What’s in a name? I guess that depends on the name, am I right? When it comes to Drag and the performance industry a name could make or break you. Even deeper still into the world of pantomime entertainment, or even simply calling it ‘drag’; may you be male or female, queen or king, impersonator or not, what really makes a person in this industry truly famous; is face time… you know – publicity.
How does one performer become better known than any other? Before the days of RuPaul’s Drag-Race, the performer really had to do all the work themselves. Sometimes it started with a talent show at a night club to get their face seen for the first time. A lot of the times a talent show was the way for the Show-Director of a Night Club to get fresh entertainment for the weekends. The winner would get a small cash prize and a cameo spot in one of the upcoming weekend show nights. From there, they were pretty much on their own, unless they had a ‘House’ to help them out. Another way new up and coming performers could get a start would be to enter a pageant. There they can get tips and tricks of all kinds, but costs a bit more, as gowns, hair, jewelry, and talent costuming can get expensive. But in this way they can get constructive criticism from the panel of those chosen to judge the pageant, as well as, should they win, a hefty cash prize package, and a crown. Nowadays they have New Comer Pageants, these are for entertainers new to the scene that have never done a pageant before, going up against others just like them, there was nothing like this 10-20 years ago. Even still, when all is said and done, it was still left to the performers themselves to find venues to work at. Most of the time if a bar/night club hosted a drag show; they had someone there to ‘book’ entertainment. This person was call a ‘Show Director’, if the venue cared enough they would post in the paper, or on flyers when to call for bookings. Then the Entertainers, needing money, or just wanting to get out there, would call, and negotiate a booking fee. If you pulled a good crowd, or you were really good that night, the Show Director may try to do more bookings for that month, or season. Then the next thing you know, as an Entertainer, you have a fan following and you know that when you step out on any stage and look out into the club it’s going to be to a packed house, or as a Pageantess, you instill unease in the other contestants because you are high on your game, and they know when they hear your name, you mean business when you want a crown. Can you be both, yes, but it’s hard work to do both, some cannot swing it, while others can.
So this brings me to the real meat of this matter; Where I feel the attention is going in the eyes of what is drag, and what is entertainment, and how I feel about those that have played their respective role in RPDR. Many will call me out on this, but I really don’t care. I know I am gonna get the stink eyes, go-to-hell-looks, the “And just who are you…?” Again, I am un-bothered. Yea, I could have devoted time and money into my art-form… developed my drag character, wardrobe collection, and stage skills, and maybe even won a crown or two. I choose a different path, which was not drag; I focused on my career skills. I played in drag from time to time, and for a short while I felt I would even pick it up as a part time gig. As we all know real life comes first. So don’t judge me on that. I have been around long enough when I’ve seen things that make no sense at all.
Here is what I mean…
Say you have Queens A. B. C. & D. they are all holding big name titles, and they are very well known, great entertainers, even the local entertainers know who they are. Their booking fee is (arbitrarily speaking) $800.00, plus air fare (business class), and hotel stay (something nice, where they won’t be scared to shower). Roughly to book them individually $1,000.00- that’s not bad at all. The club would be full, and most of the local entertainers may even supplement your show, just to share the stage with them as an experience.
On the other hand a Queen from RPDR is a brand name now, and all former titles they may have won mean nothing to them as their focus is on pushing the RPDR brand as well as their own. They are seen by millions on T.V. As such their booking fee will reflect that (arbitrarily speaking) that fee is going to be from $1,500-$2,000 or higher, plus air fare (first class), and hotel stay (usually a suite, they will tell you what hotel to put them into) Total all that up and you can put a down payment on a new car, buy some new home appliances, or go to college and pay some loans.
These days when a queen or entertainer gets to the point they are deemed a star, or famous, they have a booking agent. They don’t call bars and clubs anymore; they may not even do pageants any longer.
What makes a RPDR Queen any different from any experienced Queen that has been doing pageants for longer than most of them that has been doing Drag? This is a very hard Question that I posed. I did it for a reason. That is because RPDR is nothing more than a pageant itself disguised in reality television. Interview is the video you send in, but think of Video as a preliminary, and the show itself is the final pageant. You have Questions, outfits, gowns, even talent skits that have to be preformed. Even still they keep cutting it down and you do it all over again. I have a friend that owns a preliminary state level pageant to one of the top 4 well known national pageants in the nation. In the beginning he would run this state level pageant for 5 days, and he had up to 20 contestants at one time, compared to RPDR, he was an amateur.
What would happen to RPDR if Miss Gay America started to film and broadcast on national television, or Miss Gay USofA, The E.O.Y system, or the Continental system? It’s all about publicity right, marketing, and getting your brand out there.
Don’t think I’m putting these RPDR gals down. I know that they had to have worked hard, while they were on the show, but that was the last time they worked that hard… now they have it easy… they don’t have to work as hard as they had to before. How are they giving back to the LGBTQ community that helped get them their start before RPDR? I can tell you that many of the highly recognized names in the entertainment industry of drag that have never made it to TV, or even won a crown, they give back, and it is not about the money for them.
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