The Queen is a 1968 documentary about the previous year’s Miss All-America Camp Beauty Pageant, a competition for drag queens.
The film was groundbreaking for its honest depiction of drag queens in the moments between the pageantry. Even in the far less accepting America of the late ‘60s, it got positive reviews from the New York Times after premiering at the Cannes Film Festival.
It paved the way for so much of drag culture, from Paris is Burning to Wigstock to RuPaul’s Drag Race, which just opened Live! in Las Vegas.
Netflix tweeted on that the iconic documentary had finally been restored, color corrected, and released on the streaming platform.
The announcement came alongside a series of tweets sharing the fascinating history of The Queen, and why it holds such an important place in LGBTQ history.
The Netflix thread begins,
“Before RuPaul launched the careers of over 100 drag queens and Elektra Wintour read the ballroom houses of POSE to ashes, THE QUEEN, a 1968 documentary about a 1967 drag pageant, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival providing an almost unprecedented look at queer culture.”
One tweet reads, referencing the pageant’s mistress of ceremonies, Miss Flawless Sabrina.
“This was a time before the pivotal Stonewall Uprising, a time where drag was often still criminalized–Sabrina was reportedly arrested over 100 times for crossdressing,”
What The Queen is most known for is, as Netflix writes, the
“epic reading session by Crystal LaBeija” captured on film. When LaBeija failed to win the crown, which she, likely accurately, perceived to be due to racism and favoritism, she left the stage and later gave a verbal lashing to the camera and then to Miss Flawless Sabrina for the choices the pageant made.
She walks offstage, in the middle of the awards, never to walk another pageant in the white-centric circuit again.”
This moment has been referenced by current LGBTQ media again and again. It led to LaBeija breaking off, which in turn led to the creation of “houses” in ballroom, as well as voguing.
The Queen is now available to stream on Netflix in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia after being restored by Kino Lorber and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.
Directed by Frank Simon, the film came to be largely thanks to Jack Doroshow, aka Miss Flawless Sabrina. It showed the performer at the height of her power, a queen amongst queens, who ran an operation of about 100 people that put on as many as 50 pageants per year across America pic.twitter.com/MyCBeqUmPY— Netflix Film (@NetflixFilm) January 23, 2020
This was a time before the pivotal Stonewall Uprising, a time where drag was often still criminalized — Sabrina was reportedly arrested over 100 times for crossdressing.— Netflix Film (@NetflixFilm) January 23, 2020
Still, “One grows fond of all of them,” the New York Times wrote of the queens in its initial film review.
But the moment from the film that has become the most memorable, referenced on shows like TRANSPARENT and by celebrities like Frank Ocean, is an epic reading session by Crystal LaBeija. Aja, infamously recreated the moment in a DRAG RACE Snatch Game challenge.— Netflix Film (@NetflixFilm) January 23, 2020
(via Daily Dot)