Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pageant Queens

Dear Drag World, 

Pageant contestants, both traditional and drag, often get pegged as beautiful shells, as artificial and vapid as the barbie dolls they seek to emulate. In season 1 and 2 of Drag Race, Rupaul crowned pageant queens. But in season 3, Mimi Imfurst then Raja, began to chanllenge the pageant princesses. After Sharon Needles shouted "tired ass show girl!!" at Phi Phi O'Hara in season 4, being pegged as a "pageant queen" pretty much meant you were gonna come in third.  

In light if the painful performance of Miss Utah at this year’s Miss America pageant, and the generally bad rap “pageant queens” get on Rupaul’s Drag Race, I’d like to show you my two favorite pageant performances.  These two examples should serve as stark rebuttal to anyone who says pageant girls are simply walking stereotypes, pretty drama queens with no real edge or talent.

First is Shangela Laquifa Wadley, competing for California Entertainer of the Year in 2010

This performance has a bit of everything I like about drag, the classic satire of popular culture, the caricature of pop iconography, as well as the big hair, high heels, and high energy. Shangela shows herself as a smart, funny, talented queen. 

Still, some might argue that her performance is too classic, simply too typical. They claim, with cause, that we've already seen queens in big wigs dancing to Britney Spears, backed up by shirtless men in tight shorts and eyeliner. They point out that pageant queens may be talented, but they never push the envelope. They are too main stream, too traditional. In fact, many claim that the pageant system itself perpetuates established standards and only rewards convention.  

In response, I submit this clip of the brilliant, cutting-edge pageant princess, Queen Bee Ho

 (Miss Continental Pageant 2012)

Queen Bee's performance is similar to Shangela's.  They both begin with pop culture references, Shangela to Twilight, Queen Bee to Saw.  But while Shangela's builds to a classical emotional climax, Queen Bee's performance is emotionally jarring. Her music and choreography shift dramatically from sharp and explosive to graceful and feminine. As she mixes beauty with horror, romance with addiction, and aggression with seduction, she speaks directly to the twisted duality at the heart of drag and contemporary culture.

While her style is distinctly her own, I think she at least matches, if not surpasses, the avant garde image of Raja and the shocking, cutting edge style of Sharon Needles, and she does it like a pageant queen.  

What do you think? Do you like pageant queens? Do you think they get a bad rap? Which ones? Do you think there is any chance a pageant queen will be crowned in season six? Thanks for reading, comment below.

Hugs n' Tugs,

Femalé Amerícän 


  1. Queen Bee Ho is fantastic! I was only recently introduced to her, but in that short time I've come to appreciate her tight approach and fun choreography.