Bianca the evil nice girl

bianca-375This year RuPaul’s Drag Race doesn’t seem to have a villain. In most of the past seasons, there was a villain of the show. Someone that was just loud, abrasive, self-important and slightly delusional. This idea went to the extreme last year with the addition of Roxxxy Andrews. Phi Phi O’Hara had been the villain of season 4, and managed to have an awesome sound byte from the season, but was otherwise harmless. But for season 6, there seems to be a change of pace.

Granted, Roxxy Andrews’ character completely backfired on her. After her appearance on the show, a lot of people started to genuinely dislike her. When I saw her perform live her show was sparsely populated while winner Jinkx Monsoon and runner up Alaska Thunderfuck had managed to fill both of their houses. Her treatment of Jinkx Monsoon was not taken lightly and definitely not forgiven. While the tension and workroom fights made for great TV drama, it turned out that Roxxxy’s career didn’t take off like the person she had been harassing.

Perhaps that’s why this year Drag Race has gone in a different direction. Instead of a villain, we have Bianca Del Rio. She’s  fun, she’s sassy, and she holds absolutely no punches. But while she could easily be the snarky, aggressive villain, she absolutely isn’t. She helps her fellow queens, she immediately apologized to Laganja when she thought that her feelings had been hurt. Her mission isn’t to make everyone hate her. She’s extremely talented, likable and fucking hilarious.

Her standup comedy was untouched during the Drag Queens of Comedy challenge. Her Snatch Game Judge Judy was hysterical. But even though she could have treated the other girls with contempt and disdain, she didn’t. Even when she was paired with whiny and insecure Trinity, she was patient and guided her through the challenges. She could have unleashed hell on her fellow queen when she couldn’t get the dance steps right in the Ru-ssical or couldn’t pronounce “car doors” in the makeup commercial challenge. But while her interviews were always sharp, she was supportive of her drag sister and encouraging.

Bianca is so funny, warm and genuine that I can see her easily being top 3, if not winning outright. She might have plenty of thoughts on her fellow queens and their behavior, but she’s no mean girl. She’s one of the nicest bitches you could ever hope to meet. Even if it would sometimes be annoying, she would make an excellent friend. Sure, she would tell you things that you don’t want to hear, but she would tell you exactly what everyone else was afraid to say. And sometimes a harsh truth is better than a well-intentioned lie.

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A few people have tried to cast other queens as the villain of the series, but the accusations falls a little short. Sure, Gia Gunn was bitchy and shady to the other girls, but she was also a little silly. Between not knowing what a Tony Award was to mispronouncing the word “Delorean”, it was clear that she isn’t exactly going Mensa anytime soon. Gia didn’t seem intelligent enough to really be as manipulative and cruel as a villain usually is. Also, she befriended Laganja, one of the most dramatic queens on the entire show.

Courtney Act has also fallen victim to the accusation of mean girl. She was quite rude to Joslyn Fox about pretty much everything. But Courtney just isn’t nasty enough to Joslyn or to anyone else in order to really deserve this title. A lot of the time Courtney seems to be treating Joslyn like her annoying little sister, only to have Joslyn respond accordingly.

I have to say that this season without a villain is great. The show doesn’t need to have all of that interpersonal drama in order to work. All Stars used the big characters and fierce queens to make it work without one girl cast as the bad guy. These queens have enough personality and intrigue that relying on stock characters to perk up the show just isn’t needed.

Hopefully, Drag Race won’t feel the need to go through this again and cast another villain next season or in All Stars 2. In fact, if a past villain comes on All Stars 2, I would love to see them go through a redemption where they become more likable and more respected for their talents, not for their insults. Only time will tell.

Family when you have no family

monica-beverly-hillz-cryingIn the gay community, there are a lot of relationships formed that resemble families. In drag, a queen who mentors a starter is a drag mother. When queens are equals, they’re drag sisters. Part of this is because their bonds are so tightly woven that they are like family. But another reason is, sadly, sometimes gay people and drag queens, don’t have relationships with their biological families.

Gay youngsters are disowned and homeless at an alarming rate. Even more transgender people are homeless with some shelters even turning them away because of their gender identity. But being who you are should never come at the expense of your family.

I was recently re-watching Drag Race: All Stars and saw the Untucked where Chad Michaels was contacted by her dad after TWENTY-FIVE years of not talking. I had seen the episode before, but something really affected me differently this time when I watched it again.

When Manila cried that she feels like she wasn’t the man her father expected to raise, it’s so heartbreaking. There shouldn’t be only one version of a man that a father should expect their son to grow into. There shouldn’t be only one version of a man that society recognizes.

It’s so painful to watch these queens, who you’ve grown to know and love after their seasons and now this show, express their shame and regret and disappointment when their family relationships didn’t go the way they had planned. During Drag Race, similar things have happened, such as Alyssa Edward’s father told her that he was proud of her after years of not speaking. Monica Beverly Hillz (pictured) came out as a transgender woman on the show. Something she had been hiding the entire time during her stay there.1656165_248786861962169_1803577392_n

Family is so important for just about everyone. They’re there to support you, they’re supposed to know you best, and love you despite your flaws and shortcomings. But when your own flesh and blood want nothing to do with you all for the radical act of loving someone or being someone that society says that you shouldn’t, the result is a profoundly sad statement on the conditions placed on unconditional love.

That’s not to say that families are simple or easy. Anyone who goes to a family dinner at Thanksgiving knows that they’re not either. But in our complex and sometimes infuriating way that we all relate to each other, there should always be an understanding that your family has your back and is there to support you in difficult times. You don’t have to agree with them all the time, you don’t have to like them all the time, but you do have to let them know that when it comes down to it, you’re there for whatever they need.

But when the reality is that you don’t have a group of people like that in your life, you find a replacement that’s just as good. And for some, that’s drag families. Humans are amazingly adaptable. And for all of the negative things that people have to say about the LGBTQIA+ community, they are incredibly brave to face everything that they have and build a community built on love from it.

I’m not a parent, so I really can’t speak to the complexities of a parent/child relationship. But I know that it I put someone on this earth, I would never abandon them because they were gay, were transgender or anything of that nature. You should punish acts of violence and anger, not acts of love. Everyone deserves to have a group of supportive people around them and the good news is that even if you lose the one you’re born into, you are find a new one of your own choosing.

How to survive a plague: you don’t

APTOPIX India World Aids DayI like to watch documentaries on Netflix. I also like to watch a lot of material from gay culture. So in between the two, Netflix thinks that I am a very classy gay man. But anyway, I recently watched How to Survive a Plague. I later watched Paris is Burning again and decided to look up some information about the larger-than-life characters in the show. What I found was an example of how bad this plague was and how devastating AIDs was to the gay community.

How to Survive a Plague is a documentary about activists in two different groups demanded better treatment options and care for everyone suffering from HIV/AIDs and how it resulted in getting new medications and more options available for those people who were infected. I was a child when most of this was going on and had no concept of just how many people died from AIDs and AIDs-related causes.

The film was startling, horrifying and infuriating. So many people were silenced and ignored while everyone was slowly dying. The stigma surrounding AIDs as a “gay disease” was palpable. The sad fact was that with gay people and junkies sharing heroin needles being the most effected by this plague, no one in the pharmaceuticals industry felt very motivated to figure out better alternatives for treatment and work to extend infected peoples’ lives.

After a third viewing of Paris is Burning, I decided to get on Wikipedia and see where everyone was today. The movie was released in 1990 and shot before that. So it has some years on it. When I started looking up the major people involved in the movie, I found that so many of them were dead from AIDs related causes. It was staggering. A list of people who survived and are still living would be much shorter.

Here is a list of all of the stars as listed on the Wikipedia page.

Dorian Corey – Died 1993 – AIDs-related complications
Pepper LaBeija – Died 2003 – Heart attack following diabetes complications
Willi Ninja – Died 2006 – AIDs-related heart failure
Octavia St. Laurent – Died 2009 – AIDs-related complications
Angie Xtravaganza – Died 1993 – AIDs-related liver failure
Venus Xtravaganza – Died 1988 – Homicide
Kim Pendavis – Died 1992 or 93 – Heart failure

Venus Xtravaganza’s death was covered in the movie. She was a transgender woman who was a sex worker that was found dead, stuffed under a motel room bed about four days after she had been murdered. Her murder was never solved. But due to the rate of violence against transgender people (especially in the 80s), it seems logical that her death was related to her gender identity.

Of the 9 people listed as major cast members of the movie, 7 of them are dead. And in the film, none of them were old enough to die from natural causes. So all of their deaths were premature. But this really does to show how deeply the gay community was affected by the plague of HIV and AIDs. It causes so many deaths and robbed us of so many amazing people.

Paris is Burning remains a time capsule of a culture that could have easily been forgotten because most of the people involved in it had died. The documentary itself is important not just for its showcasing of gay and drag culture, but for its intersectionality about a time and place in American history that had a major effect on the entire world. Unfortunately, a lot of the stars of the movie are not here to see how the world has changed and how things have improved for the LGBTQIA+ community as well as those suffering from HIV/AIDs infections.

When the documentary, How to Survive a Plague, discusses all of the people that were lost due to AIDs, it never really hits home until you see the people who aren’t there. Some managed to survive the plague and work towards a better, more healthy future, but others didn’t. A plague is, by definition, so bad because it’s so difficult to survive.

Raven/Morgan/Mayhem at Rainbow Cactus

Last night I was thinking about how comfy the couch felt and how nice it would be to just stay home instead of going to Rainbow Cactus to see Raven, Morgan McMichaels and Mayhem Miller perform. But I knew I would never forgive myself if I missed the one time that these California queens actually left the west coast to come visit the opposite side of the country. So I got my ass in the car and drove an hour to the Cactus to meet up with two friends to witness what would be one of the most epic drag shows I’ve ever seen.

The show started promptly 20 minutes behind schedule. I got there about an hour and a half before show time and got an excellent spot, right by the stage. The girls made a grand entrance about 50 minutes before the show started. The cheer that erupted when they entered the building was deafening. The crowd there was so excited to see these girls.

The show kicked off with Mercedes Douglas in a beautiful green outfit. I have seen her perform before at Croc’s Drag Yourself to Brunch and she does not disappoint. Her look was so polished and her dancing was great. She got the crowd so excited for the show.

Next was Morgan McMichaels performing as Pink. We all remember the Snatch Game episode of Season 2 where Morgan did Pink and ended up in the bottom two. While she couldn’t make Pink funny on the show, she performed the hell out of her songs Just Like A Pill and Raise Your Glass. Her performance was so energetic. She jumped into the crowd, did a cartwheel, walked through the people and stole a bottle of booze from the bar that she danced around with and using to pour shots into peoples’ mouths. Her show was insane!

Her second performance was to Christina Aguilera’s Nasty Boy and a saucy song I had never heard before about the singer’s desire to be spanked. She even invited some of the crowd to come and spank her, which if course everyone took her up on. She did a sort of chaotic meet and greet with the patrons during the mid-show break. I talked to her for just a few seconds, but told her how much I loved her performance as Pink and how grateful I was that she finally came to Virginia. She was so sweet and so beautiful. She got pictures with me and my friends.

Jasmine Saville then performed after Morgan to a Katy Perry medley of Firework and Teenage Dream. She was so demur and stunning in her little red, white and blue outfit. Next was Raven.

The first thing I noticed about Raven, when she entered, was that she is incredibly tall. I’m not sure of her exact height, but she has to be 6’5″ or above. She is truly at statuesque beauty. Her performances were so stunning, dark and sultry. I didn’t recognize any of the songs, but watching her was surreally beautiful. She was so graceful. She walked like she was born in heels. Her outfits were inventive and her body was on point. She is a truly gorgeous queen.

Next was Debutaunt McCray. I had never seen her before, but I absolutely adored her performance. She lip sync and danced to a mash up of classic songs. Her painting was beautiful. I was living for her rosy cheeks. Everyone knows that I love to support the plus sized queens and she was an excellent example of how awesome the big girls can be.

After her was Mayhem Miller. She told the crowd later that she started doing drag with Raven at the same club on the same night and they had been friends ever since. Although she’s not as well know as her Drag Race friends, she put on a spectacular performance of Lorde’s Royals.  Her outfit was so well put together and her shocking blue eyes were breathtaking.

Her second performance had her in a fuschia outfit with gigantic shoulder pads. The song was about Drama and was partly spoken. Her performance was so interesting to watch and I just loved the song. It was so appropriate for a drag queen. I hope to see her on Drag Race one year. She would definitely give the other contestants a run for their money.

Over all, this was one of the most fun and exciting drag shows I have ever been to and to think that I almost stayed at home! I enjoyed the Rainbow Cactus in addition to the show. I had never been there before, but things seemed well organized and everything ran smoothly. The crowd was also excellent and you could tell that they really loved drag. I can’t wait to go back and see more epic queens strut their stuff on the stage.

To view my videos from the night, check out the playlist on YouTube.

Drag Official and other ways I’ve wasted my time

3d33f6f98ad0ac0fb374ee1b507f31f6I have gotten paid for exactly 10 articles that I’ve ever written. With the rise of the blogger and the decline of print media, a lot of writers are not able to make a living like they used to. I’ve been willing to write for just about anyone who holds a decent command of an audience. After writing for In Cold Blog, GodSwill and my personal site, I have plenty of experience and can work with a variety of people. However, sometimes hard work, agreeability and the ability to produce high-quality content is not enough to warrant an email response.

I first came across the Drag Official website when I was doing a Google search for something related to drag queens. I got the information that I needed, then saw there was a tab at the top of the screen calling for writers. I immediately clicked on it as I’m willing to write for anyone and anything in order to get my name out there. I filled out their little application and waited with excitement to see who would email me back.

A person signing their emails “Phil” got back to me in a few days. I told him of my ideas and how I would like to contribute and he sounded very receptive to all of my plans. I told him that I was going to be seeing Sharon Needles performing live and could do a review of her show. Also, that I wanted to write an article about life lessons that I learned from Drag Queens, as well as plenty other topics for content. He said that they all sounded great, so I got to work.

I started on my life lessons I learned from Drag Queens article first. I emailed Phil back and forth with edits. He wanted it a certain length, he didn’t want two quotes from the same queen, he wanted gifs, so on, so forth. I made all of the changes that he suggested. As for the live show, he wanted videos in addition to pictures. I had never been a big fan of videos, due to the fact that you can’t put them in scrapbooks, but he wanted videos, so that’s what I did.

I attended the show, got photos, videos, and more. I wrote the show review the next day and sent it in. The morning after Phil said that he got all of my materials and was delighted with them. He couldn’t want to publish them on the site. By that evening I received another email from him saying that they (not entirely sure who “they” were since I only dealt with Phil) decided not to publish the article since that is not the direction that they wanted to take the site in. Phil offered to post a link to the show review on my personal blog instead.

Originally, I had been annoyed that “they” had make this decision AFTER I did all of that work and made sure to do things that I usually don’t even do. But I moved on quickly. I put the show review up on my site and sent him a link to the page so he could promote it. Then I never heard back from anyone at Drag Official.

The link to my Sharon Needles show review was never posted on any Drag Oficial media. My Life Lessons article was never posted either. I emailed several times more and still never got any response from anyone. I even filled out their little writer application again. It’s been over 7 months now since I last had contact with them and I can only assume that they’re not interested in working with me anymore.

What really pisses me off about this situation is the total lack of respect for my time and effort. I wrote two articles, just for this website, edited them according to their wishes, and did things for an article that I don’t usually do, all for free. Then I was deemed unworthy to even get an email response back. Being a volunteer can be a thankless job, but when someone is offering to write content and promote your website, you’d think that someone just starting out would be more considerate of whatever a volunteer did.  I offered my time for free, but I sure as hell thought that someone would recognize that I actually wanted to get something published.

I’m not sure how many other writers have been jerked around by Drag Official, but I’m going to guess that I was neither the first nor the last. Being a volunteer doesn’t mean that you’re disposable. Being willing to work on something for no money just shows your passion and interest in the subject matter. But when someone does something for you, without complaint and without expectation of repayment, it’s time to show them a little courtesy and appreciation. In the very least, if you decide to no longer work with someone on a project, you need to at least have the decency to be honest and direct with them.