This week's RPDR update was delayed a bit because I spent all weekend at C2E2, a big comics convention in Chicago! (Thanks everyone who came out!) I prepared these questions ahead of time, and Chicago's own Imp Queen offered her thoughtful responses:
Chad: It's been fun to see two of my favorite queens develop such a bond on the show! What do you make of Shea and Sasha, and how do you think the other queens are reacting to their friendship?
Imp Queen: They are so QT together! I think befriending another frontrunner can be a good move in the competition. And like previous successful duos from the show (Trixie and Katya, Kim and Naomi), they have very different drag aesthetics united by very similar drag values. I’m excited to see more from them both on the show and off-- like their naughty nightie editorial coming out in the next edition of Velour, Sasha’s drag magazine.
Chad: This week, we had the return of the mini-challenge! But honestly, the fact that they chose Alexis felt like an arbitrary decision that was founded more on the idea of: let's give the Broadway queen a chance to lead the group and either rise to the occasion or fail spectacularly. How do you think Alexis did this week?
Imp Queen: I agree her mini challenge win seemed like storyline (I would have given it to Valentina for looking literally *perfect* in quick drag). But I think Alexis was a good leader, and her Kris was on point. Just like in the Talk Show challenge, you can tell that performing as a character is her giggity. When she’s not inhabiting a role, I find her less appealing... Her drag is not my favorite visually (it’s usually well-executed, but pretty uninspired and with an inconsistent taste level, especially when she’s styling separates), and her little moment in Untucked blaming the other girls was not cute to me… (I lived for Nina rolling over on the sofa and fully looking in the other direction while Alexis carried on.)
Chad: Haaaaa! It seemed like a lot of the humor of this challenge relied on the viewer’s knowledge of the various family members and their complicated relationships. So… I was amused, but also lost. Which characters, queens, and performances do you think worked best?
Imp Queen: For a long time I was aware of the Kardashians because of their cultural ubiquity, but not actually actively Keeping Up. Then like a year ago I started Katching Up and binge watched it all in like a week. As far as which roles are juiciest-- Blac Chyna is definitely a standout, Kris because she’s easy to mock, all of the 2006 socialites... TBH the biggest challenge would be any of the main 5 sisters, in part because what they’re best known for is how blasé and dull and over it they all are. It’s a difficult trait to exaggerate successfully for performance without just looking dull and over it. I was also like annoyed, then relieved, then annoyed, then relieved that they didn’t include Caitlyn. Ultimately, it was probably for the best, especially given the show’s sometimes rocky history with the trans community.
(btw, when are we gonna hear Peppermint share her T??? So far she has only been shown talking about it once, in her Meet the Queens video. it’s difficult to believe it hasn’t come up in passing among the other queens... maybe the producers are saving it for a later moment in her storyline? In a way, it’s good that they are showing a transwoman doing drag without needing to call attention to her transness constantly, but given the show’s history of closeting trans queens, I can’t help but hope it will get mentioned soon.)
Chad: You've done quite a bit of musical theater, right? How does that inform how you received this week’s challenge?
Imp Queen: Oh ya I grew up doing musicals, so I’m an old show queen at heart. I’m always excited for the big musical extravaganza, cuz it shows a different kind of performance skill than a lipsync for your life-- can you emerge as the star of the group from within the structure of somebody else’s script and choreography?
Chad: Were you surprised to hear that so many queens in the cast have struggled with eating disorders?
Imp Queen: Not at all. Disordered eating is so common in queer communities. I’m anorexic, and it’s a constant challenge to balance my desire to be thin with my need to be healthy. I think drag queens--because drag is an embodied art form, and because we are public figures-- face the added pressure of intense public scrutiny of our physical appearance. I wake up every single day and delete negative comments about my body from my instagram. I think a lot of people don’t understand that visibility as a drag queen, visibility as a transfeminine person, usually comes at an intense price. So I was very glad (and moved) to hear Sasha and Valentina and Shea share so openly about their experiences. (btw, I think Season 9 is handling its “serious moments” very well! whoever is editing these sections has a very deft touch, and all the season 9 girls seem to be playing the more heavy-handed material with a lot of grace. In previous seasons, it has sometimes felt like, “oh here, let me tell you about my trauma apropos of nothing,” but I’ve legit cried during the last three episodes in a row.)
Chad: Do you think that the drag or queer community has a particular problem with its extreme standards of beauty?
Imp Queen: I think the problems the queer community has with body image and beauty are reflective of larger social problems. But I also try to think intersectionally-- so, the marginalization we experience as queer people intensifies our experience of those social forces that tell us we must look and present a certain way. I think it’s complicated when you are working with beauty as an artist, and it takes constant recalibrating-- is what I’m doing deconstructing standards of beauty or reifying them? I want my drag to create a world with greater freedom and more possibility for more people, and it’s a challenge to maintain that intention.
Chad: What can the community do to combat the problem?
Imp Queen: I’m not entirely sure... I try to be a voice for body positivity and body acceptance, but I also have to be aware that, as a thin white person, my body is already centered in everything, including conversations about body positivity. I think it’s important to look to those with the most marginalized bodies for leadership in the fight for bodily acceptance-- transwomen (especially transwomen of color), gender non-conforming people, people of color, disabled people, fat people, children, the elderly-- and then to follow their lead. I’d recommend starting by reading body positive activists online (thebodyisnotanapology.com is a great resource) and practicing active, vocal self-love (I say “I am beautiful” out loud probably 100 times a day)--- the first step is unlearning the toxic cultural messages we have internalized about our bodies and the bodies of others.
Chad: On a lighter note, what do you think about furry queens?
Imp Queen: I think body hair is a natural human trait that shouldn’t be gendered or vilified. It’s complicated cuz if I could blink my eyes and be a hairless creature of god, I would ABSOLUTELY do it. Or if someone gave me the $5,000-20,000 it would cost to clear my face and body with electrolysis and/or laser. Not necessarily because I don’t like my body hair-- after a long journey, I’ve come to appreciate it. But it would make my life as a transfeminine person so much easier if it were not there (and if it could be gone without painful, expensive, and never-ending medical/cosmetic intervention). Here’s a link to a longer thing I wrote about my body hair.
Chad: Did you have any favorites from the runway?
Imp Queen: I love that Valentina wore a snake skin dress for a faux fur runway; that’s the kind of subtle genius I love to see in a queen. I loved Peppermint in an iconic Hana Quist Pom Pom coat-- I have one in baby blue. Nina continues to slay every runway. And it goes without saying that Shea was perfection.
Chad: Nina was clearly really disappointed that she didn't get to play Blac Chyna-- can you explain to me why?
Imp Queen: Like she said in the workroom, she wanted the Banjee moment. And like Peppermint said, there was only one Black role for three Black actresses. Also, not to diminish Shea’s performance at all (because she KILLED! IT!), but Blac Chyna is kind of scripted as the standout feature-- she gets a tight little solo full of attitude instead of a duet or a trio where you are worrying about slash backup dancing for two other queens.
Chad: Do you agree with the judges that Nina is “wearing her victimhood as a badge of honor”?
Imp Queen: I think Ru is looking for a particular narrative in a winner, and a big part of that is about how you respond to victimization. Ru wants a queen who can overcome obstacles without becoming bitter or cynical-- a survivor, not a victim. And that’s ultimately a matter of self-perception more than anything. Ru is just trying to show Nina a new way of looking at herself. (also, that single tear was so beautiful <3)
Chad: I don’t really have a question about Shea’s amazing performance and runway look this week. Just…. SHEA! YES!!!! RIGHT???
Imp Queen: Shea walked in the winner, and is she is letting everyone know week by week by week! I’m so happy the world is falling in love with her like Chicago has, and excited about the impact she can make as an artist with a bigger platform. Her speech to Nina in Untucked was everything!
Chad: What do you make of Eureka’s unexpected departure? Will you be excited to see her return in Season 10?
Imp Queen: RuPaul is such a stunt queen! I’m 100% convinced she already knew she was gonna send Eureka home, but did the lipsync, and the whole leaving the set shenanigan, just for the drawma mawma. But that’s why I love her and I totally lived! Also, it’ll be much better for Eureka in the long run to heal her injury (a torn ACL) rather than keep pushing herself to perform on it. Plus, she gets to tour at a higher booking fee, see how she comes across on television, then come back with a bigger budget and more experience next season.
This weekend, I'm going to be at a little thing called DRAGCON in LA! You should be there and say hi. If you can't make it, you can find my merch on Etsy, and you can directly support me on Patreon! (It might be a little bit before I post this week's art on Etsy, because I'm trying to work through some problems with my local printing source!)