My friend Aaron, aka Sharon Needles, is the star (yes, the star) of the current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I can’t tell you how much fun is is to watch a friend on TV, but there’s more to it than that. So many reality shows make stars out of boring, privileged people. Shows like Project Runway (from which Drag Race takes its structure) are enjoyable to me because they’re about the process of creating something, and the camaraderie/antagonism that results when a group of people are forced to create together.
There’s a humanistic quality to that, and Drag Race takes it a step further. It can’t be a casual decision that RuPaul ends each show with the question “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” (Can I get an amen in here? Amen!) These men who dress like women have likely spent most of their lives being maligned and ostracized, and – even if it is just reality TV – it’s profound to see them elevated to the status of stars.
What’s most exciting to me is seeing a friend of mine presented as a TV character, yet retaining much of his/her individuality in the process. Here are a bunch of crazy, fabulous drag queens, in all their realness, on display for a million Americans. I may not do drag, but these are my people, and it makes me proud.