An earlier version of this blog post originally appeared on MamaPop.
The moment that I learned of the twin girls in my belly, I resolved not to send two hoes into the world. I'd teach them that self-expression is always more important than playing nice, and I'd warn them that waiting around for someone else to make their dreams come true is not only futile but downright scallywag.
So imagine my horror when my toddlers took to Disney princesses. And it goes beyond merely watching the movies and buying the merchandise: My girls have lived as those characters for the past three years. They've all but forgotten how to count to 5, but they can curtsy, smile and gasp on cue. The standard name for each color has been replaced by the name of the princess with the corresponding branding: "Belle" for "yellow," "Tiana" for "green," "Cinderella" for "blue," "Sleeping Beauty" for "pink," etc. The feminist inside me wept -- until, eavesdropping on their usual princess gab, I overheard the following statement:
"My favorite princess is Ariel, and yours is Cinderella, and Mommy's favorite princess is Sharon Needles."
Then and there, the door blew open. You see, Sharon Needles is not just a princess but a queen, a strong, creative, groundbreaking, wickedly brilliant queen. I suddenly realized that there was more than one direction that I could push the princess mania, because my children could not distinguish between a Disney princess and a drag queen.
Indeed, the parallels between the two are downright uncanny. Both wear grandiose costumes and perform signature songs. Big hair is an absolute staple across the board. Both have been known to make their shining debut at the local ball. And, like it or not, a midnight transformation is all but inevitable.
I couldn't help the pride swelling inside me at the thought of the possibilities, mainly because I despise Disney princesses. Regardless of the amount of money that I've pumped into their franchise, I feel that the psychology behind the tiara is a mockery of the values that I swore to instill in my daughters. Meanwhile, shoving your balls into your pelvic cavity might not make you a real woman, but it doesn't preclude you from being a better role model than a Disney princess.
Let's start with the obvious discrimination in the princess community, shall we? While most of the princesses are still blonde-haired, blue-eyed white girls, Disney has conjured a half-assed attempt to include a few other cultures, so you have Mulan, Jasmine and Pocahontas breaking the Aryan glass ceiling, though you'd have a hard time finding them anywhere but in the back row. It only took Disney 86 years to drop its Jim Crow laws and allow Tiana, the black princess, an invitation to the ball. But discrimination in the drag community? I'm pretty sure that the only requirement is to have a penis duct-taped between your legs; other than that, anything goes.
Secondly, ever wonder how those princesses are getting their fancy gowns and blinged-out crowns? Of the 11 Disney princesses currently included in the franchise, only one has ever had a job. (Apparently Tiana was born with such a socioeconomic disadvantage that she had to work two jobs to even attempt to make her big princess dreams a reality. [See also: discrimination.] And after all that hard work, she still couldn't seem to get ahead until she locked down a prince whose family could buy her those dreams.) Drag queens, on the other hand, have a strong work ethic. Basically, if a queen isn't working her butt pads off, she isn't making tips. No one is going to pay to watch a man put on a sequined dress and sit in the middle of the dance floor.
Finally, in the world of drag, a sense of humor is as fundamental as proper padding and the ability to "read." You won't find a money-making queen who doesn't camp it up with her audience. Laughter is what helps us persevere; it lifts us out of our struggles. Yet I can't recall one princess with the ability to laugh at her ridiculous plights. If you've lost your parents only to be enslaved in a rat-infested tower, your tone should be more sarcastic than Arrested Development meets Curb Your Enthusiasm. Instead, the princesses always awaken into a smiling song -- a clear red flag, in my opinion. Stepmother had better check the cellar for a hidden artillery of crockpot explosives.
When it comes down to it, I respect drag queens. They are artists. They are able to conceptualize an idea and transform themselves -- without the help of magic, I might add. They are risk takers. They are punk. But Disney princesses? They are a man-made franchise created to sell cheaply made shit to our daughters. They are a perpetuation of the stereotype of the weak, dumb woman who obediently waits for a man to come along and make her valuable. Between the two I'll always promote the big-wigged man crooning "I'm Every Woman." Werq.
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Werk the fringe, Ru! The <em>legendary</em> RuPaul was on hand at Lady Bunny's Wigstock festival in NYC in 2004, performing "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous" off his "Red Hot" 2004 album. In between songs, he gave the audience his unmatched signature runway walk before singing his hit, "Supermodel," that launched him into the mainstream.
He danced like nobody was watching, he took her wig off, rolled on the floor <em>and</em> he did some voguing. This high energy, heart-racing performance will have you gagging at the sheer talent of Ms. Nina Flowers. The crowd goes absolutely berserk at the end of Nina's set.
No one gives better Cher-realness than the "RuPaul's All-Stars Drag Race" winner Chad Michaels. The drag veteran has made a career on impersonating the gay icon. As fellow drag queen Willam said on "Drag Race," Cher goes to Chad for tips. Check out this uncanny compilation of Chad Michaels performing some of Cher's greatest hits.
This lesser-known performance of Sharon Needles is in no way your typical drag show. A revealing spoken word piece that leaves Sharon raw and exposed to the audience, it explores life after "RuPaul's Drag Race" and the pressures of fame in a way that no traditional lip-sync could ever accomplish. Even the audience becomes silent about halfway through -- prepare to be even more impressed by your favorite scary queen.
Oh, Jinkxy. A groundbreaking queen in so many ways, our "Rupaul's Drag Race" season five champion received an invitation to perform at the 2013 GLAAD awards. Not only that, everyone's favorite Seattle-based queen performed live as usual, serenading the crowd with "Ladies Who Lunch" (No lip-sync here!)
Shortly after Whitney Houston's death, Sahara Davenport, who passed away last fall, paid tribute to his idol in New York City. He performed an upbeat dance medley of Houston's greatest hits, including "How Will I Know" and "It's Not Right But It's Okay."
This lip-sync performance of Madonna's "I'll Remember" by "RuPaul's Drag Race" season three runner-up and all-star Manila Luzon was purely emotional. Luzon dedicated the performance to his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/02/sahara-davenport-dead-dies-rupaul-drag-race-contestant-manila-luzon_n_1932080.html">boyfriend, Sahara Davenport,</a> who <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20635882,00.html">passed away due to heart failure</a> last fall.
If anyone knows how to put on a production, it's our Vegas queen Coco Montrese from the fifth season of "Drag Race." From the entrance, choreography (complete with half-naked boys) to the Rihanna red hair, Coco was giving us all kinds of fierce.
Halleloo!!! Shangela Laquifa Wadley (drag daughter of Alyssa Edwards) brought the comedy and the controversy to seasons two and three of "RuPaul's Drag Race." This debutante of the Deep South gives you <em>everything</em> in this new video, also featuring season three's Miss Congeniality, Yara Sofia. And who can forget the guest appearance by "Dance Moms" star Abby Lee Miller?
What can one even say about RuPaul's "Supermodel (Of The World)"? Not only did this iconic video launch Ru into fame and the national spotlight--it brought drag culture into the mainstream. Today, more and more drag queens are producing music videos to build their personal brands, following the path to stardom Ru trademarked in the '90s. All we can say is: <em>You betta werk!</em>
When Sharon's album debuted at #4 on the Itunes Pop Charts in early 2013, he proved that the sky really is the limit when it comes to the trajectory of drag culture. This song, the intro of which is a genius appropriation of RuPaul's intro from "Supermodel," perfectly captures the spooktastic aesthetic of Sharon Needles. The rest of the album features cameos by Ana Matronic, Amanda Lepore, Armen Ra and Jayne County.
If you want a lip-sync for your <em>life</em>, look no further than the fierce DiDa Ritz, standout contestant of "Drag Race" season four. Check out her performing "Look Back At It," where the Chicago queen proves why he's called "the legs of Halsted."
One of the few performances included in this slideshow from a non-RuPaul girl, Fade-Dra was an influental figure in the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tranimal" target="_blank">Tranimal</a> movement in the early 2000s. At first, this performance seems like a campy and innocent portrayal of a Miley Cyrus song. However, it soon progresses into a highly politicized and radical message about bigotry, hatred and homophobia in America. Make sure you watch the whole thing--you won't regret it.
Manila's most successful video yet, "Hot Couture," provides an important and heartwarming message about acceptance of gender-variance in children at a young age. It's also just a sickeningly fierce video. Check out Jiggly serving up (eating up?) wedding cake-realness at 2:02.
Before "Boy is a Bottom," this trio released this video during the uproar surrounding Chick-fil-A's anti-gay rhetoric. It is an important reminder that drag can be extremely political and witty at the same time, and that the mediums through which this political action takes place are rapidly changing. Also, this was before Detox was on "Drag Race." Look how far our queen has come!
We included this video not quite as much for the performance, but the significance of this moment for our girl, Carmen. The first contestant from "RuPaul's Drag Race" to come out as a transgender woman and seek medical intervention, this is one of Carmen's first major performances post-surgery.
Season Two winner of "RuPaul's Drag Race" Tyra Sanchez did little to push the boundaries of drag while on appearing the show. However, in this 2012 music video for "Hey Jane" by Spiritualized, this queen surprised us all. Playing a transgender prostitute and mother of two children (one of which is her real-life son) this video will <em>literally</em> have you in tears by the end (...and maybe bring some minimal validation for Raven's loss... very minimal)
He is large and in charge, chunky yet funky. The bold and beautiful, He is Latr<em>iiiiii</em>ce Royale! Utilizing every part of his body, season four Miss Congeniality is all over the place in the best way possible. Check the split at 3:50.
You know we HAD to include just one performance from "RuPaul's Drag Race!" This epic battle between season four bitter enemies Sharon and Phi Phi was one of the most intense of the season. How could the rivalry end this early?? What conflict would drive the season now?? The answer came immediately after, when Willam faced disqualification and vomited everywhere. Oh, gurl....
We all know how intelligent our little Jinkx is, particularly when this queen utilizes drag to explore different forms of social commentary. Centered around rape culture and the victim-blaming society attempts to project, Jinkx uses the performance to show the audience that this is one issue where "water off a duck's back" is not an appropriate mentality.
The late Tandi Iman Dupree achieves possibly the most <em>sickening</em> entrance to a drag performance ever in this video... You have to see it to believe it.
An important aspect of "RuPaul's Drag Race" that helped turn the show into a institution, this is the first music video Ru produced with his final three girls. Though a bit low-budget (...like most of the first season, let's be honest), the video is an important landmark for today's trend of drag queens producing music videos. Also, what queen doesn't love this song?
Everyone's favorite early-season comedy queen is a genius when it comes to her music videos. His addicting lyrics are always intelligently hilarious and will have you <em>gagging!</em> Also, check out Pandora's blog page for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pandora-boxx/" target="_blank">HuffPost Gay Voices</a>
Leave it to the queen of spook, Sharon Needles, to come up with a whole set around the disturbing "Human Centipede." In this Los Angeles performance, the season four winner of "RuPaul's Drag Race" opened the number by playing the infamous scene where Dr. Heiter sadistically explains the human centipede process to his victims. Sharon then appears on stage to lip-sync to Britney Spears's "3." And of course, Sharon had his own human centipede on stage to play with...
Over 10 million views and counting... The hilarious (and exceptionally well-produced) "Boy is a Bottom," a parody of Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire," has received more views than any other video produced by a "RuPual's Drag Race" queen. After the success of this and "Chow Down at Chic-Fil-A," these three seem to be unstoppable.