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COLUMN: A glimpse into the art of drag

Within the art of drag, there are different niches and genres
Kayley Robb and her family met with some drag queens in Las Vegas in November 2019. (Contributed)

“We’re all born naked, and the rest is drag.”

This is a phrase coined by RuPaul Charles, one of the most recognizable drag artists and as he likes to call himself, “The Queen of Drag.”

Drag is a form of art that has been around since ancient times and has recently sky-rocketed into mainstream popularity.

But what exactly is drag? It’s hard to define because drag is art, and art is subjective but I’ll give you a general overview. Drag bends the conforms of gender in which a person dresses in elaborate clothing and makeup that is meant to exaggerate a specific gender, and usually it is of the opposite sex. Drag is also an entertainment and performance art, along with a means of self-expression.

Within the art of drag, there are also different niches and genres. There are drag queens which are typically men impersonating women, but there has been an increase in transgender and cisgender women performing as queens.

There are also drag kings, mainly women dressed in exaggerated men’s clothing and using makeup to create masculine features.

One important part about drag is there is no rule on what gender you have to be to partake in the beautiful art form and transformation, you can be male, female, trans, non-binary, everyone’s invited!

When it comes to a type of a drag queen, the options are endless.

Comedy queens treat the stage like a stand-up set and will captivate the crowd with their quick-timing and wit.

Pageant queens are the essence of glamour – poised, elegant, and can perform without cracking under the pressure, all while dripping in jewels.

Fashion queens are the epitome of style and will always bring it to the runway.

Drag is nothing new. It’s been with us throughout history as far back as ancient Greece and through Shakespearean times.

It is widely believed that drag gets its roots from the theatre when women weren’t allowed to perform on stage and men had to assume the female roles. Drag then started to take on its own individual form of entertainment through the genre of vaudeville, starting in the 1890s.

By the early 20th century, drag became tied to the LGBTQ2S+ community and was no longer considered a source of mainstream entertainment.

Fast-forward to today, one of the most popular competition reality shows on TV is completely centered around the art of drag.

RuPaul’s Drag Race consists of about a dozen or so drag queens competing for the title of America’s Drag Superstar. The competition consists of lip sync battles, fashion runways, celebrity impersonations, sewing challenges and more. The show has become such a phenomenon, that it’s gone international with spinoff shows in Canada, Holland, Spain, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

If you are interested in learning more about drag, there are some amazing books in the library that show off the incredible artistry, along with tons of cultural information. I would recommend checking out The Art of Drag by Jake Hall. If you are like me and have been feverishly consuming drag for the past 12 years or so – you are going to want to get in on our RuPaul’s Drag Race Trivia night on June 19, 6:30 p.m. Come into the branch to register, or sign up at

Kayley Robb is an assistant community librarian at the Summerland branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.