RuPaul was a relative newcomer to the drag world who was shot into the spotlight with the unexpected success of Supermodel (You Better Work) given that the music world in the mid-90’s was dominated by rap and grunge. But with the success of this dance track, so came the re-emergence of Drag Culture.
Taking society by storm, RuPaul became the first drag queen supermodel when he signed to model for MAC Cosmetics. Even still, it wasn’t long before he and the Drag world had reached the end of their time in the limelight and took their spot again as a largely underground culture.
Drag Culture has been a part of the American underground society largely since the early 20th century, even being represented in media such as the movies The Birdcage and Any Day Now. But even still, Drag had never really permeated the mainstream.
But this has all changed since social media has come to the forefront of society. Social media has made it possible for people from all across the world to communicate on hundreds of forums about similar topics. Through Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc., people can garner a large following for topics that otherwise may not have one.
In the past six years, drag had been making a gradual comeback beginning around 2009 when “RuPaul’s Drag Race” premiered, a show in which Drag Queens from all over America could compete to be crowned “America’s Next Drag Superstar.”
This show was overall a success, but when it reached season six, no one could have prepared for what was to come.
Season six of RuPaul’s drag race shot to fame with the rise of social media. From the live-tweeting of the episodes by fans to the accessibility of the show through many different platforms, the show quickly became the LOGO channel’s highest rated show.
Previously, the winners of Drag Race hadn’t achieved very much success beyond the show, usually returning to their roots of nightclub drag shows, albeit with raised booking prices.
But this is very much no longer the case. Both runner-ups of the competition, Adore Delano and Courtney Act, of season six have so far achieved much commercial musical success, majorly due in part to their larger-than-life presences on social media accompanied by their large following on their social media platforms.
Adore Delano (real name Danny Noriega) set a drag race record when over 5,000 copies of Delano’s debut album ‘Til Death Do Us Party were sold in the first week of its release, a higher number than any other album ever released by a “Drag Race” competitor. Delano also has a YouTube channel with nearly 300,000 subscribers and over 50 million views.
Courtney Act also released an album, Kaleidoscope, and in July of 2014 became the first drag performer in history to sing live with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Act was also invited in September of 2014 to model for American Apparel with two other “Drag Race” Alumni, Willam and Alaska. The trio became the first ever drag performers to be ad girls for the popular clothing company.
Earlier this year, Tumblr added a Q and A feature where users could ask questions to a vast array of public figures on alotted days, from Politicians to Entrepreneurs to Artists to Celebrities. Featuring such figures as famous pop-punk band Fall Out Boy and Children’s Author Lois Lowry, Tumblr has been pulling big names for its new feature. But I was shocked one day when upon logging into Tumblr I saw that the day’s featured Ask and Answer guest was “RuPaul’s Drag Race” runner-up Courtney Act.
This meant that Tumblr deemed Act a notable figure who they thought a vast amount of users would be interested in questioning. Several years ago this may never have happened. This was when I began to realize just how much social media has become a platform for the rising of underground cultures, such as Drag.
Social Media has changed the format of the world’s communication, and while it has enabled major social change, there are many other parts of society affected by it too. Drag Culture, which has existed primarily underground for the whole of its life, is now being thrust into the spotlight as it is bigger and better than ever. And who knows, maybe this time, it’ll be here to stay.