Dipping a diamanté high heel into the world of drag

Dominique McMullan is challenging herself to do something different every week: this week she hits the Olympia for a performance of ‘hyper-femininity’

The AAA girls featuring Willam, Courtney Act and Alaska: Getting  dressed-up for a   drag show is half the fun

The AAA girls featuring Willam, Courtney Act and Alaska: Getting dressed-up for a drag show is half the fun

 

This week I went to a drag show. Drag was a vague concept to my parents, so I’ll outline the general idea here too in case you’re foggy, forgive me if you’re not. In drag shows people play with gender constructs and perform routines, often accompanied by music. Drag is not about men who want to be women (although some of them might).

Drag came into my field of vision thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix (if you haven’t seen it, imagine America’s Next Top Model but bitchier and with glue guns). Some of the contestants from the TV show will appear at the Olympia the evening I go along.

It’s a treat to dip a toe into this world. Getting ready is half the fun. Sometimes make-up, high heels and big hair can feel frivolous, but tonight it feels good to layer on hair spray, bright lipstick and don a leopard-print coat. My inner Pat Butcher bubbles to the surface. The celebration of hyper-femininity is a real treat and I don’t hold back.

All that lipstick application takes time, so we’re running late when we arrive at the theatre. You can can hear the screams from outside the building. This is a congregation of mega-fans, and there may have been drink taken.

The show includes missed lip-syncing queues and messy dance routines. The worst of all Irish stage slip-ups happens when Trixie Mattel says, “I’m so happy to be here in the UK.” (“Oh no she better don’t”, cry the faithful.)

But it doesn’t really matter. It’s a space that galvanises. A later apology is met with screaming applause.

Real show

The “chatty in-between bits” are where the real show takes place. In an unexpectedly feminist moment at the end of the evening one of the drag queens, on being heckled “get your tits out”, gives better than she got. “I was picked on for being different as a kid. But here, you’re the one that’s different. This night is when I get to be who I am. Women are not designed for your amusement. And neither am I,” she says.

Among all the fake boobs and hair and lips, it was a very raw and real moment. It felt inclusive and powerful and the crowd in the Olympia went crazy for it. I left feeling feminine, tipsy and like the world should be run by people who backcomb.

Do you have suggestions for what Dominique should try next? Email your ideas to dmcmullan@irishtimes.com.

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