuPaul’s Drag Race a fashion show? Not entirely. Whether this will change is something future seasons will decide.

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