LGBTQ+: Dragged Up

To some people drag is insane. It’s just a bunch of men in tights and wigs and too much make-up pretending they’re singing Mariah Carey songs. To others, it’s a form of gender expression, a piece of performance art, and, in more recent times, even a realistic career option. To UCD’s Students' Union, it’s also a chance to raise some money for charity – though more on that later. First in order to understand drag and the culture it created it’s important to understand that drag, at its heart, began as a counter movement. It held a mirror up to society and then read its flaws to filth. Through a few men dressing up in women’s clothing, society was challenged on its views on women, homosexuality, and gender expression and performance. Drag is inventive, crazy, backbreaking, and has grown in popularity in the past few years on an unprecedented scale, turning it not only into one of the most expressive forms of queer culture, but also one of the most lucrative.In Ireland things were slightly slower to pick up, though following the Marriage Referendum last year, the drag queen Panti Bliss has become a name on everyone’s lips. For the first time in a long while, Irish drag has been pushed to the forefront of mainstream media. Some looked to this as a sign of a society shifting to something more accepting and tolerant of subversive forms of art and expression. Others feared that being in the public eye might force Irish drag to distance itself from its underground and rebellious roots. To many, if not all, avid supporters of drag culture, drag should be progressive and boundary-pushing and it was thought it couldn’t be either of these things if it had to take a step back and conform to the majority. Dublin queen Victoria Secret however dismisses the idea of drag conforming in any way now that it has found a new mainstream popularity. She claims that although drag is spreading out beyond its origins in the gay community, it is “always going to push boundaries” and that there’s nothing to fear from a subculture developing a mainstream audience.One example of the growth of Irish Drag is the show Dragged Up, headlined by the illustrious Victoria Secret. The show features a group of Irish drag queens who play host and supporting act to a variety of famous queens coming to Dublin from across the globe. Past guests have included previous competitors and winners of RuPaul’s Drag Race as well as drag icons such as Lady Bunny. Although these big names are often the element that draws crowds into Dragged Up events, the Irish queens perform an array of solo and group numbers that leave their audience enamoured and enthralled. What’s more is the bond the queens share with one another has developed Dragged Up into a community. One of the Dragged Up performers, Irish drag queen Regina George, says of the group “we’re like sisters so we root for each other”, and that “it just worked, it clicked and I’ve lost count of the amount of shows we’ve done”. This attitude can really be felt when watching the girls perform together. They act like a family; a band of sisters and that energy they share is what really lights up the stage.This sense of family is key to drag culture, as a good drag queen is more than just a good performer; she is someone that integrates herself into the community. She gives advice on makeup to aspiring queens, takes drunken selfies with fans, does way too many shots with those girls on a hen night, and most importantly she makes herself known. She becomes a person who members of the queer community would be proud to call their ‘local queen’. This is something that each of the Dragged Up girls do in their own way. Victoria Secret herself is currently running her own gay night, “Thirst”, on Saturdays in the Hub, queens Pixie Woo and Regina George are often found performing in The George or Pantibar, and Paul Ryder works as a dancer/choreographer for The Cheerios Panto and annually heads “The Ringmasters Drag Race”. This shows that beyond their work with Dragged Up they have each cultivated a name for themselves in the Dublin gay scene, and now they are becoming known to a wider audience. Over Christmas they were even asked to put on a show on O’Connell Street which delighted many, from the queer community itself to priests, and everyone in between.This popularisation of drag culture is also going to see some of the big name queens coming to UCD’s own Clubhouse Bar on Tuesday 2nd February as one of the SU’s RAG week events. Kicking off at 9.00pm, this jumble of wigs, lashes, heels, and tucks should be a highlight of the week, with things sure to get a little crazy. It’s also going to seem like a pseudo-homecoming for Victoria Secret as UCD was one of her first gigs. I don’t want to give you clues about her age but that was 11 years ago. Anyway, expect lip-syncing, confusing sex appeal, and some very energetic dance numbers. Also expect some name drops of Dragged Up’s new home at the “bigger and better” Hangar where their first show of the year will be held on Feburary 5th and two fan favourites from RuPaul’s Drag Race, Detox and Katya, will be coming and taking Dublin by storm. P.S. I’ve heard that Regina George is on the prowl for a 4th year with good career prospects. She told me herself “the girls are rooting for me to find a husband on campus”. You have been warned.