When each season of the Drag Race ends, I’m stuck with the question of “well, now what?”
It always takes me a while to find my footing and my focus, but I’ve spent the last few months working intensively on my comics. Through all of August, I’ve declined most commercial jobs for the sake of my long-term comic projects, drawing all day, feverishly trying to keep up my pace of finishing self-imposed deadlines.
It’s been great. But comics are hard–it’s astonishing how much work you can sink into just a few panels of story. And as I devote more and more time in a project, I lose all perspective of it, all the certainty that it’s actually worth finishing. I fall into an artistic rut, drawing the same characters in subtly different poses from page to page. And since I’m doing somewhat static, autobiographical stories, I find myself itching to draw something fun.
So over the last few weeks, I’ve been taking short breaks from my comics to draw out my demons. Or rather, to draw some demons. I’m not exactly sure why I’m inclined toward the demonic–I guess the extravagant horns, fangs, and face paint aren’t far off from the appeal of drag queens.
I don’t know when I’ll be able to share my latest comics. I don’t know whether a publisher will be interested in them or if I’ll get mired for months in revision and self-doubt. But as I toil away on them, it’s nice to daydream.
Joining me for my final installment of DRAG RACE ILLUSTRATED is Shanté DéTroit, a fabulous Chicago queen and good friend of mine!
Chad: What did you think of this reunion/finale/crowning?
Shanté: I thought this was the best reunion yet. It stayed entertaining from the beginning until the end, and they had a few surprises!
Chad: I did really appreciate how many jokes, ridiculous dance numbers, and emotional moments they packed into this finale. Generally, I’m really skeptical of the format they’ve used for the last few years, but they pulled this one off!
Shanté: Exactly! In the past it almost felt anticlimactic. This finale was definitely a spectacle, and they got it right down to the camp and glamour.
Chad: What did you think of the red carpet looks some of these queens brought? Did you see any vast improvements from what you saw earlier in the show?
Shanté: Well, Milk turned up the glam factor, and I thought she looked like Madonna!
Chad: I LOVED Milk’s Glamazon.
Shanté: April Carrion was from another planet, and it was stunning. I felt like Trinity could have said “Bitch, SAY I don’t look like Beyonce now.”
Chad: Vivacious looked like the Space Queen to Trinity’s Space Princess look from the first episode!
Who were you most excited to hear from onstage?
Shanté: You know, to be honest, I wanted to hear from Magnolia Crawford in hopes she had an epiphany. I desperately want a spin-off season of Drag Race called “Redemption” to happen. Unfortunately, Magnolia didn’t seem to have any growth since her infamous leave.
Chad: It seemed like she did have a way of putting a slightly positive spin on some of the negative comments she’s made–essentially saying, “Look, I want to remember the good times and not acknowledge the reality of how I came across.” Even though Ru quickly punched a hole through that paper-thin argument.
Shanté: You can see those moments where Ru becomes even more real and tries to engage, and you could see the moment when he gave up on Magnolia.
Chad: Yeah, and it’s a shame–I dig her quirky sensibility, just not her social incompetence. Magnolia is not one for tact or diplomacy. Whereas Kelly has handled her position really well–making light of leaving the show so early, owning it, staying positive and fun.
Shanté: She came across very poised and grateful–She seems like a lovely person.
Chad: Were you excited to get some more time with Gia? She’s sort of become a camp icon among the Drag Race queens, hasn’t she?
Chad: I really enjoyed her outlandish outfit, and I couldn’t resist drawing it! That dragon! Yes!
Shanté: Yes, her look was amazing. The hoop skirt reminded me of her Chanel bag and I think these big circular looks are pretty unique to her.
I thought she was sincere in the realizations she’s had about drag since being on the show.
Chad: Yeah, I think she is authentically crazy and cooky, but it made for great television–and some legendary catchphrases.
Shanté: Yes, the other night, I was at a party, and every five minutes I heard someone was feeling their oats.
Chad: What did you make of Laganja? Has she grown any more self-aware since the show has aired?
Chad: I cringed when Laganja pulled out her YES MAMA voice. Like, really?
Shanté: Exactly! It’s like, WHY?! I literally remember sitting there and turning to my friends and saying “still!?!”
It seemed like there was a moment of truth in showing gratitude toward Alyssa, BUT it became so overshadowed by Trinity. Her honesty and truth came across so beautifully that it almost made Laganja’s seem affected or prepared.
Chad: I think Trinity should have been an even larger star this season. She brought such grace, polish, and style to the stage.
Shanté: She was channeling her idol, but being herself. It’s really inspiring.
Chad: So, let’s talk Dela.
Shanté: How much time do we have?
Chad: Ha! I’ve been pretty candid about my undying adoration for her. What are your thoughts?
Shanté: I could talk Dela all day. She’s become one of my favorite queens.
Chad: What do you think you respond so emotionally to?
Shanté: It was seeing her perform live, being able to meet her and learn about her past.
As a newer queen still kind of figuring out the direction I see for myself, it was great to see queens like Dela and Milk who present very original ideas and are still well respected.
Chad: Do you feel like you share a campy sensibility with her? Or is it something more than that?
Shante: Actually, the queen my style is probably most representative of would be Adore, which I can admit made me feel bitter toward her in the beginning!
Chad: And how do you describe that style?
Shanté: Like the sexiest girl in the trailer park. Honey Boo Boo and the hottest girl in your high school sharing a beefy crunch burrito.
Chad: Man, you’re making me hungry.
Shanté: I’m always hungry.
Chad: So, I really, really thought Adore was going to win this thing. Especially after her funny and heartfelt conversation with Ru during this episode.
Shanté: When Ru was announcing [the winner], I just kept hearing “Adore Delano,” as if it just rolled off the tongue better.
Chad: It would just be so EXCITING to see what she could do with the fame and the fortune.
Shanté: I think we’ll still see. Willam, Detox and Alyssa are all proof that placement in Drag Race doesn’t make or break a career.
Chad: And the runner-up can go on to do amazing things! Alaska, Manila, Raven….
Shanté: Yep. I’d argue that some queens are even more successful than the winners.
Chad: I love the feel of Adore’s new music video, even if the hunky guy she cast is kind of bland and Midwestern.
Shanté: Haha, there is nothing wrong with bland Midwestern boys! I happen to be one.
Chad: Me, too, but I feel like Adore deserves better than you or me. Maybe it’s aspirational?
Shanté: Maybe someday WE can be in Adore Delano’s video.
Chad: For something that felt so inevitable for so long, it was actually something of a surprise that Bianca won it, right? Adore really gained a lot of momentum later on in the season, but sort of like Alaska last year, it seemed to come a little too late to overcome Bianca’s lead.
Shanté: Yeah, they did great still making it suspenseful. Bianca was the front-runner for weeks, and I’m glad she won.
Chad: I love Bianca, and she deserved the win, though I’m curious about what she’ll do during her reign as America’s Next Drag Superstar. She’s forged herself in nightclubs, hosting gigs and talking shit about her audience. So where does she go from there?
Shanté: Disney Land. I want her to read all the princesses because she is the QUEEN.
Chad: Ha! She’d give them poison apples and steal Prince Charming.
Shanté: And then she’d help Dopey sew a dress and cinch his waist so he can start his drag career.
Chad: Ha! But what made us fall in love with her was the warmth and candor she showed in the workroom throughout the season, and I wonder whether we’ll ever see that side of her again!
Shanté: Her adaptability was part of her genius, so I’m sure she’ll find a way.
Shanté: I almost thought she would get Miss Congeniality too. Just give Bianca all the awards.
Chad: No, Dela definitely deserved that $2500 giftcard to Overstock.com!
Shanté: One of my favorite quotes starts out:
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children… this is to have succeeded,” and I think it sums up Bianca’s big win.
Chad: Do you have any other thoughts about the reunion? Did it prompt any thoughts on the season as a whole?
Shanté: I secretly wanted whoever won to break the crown in half and start throwing pieces to the other girls, who are all Spring Fling Queens. I mean… Drag Superstars.
Chad: I thought it was a really fabulous season with some amazing queens. There wasn’t any central villain, for better or worse, so there was a certain lack of urgency, or stakes. And since Bianca was such a powerhouse from the start, that sense of drama was missing, too. What do you think?
Shanté: The season was great because they did find ways to keep it interesting and throw some curveballs. The cast was so unique and strong that by the Top Three, there was almost apathy and a consensus that any of them could win and “we wouldn’t be mad.” That made it a little less passionate than seasons past where people were losing their minds over the prospect of Roxxxy winning. BUT in a way that lack of drama was refreshing.
And the theme of Drag Race, which really is about loving yourself and others, really resonated this season–from Josyln getting married, Darienne’s parents coming around, and showcasing the many forms of self-expression with queens from Gia to Vivacious. It was beautiful.
Special thanks to Shanté (aka Shane Kalminski) for joining me in this final discussion of the Drag Race! She’ll be performing at Anna’s 30th Prom Birthday Bash on May 25th, and she still needs a date. She’ll also be in QUEERPOCALYPSE at the Mayne Stage Theatre in Chicago on August 23rd!
And thanks to YOU, Drag Race fans, for making the sixth season such a great experience for me! It’s been so fabulous to share in my excitement about these queens and to hear your thoughts on each episode!
If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts about the season, I discussed the Drag Race (and more!) with Marc and Fausto from the FEAST OF FUN Podcast, so check that out! (Previous Drag Race Illustrated commentator TinTim joined us, too!)
I’m gathering my best work of the season into a book collection called 60 QUEENS, which is now available for pre-order! It’s a full-color, 32-page book, 5.5″ x 7.5″. I’ll be sending it to the printer this week, and then I should be able to ship it out a few weeks after that! The pre-order price is $12, which includes shipping. (I’m only able to take pre-orders from within the US for 60 QUEENS, but it will be available on Etsy for international orders once it’s printed!)
I’m going to keep it short and sweet this week, folks! Since the Drag Race aired its clip show Monday night, there’s not a lot to kiki about!
Traditionally, I like to take RPDR’s “recap week” to revisit some outfits and moments that I didn’t get a chance to draw earlier. From your feedback, the overwhelming consensus was to draw two particular looks–and I was eager to illustrate both!
Plus, I couldn’t resist two different animations of some of this season’s goofier scenes.
I loved Dela’s depiction of Bianca during the puppet mini-challenge–just one of her many shining moments. There certainly wasn’t any lack of goofy challenges this year. And obviously, there was a wealth of talent among these queens.
My main complaint about the season as a whole is that the depictions of these queens sometimes felt heavy-handed and manipulative. There weren’t any major rivalries or conflicts that monopolized the season, which was largely a good thing. However, it seemed like the tension that did arise among some of the queens seemed forced or fabricated. But yes, I know, it’s TV. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Dixie Lynn Cartwright joins me this week to discuss the Drag Race! She’s a soft-spoken Southern belle with a sweet voice and a sharp tongue, and we dig deep into the final four contenders for that crown.
Chad: After this season’s controversial split premiere, were you surprised that the format of this finale wasn’t, well, a surprise? It seemed very “by the numbers” in the tradition of past seasons.
Dixie: I’m so glad it wasn’t, honestly. Change isn’t always the best direction to go in. We have fallen in love with this show, in part, to the formulaic nature of it. Yes, surprise us in the beginning. We are just so excited it’s back, we’d watch 2 premieres and a bonus hour of the queens eating tamales…BUT it’s the finale. We are emotionally invested. We are a little tired. Don’t fuck with us too much. No matter what happens, we will feel all the feels, we don’t need any extra feels, ya know?
Chad: That’s a good point, especially after last week’s wrenching episode. Well, it was hard for me, at least, to see Dela go.
Dixie: Girl. She’s not dead. She was allowed to live and return to Seattle. Her exit though, with the mirror? Yes. Yes. Yes.
Chad: Ha! Yes, I know. Thank you, I will wipe away the tears and summon the strength to continue this vitally important discussion of reality drag queen television.
Dixie: The children need us. Let’s carry on. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
In this week’s Drag Race Illustrated, Shea Couleé joins me for a kiki and gives me a shoulder to cry on. She’s one of the fiercest queens in Chicago, but she somehow found the time to school me on the Drag Race.
Shea: What shall we talk about first?
Chad: Well! Yeesh! Obviously, I have very strong feelings about Dela.
Shea: I know! Just when you start to think the show is INCREDIBLY formulaic, they shock us all…
Chad: I think we should try to discuss some other aspects of the episode before going down that rabbit hole–it will be hard to see the screen through all my tears.
Shea: What did you think of the mini challenge? This is becoming a recurring one, and I must say I LOVE it.
Chad: I thought it was really charming and an interesting way of bringing out some shade! Dela obviously had the best with her crazy-looking Bianca puppet and her high energy impersonation of Bianca, gravelly voice and all!
Shea: The TEETH! Now THAT was just the “sock it to me” moment of it all. All of the emphasis on Bianca’s big mouth–both literally and figuratively–really sold it for me! ↓ Read the rest of this entry…