By Claire Schouten & Gaby van Genderen
Drag is an ever-evolving term with a rich history and its roots stem from queer culture. Nowadays, the term can involve dressing up and making costumes, having a persona, gender crossing and wearing extravagant make-up. The drag scene is still more than relevant and important today. A big part of its history is sad and complicated, but now drag has become more accepted and celebrated.
From underground black queer house parties in the 1920’s where drag balls were secretly being hosted, to the more public events in the 1950s where drag queens began performing in gay bars and spaces, such as the Black Cat in San Francisco. A huge turning point in LGBTQ+ history was the important Stonewall Riots in New York, with leading lady Marsha P. Johnson and good friend Sylvia Rivera, two popular and self-identified drag queens. Drag found its way into pop culture in John Waters’ 1972 film ‘Pink Flamingos’. After this the drag scene became way more visible and public, as seen in the documentary ‘Paris is Burning’. The scene really took a new turn into the mainstream when Madonna sang about Voguing, a modern house dance evolved out of the Harlem ballroom scene from the 1960’s, in her popular song ‘Vogue’. Nowadays, drag seems to be celebrated more than ever, it is still a huge part of queer night life and widely admired through popular shows like ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and ‘Pose’.
Drag is for every age and gender and offers more than just a lively community, to many it is a family. With a worldwide pandemic going on, and there for a lack of opportunity to get together in queer night life, this family is being missed. We spoke to four young ‘Quarantine Queens’ at Bar PRIK in Amsterdam, about what drag means to them and what drag is like during Covid-19.
Astoria Untold (19) started her drag career last Halloween in the middle of the nation lockdown in The Netherlands. Drag makes her feel like her most confident self. “I have wanted to do drag for a really long time, but I never had any spare time to start. When Covid-19 hit, I had more time to learn how to create drag looks through YouTube, and I had more money due to my cancelled holidays to buy wigs and make-up. I really had to figure out which looks would fit me and how to walk in heels. I have not really experienced queer night life yet, but I can’t wait for bars and clubs to open again so I can have the full experience.”
Puck Rosez (18) officially began doing drag at the end of summer in 2019. She had previously done some drag
looks before but did not consider herself a drag queen yet. “It took me some time to call myself a drag queen because I am a woman and I feel like the bar is way higher for us. I do call myself a drag queen now. I grew up in a very masculine household, which is why I thought that I would have to dress like a tomboy. Later, I realized I was unhappy because I did not get to express myself the way I wanted to. I identify as ‘Hyperfemme’, which is a way of being for me and I get to express it through drag. It is a way of showing how I feel on the inside and display it on the outside through bright colours, pretty patterns and shiny things. The pandemic did drain me of my creativity a little bit, because I really get inspired by the people I meet at parties and in clubs, but hopefully things will go back to normal soon.”
Eve (20) has been doing drag ever since she got invited to her first drag performance in June 2019 and she started creating her own looks right after. To Eve, drag is all about fantasy. “I struggle with my gender quite a lot because I do not know to what extent I identify as a woman. Drag is important to me, because it is a safe space within a safe community, a place whe
re I can explore the feminine side of me without limitations. This way I can figure out how far I want to go with relating to that feminine side of me in real life. I do miss queer night life, I used to hate going out because I used to go to straight bars and I really stood out there. With queer night life it is a different story, especially in drag. Everyone thinks it is cool what you do, and you can make friends really easily.”
Dea Gnosis (23) went out in Drag for the first time in October 2019. Her drag looks are inspired by clowns and the circus. “Drag gives me the opportunity to be weird. People, my parents especially, would always tell me: “Oh you’re a girl so you are supposed to dress girly, wear floral patterns and have nice sleek hair.” I have always been drawn to alternative things and horror movies and I always wanted to look different and express myself differently. In drag, I don’t want to look natural, I don’t want to look like a girl or a boy, I just want to look like an Idiot. For me it is a way to express my alternative side. During this pandemic I miss seeing people from the queer community who will accept me no matter how weird I look, but this extra time did give me the opportunity to get better at make-up.”