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Inside The Incredibly Fierce RuPaul’s DragCon. It’s A Phenomenon

“In this time of chaos and lies, for three days tens of thousands of big-hearted, super-creative, and sensitive souls peacefully gathered to celebrate their truth at RuPaul’s DragCon. Seeing all the young people and families and queens has filled my heart with gratitude and hope. The future is going to be fierce.” – RuPaul

 

You only need to be on Twitter on a  Thursday night during an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the social media network lights up with tweets about the show and its contestants.  Earlier this season, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo was eliminated from the season opener and instantly went on to become a viral sensation minutes after she was sent home.

Yes, indeed, RuPaul’s Drag Race is a phenomenon and so is RuPaul’s DragCon. The fourth annual DragCon took over the Los Angeles Convention Center for three days from May 11-13 as over 50,000 people came from  Brazil, New Zealand, Canada, England and all over the world to convene at the largest ever gathering of the world’s top Drag Queens. To give you an idea of the huge explosion, RuPaul’s DragCon began a mere three years ago in 2015 with 10,000 attendees. Later this year, RuPaul’s DragCon will take over New York City with plans for expansion, “Internationally”, teased Fenton Bailey, co-founder and Co-President of World of Wonder.

Fans gathered outside the convention center long before the doors opened, hoping to be the first in to wander around 340,00 square feet and visit the 350 exhibitor booths. It wasn’t just DragQueens waiting in line, there were children, teenagers, and adults, waiting to get a photo or meet their favorite Drag Queen. Lines snaked around for Alyssa Edwards, Shangela, Trixie Mattel and Chad Michaels. Bianca Del Rio, Trixie Mattel, Billy Eichner, Alaska 5000, Jinkx Monsoon, Aquaria, Asia O’Hara, Blair St. Clair, Dusty Ray Bottoms, Eureka, Kalorie Karbdashian Williams, Kameron Michaels, Mayhem Miller, Miz Cracker, Monét X Change, Bebe Zahara Benet, Raja, Sharon Needles, Violet Chachki, Sasha Velour, Chad Michaels, Ross Mathews, Yeardley Smith (“The Simpsons”), Tokyo Stylez, Hannah Hart, and World of Wonder co-founders & DragCon creators Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey were just some of those featured over the weekend.

Photo Credit: Movi Inc for World of Wonder

And yes, Lord, you could also meet RuPaul for a photo opportunity or an autograph. As soon as the doors opened, that’s where people headed to, VIP’s were let in early to get their tickets so they could meet the mother of all Drag queens.

Photo Credit: Movi Inc for World of Wonder

If you needed any confirmation that drag and RuPaul’s Drag Race has become a fixture in mainstream culture, this was the place. The adulation normally reserved for pop icons and film stars was being bestowed right here in the panels, at the booths and an energy of pure love and acceptance filled the air as contestants past and present entertained. It was anything but a crowd of “just gay guys and drag queens”, DragCon has never been just that, it’s always been much more.

I mention DragCon is also about acceptance because when I spoke to numerous attendees about being at the event and what it meant to them, the recurring theme was that DragCon was a place where they felt safe, free and accepted. For them, it represented a sense of community that they didn’t always find in their hometown.  “DragCon is about life, love, laughter, and inclusion. It’s about tearing down walls, not building them.” Bailey said.

Detox hosted the Kid’s Runway Show on Sunday which featured toddlers and young kids werkin’ it on the runway. Yes, DragCon is indeed a family-friendly environment, all around there were babies,young children and families. For the second year in a row, there was a Kids Zone where parents could sit with their children as they played on the bouncy castle, had their faces painted, or listen as a Drag Queen sat down with them for storytime.

The panels featuring the talent were fun, entertaining, but more importantly inspiring. Whether it was Chad Michaels and Larry Edwards talking about how they got their start in Drag,  Billy Eichner encouraging everyone to get rocking that vote on the Glam Up the Midterms!, Werk The Skin You’re In: Body Positivity, or Everybody Tweet Love! Ending Online Hate, or Alexis Mateo, April Carrion, Cynthia Lee Fontaine, Kandy Ho, and Yara Sofia uniting to discuss stories of strength and resilience from the drag community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the panels reunited queens from across the seasons as they addressed current, social and political issues.

 

Photo Credit: Movi Inc for World of Wonder

World of Wonder, the entertainment company behind Drag Race and DragCon’s booth was selling all things DragCon, as well as it’s new subscription box filled with goodies including a unicorn pool float, Sasha Velour (Last season’s winner) Slaying cards and a Squirrel plushie among other items. I couldn’t leave DragCon without one. You can also subscribe to the Dragbox here. I also wound up with a pin and a t-shirt in Large because they had run out of small and medium.

The day spent absorbing the phenomenal sensation RuPaul’s Drag Con has become is something that needs to be experienced. It wasn’t too long ago that RuPaul’s DragRace was airing on Logo TV, fast forward to season 10, the show now is a fixture on VH-1. It’s a reality competition show where contestants enter the “Werk Room” which made it’s DragCon debut appearance this weekend, and the Drag Queens bring their creativity and talent to the table. They sew costumes, they contour – yes, Drag Queens were doing this long before the Kardashians. They do their own hair. They come with all their boldness and truths and everyone is different. There is no show on TV that offers as much diversity than RuPaul’s Drag Race, but more importantly, the Drag Queens and RuPaul offer a place where we can tune in weekly and feel hope, and hear messages of self-love and in these dark times. It’s all about inclusivity and what more do we need than that? If the success of RuPaul’s DragCon is anything to go by, expect to see RuPaul’s Drag Race come up favorite when the Emmy nominations are announced.

The fourth annual RuPaul’s DragCon LA is over, but tickets are already on sale for the Second New York DragCon taking place from September 28/29/30. Yes, it’s going to be big. So, hold on to your wigs and get your tickets: http://rupaulsdragcon.com