It might be reality television, but you'd be surprised what RuPaul’s Drag Race can teach us about everyday life, writes Liam Casey.
RuPaul is a modern philosopher. I’ve been watching the trailblazing female impersonator’s show, RuPaul’s Drag Race. On the surface, it’s the fakest of reality shows. Its concept – which man can most convincingly portray a woman? – is all about artifice and deception, but the show is emotionally honest, full of life lessons I’ve taken to heart. It’s a bitch-eat-bitch world, and these queens are working to rule it.
It’s easy to dismiss the campy characters who populate the show as lightweights, but it takes serious balls (ahem) to walk down the street in drag. The drag queen competitors have copped more than their fair share of abuse, and have learnt a few lessons along the way.
Season four runner-up Latrice Royale had some wise words to share when talking about spending time in prison. “I want people to know it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to fall down,” she said. “But get up, look sickening [drag slang for “gorgeous”], and make them eat it!”
If that’s not a motto I’d gladly tattoo on my chest, I don’t know what is.I’d like to see that and some of the show’s simple, sassy sayings replacing all those “inspirational” posters cluttering office cubicles.
Don’t f*ck it up
RuPaul’s words to the contestants at the start of each challenge represent some badass mothering. Maybe “try your best” or “give it your all” sound a little kinder, but isn’t avoiding f*cking it up at the heart of everything we do?
Play to win
There’s no room for superfluous emotion on RuPaul’s Drag Race. When Lashauwn Beyond got teary teary in episode two, exclaiming “I can’t believe I’m here!”, she was told “You’d better believe it, bitch – play to win”. Sure, like Lashauwn we should appreciate where we are, but we should also never lose sight of where we’re going. Lashauwn was eliminated that very episode, demonstrating that we shouldn’t just marvel at our good fortune. Get to work, and make the most of the opportunity you’ve been given.
A lot of the competitors talk about their “drag family”, their close friends in the drag community back home. These families usually have a “drag mother” – an older, more experienced queen – and then “drag sisters” – peers and friends. A lot of the contestants call RuPaul “mama”. This serves as a reminder that we have two families in life: one we were born or married into, and one full of the friends we chose. If we’re lucky, both will love us no matter what, but if one doesn’t work out, it’s nice to know we’ve got a back-up family to pick up the slack.
You won’t find a slow-motion montage and teary compliments when a contestant leaves RuPaul’s Drag Race. RuPaul simply and kindly says “My dear…sashay away.” To sashay is to strut, to move with purpose and elegance. Is there a better way to leave a competition you’ve lost? RuPaul teaches us to realize when the jig is up, to accept it and move on with our dignity intact.