Jenna Wortham wrote a headline grabbing story, just out, for the New York Times. It starts out, setting the stage…
“On a soundstage deep in the hills of Los Angeles one morning last August, RuPaul Charles and several drag queens made their way to a set that had been transformed into a simulacrum of the reality-TV show “The Bachelor.” Lacy strands of lights dripped down plastic boxwood hedges, and a row of white fluted columns framed a velvety red strip of carpet. A hot tub bubbled quietly in a corner. The contestants arranged themselves onto a set of bleachers to be appraised by the dashing bachelor, who in this scene was played by the actor Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, best known for his role on the Lifetime television drama “UnREAL.” They were filming the latest season of the reality competition show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and the day’s challenge was meant to showcase the competitors’ acting abilities. The challenge, called “The Bitchelorette,” was a parody of the farcical dynamics that play out on “The Bachelor” each season. The goal was not to win Bowyer-Chapman’s heart but rather to see who could perform — satirize, really — stereotypes of femininity with enough humor to impress the judges.”
She writes, a bit into the story,
“Throughout my conversations with Charles, I got the sense that he is a sensitive person who is actively trying to evolve with the times. ‘Every season the girls come and they challenge me. A new nose contour technique or a new way to see themselves and identity, and it helps me stay on my game and stay engaged in the conversation.‘ Last season, midway through the show, a queen in her late 30s named Peppermint revealed she was transgender, the first time being trans became a significant part of a character’s narrative arc. Peppermint talked openly about her transition with Charles and the other contestants. Peppermint had auditioned twice for the show, and she didn’t mention her transness. ‘I was always careful to separate my trans identity from my drag career,’ she told me in a phone conversation. When she finally made it onto the show, she was asked if she would feel comfortable speaking about it. She has gorgeous features and deep dimples, but on the show, she described how her figure and hair, which were perceived as masculine, invited critiques from people who felt she should transition further or appear more feminine. ‘I came to terms with my womanhood, even if I naturally have a beard growing in,’ she said. ‘Men don’t own gender and gender performance. We all can turn gender on its head.‘
It’s really a fantastic piece and you should just read the entire thing here and/or get a copy of the Sunday New York Times magazine this weekend.
And don’t forget RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars premieres Thursday night on VH1.
(Photo, Graeme Mitchell; via The New York Times)