Thousands Sashayed into RuPaul's Record-Breaking DragCon
Over 50,000 fans sashayed into the fourth annual RuPaul’s DragCon LA this weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Created by mother Ru herself and World of Wonder, this was the largest #DRAGCON to date since it was first held in 2015. And no, it didn’t blow up--there was no sign of Tyra Sanchez anywhere—HALLELOO!
DragCon was packed with over 350 exhibitor booths which included hundreds of meet & greets, performances, and panels which included the following:
RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Bianca Del Rio, Trixie Mattel, Billy Eichner, Brian McCook (Katya) Alaska 5000, Jinkx Monsoon, Alyssa Edwards, Aquaria, Asia O’Hara, Blair St. Clair, Dusty Ray Bottoms, Eureka, Kennedy Davenport, Manila Luzon, Alexis Mateo, Vanessa Vaaaaaanjie Mateo, Kameron Michaels, Mayhem Miller, Miz Cracker, Monét X Change, Naomi Smalls, Bebe Zahara Benet, Raja, Shangela, Sharon Needles, Valentina, Violet Chachki, Sasha Velour, Chad Michaels, Ross Mathews. For full list of talent, click here.
Thousands of VIP pass holders were able to walk the convention floor hours early while enjoying a live acoustic performance by current All Star reigning queen Trixie Mattel. VIPs also got a first-chance to see the Werkroom replica before everyone else as well as snapping selfies at the over 30 instagrammable spots on the convention floor. Not to mention, they got dibs on the sick’ning vendors with everything your drag-loving hearts could ever desire.
On the first official morning of DragCon, RuPaul’s Drag Race and All Stars winners Trixie Mattel, Sasha Velour, Sharon Needles, Alaska 5000, Jinkx Monsoon and Bebe Zahara Benet Sissied That Walk down the pink carpet in front of thousands of fans for an epic Crowned Queens Walk.
As if seeing so many fierce reality television queens wasn’t sensory overload enough, DragCon attendees turned it out with their looks to give other visitors a run for their money. They served face, body, head to toe extravaganza that put many to shame while leaving others gagging.
This was my first visit to DragCon and what can I say? It was a beautiful experience. It was incredible to see that this tiny show that I use to watch nine years ago had not only grown, but exploded into world domination, inspiring and touching the lives of the young, the old, the marginalized, the disabled, the persecuted, the judged, the misunderstood, the queens—in every one of us.
RuPaul shared about the importance of this event, now more than ever:
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.
During his Keynote address on Sunday, May 13th, RuPaul expressed:
Here we are in a time when it seems like the world's gone backwards....politically and everything, the pendulum has swung all the way...it's up to us and how we see ourselves on an emotional and personal level to push the conversation forward.
Before entering the convention center, all DragCon goers were greeted with a larger-than-life “Everybody Say Love” sign that set the tone of tolerance, inclusivity, and peace at the convention.
But let’s get down to it. As I mentioned, this was my first time at DragCon and ultimately, I had a great time. I met some amazing people, witnessed more death drops than I have ever seen in real life, and got to kiki with my favorite queens. Still--with all that, and with every event, there was chaos.
First you should know that if you are going to DragCon, YOU MUST HAVE MONEY. We're talkin' CASHFLOW REALNESS. If you plan on just paying for your pass and then coming to enjoy everything without spending a dime…that may be hard. Aside from paying for whatever you want to buy, you will have to pay for something or even pay for a meet & greet if you want to smile and pose with your favorite queens. This isn’t like meeting them at the bar or the club, they are there to run a business and their teams have it on lock making sure that they are making their coin. Completely understandable, though. RuPaul’s Drag Race has made entrepreneurs of them all over night and they need to sustain their very expensive careers. Just know that if you plan to get a picture, it’s gonna cost you, so don’t be offended if you are turned away.
One thing that was a great escape at DragCon that cost no extra money was The Runway. Throughout the weekend contests and presentations were held on the convention floor that had the crowds LIVING! If you were looking for the hot spot with all the music, The Runway was the place. With hosted and scheduled performances by Eureka, Alexis Michelle, Chad Michaels, Mayhem Miller, Trinity K. Bonet, Detox, Latrice Royale, Morgan McMichaels, Laganja Estranja—the queens were bringing it to the runway.
Special guests Evan Michael Lee and Chase Kolozsi from World of Wonder’s The Gaymer Guys, hosted a special cosplay contest that flipped the wigs of judges Jiggly Caliente and Pandora Boxx. And another highlight was the season finale of Hey Qween with Jonny McGovern, Lady Red and Peppermint.
The perfect opportunity to spend some more time getting to know the queens is by attending sessions and panel discussions, which also make DragCon a meeting of the minds. Sessions do cover a lot of points for RuPaul’s Drag Race fanatics, but at their core, these panels are a dialogue for drag and LGBTQIA culture that truly elevate visibility.
That being said, for DragCon LA, scheduling and timing for all sessions was a bit of a disaster. There was overcrowding in the lines and staff was having a hard time getting everyone in order because we all seemed to be in a haze. One late session potentially pushed back all the sessions in the room which interfered with the ability to run to the next line and wait for the next session. I know DragCon is only 4 years old, so maybe they will learn from these mistakes and have better communication among their team to insure that people don't get out of hand because—let me tell you—Drag Race fans can be VICIOUS and entitled!
If you were lucky enough to get into the sessions of your choice, it was definitely worth the wait. From Brian McCook (Katya) giving an uncensored, uncut and inspirational “DEB Talk” in the style of a TED Talk about the Drag Entertainment Business to Billy Eichner Glamming up the Midterms, the DragCon sessions were meaningful and insightful—but also tons of fun!
During one session, the RPDR Season 3 queens Ru-united to dish about what life has been like for the queens since they were on the show and how they have seen the evolution of drag and Drag Race over the last 10 years. It was an honest conversation about how drag has manifested into a popularity contest with social media and how most fans forget that paramount to everything, drag is art! Panelists included Phoenix, India Ferrah, Mariah Paris Balenciaga, Raja, Stacy Layne Matthews, Manila Luzon, and Alexis Mateo. The panel was moderated by Michael J Freeman.
Billy Eichner and Funny or Die partnered with DragCon to present their efforts in Glam Up the Midterms, an initiative started by Eichner to encourage voting citizens to cast their votes in the midterm elections in order to make the changes we so need in this world possible. Eichner was joined by Alaska and Peppermint for some “Billy on the Street” style games that got the audience pumped and had them rolling on the floor. Eichner also welcomed three community powerhouses who are creating political and social change in the Los Angeles area.
Jasmine Masters’ Class was also in-session during DragCon as she gave her humble opinion and had real talk with sister queens Kennedy Davenport, Tempest DuJour, and Shea Couleé. The four loud-mouthed queens dished about their time on Drag Race, the difficulties that come with being in the public eye, and they even down and dirty discussing their favorite sex positions before taking questions from the audience. Jasmine Masters definitely had something to say and panel attendees were present and ready for class!
Attending DragCon was an unforgettable experience. Yes it was three long days of walking, talking, dancing, standing, waiting, not eating, taking selfies—but by the time you realized your feet were numb, you were ready for the next day. I don’t recommend heels if you’re not use to them! I wore some butch flats instead.
I think there are a lot of sides to the idea of DragCon. Hardcore Drag Race fans will either love it or hate it. Drag purists may feel like it is a crazy whirlwind mega bitch of consumerism that is so far removed from the essence of the art of drag that they would wonder why anyone would spend a dime to visit. In my honest opinion—and I’m no Jasmine Masters—DragCon is part of the LGBTQIA revolution that has come to ignite discourse about the celebration of the obscure and what is different, and glamorous, and beautiful. It may also be the only place where people feel like they can freely express themselves without the fear of being in danger.
Expensive as it may be, DragCon and what RuPaul’s Drag Race has given to the gay community is groundbreaking. We forget that behind a simple reality show there is a message of tolerance and appreciation for individuals who have had to fight their whole lives to stand out, to be accepted, and to survive. We are truly lucky to be alive at a time where DragCon can even exist and where thousands can gather to honor pioneers and future generations of not just drag culture, but the LGBTQIA community that just wants to love and be loved—with heels click clackin’ about.
DragCon returns to New York in September. Badges and VIP Packages for the second annual “RuPaul’s DragCon NYC” will go on sale May 14, 2018 at RuPaulsDragCon.com. If you’re in the area, you bettah getchu some and start saving those monies, Henny!
This was created by one of our Contributing Writers and does not reflect the opinion of Instinct Magazine or the other Contributing Writers when it comes to this subject.