Ask a drag king (Rebroadcast)
Drag performance has become a part of the cultural mainstream. Programs like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and influencers on Instagram and TikTok are making the performance style a part of our collective consciousness. Earlier this month, thousands of drag lovers descended upon London’s streets for the largest drag convention anywhere on the globe.
While queens can often be found in the spotlight, the stories and experiences of drag kings are sometimes overlooked. They are typically paid less than queens and often face discrimination at the clubs where they perform.
The history of male impersonation dates back thousands of years to the Tang Dynasty in China. The traditions continued with performers in the U.K. and the U.S. through the 19th and 20th centuries, with performers like Madam Vestris and Florence Hines (featured below) pioneering the art form in the West.
Mo B. Dick has been performing as a drag king for decades and is now based on the West Coast. Dick told The New York Times that audiences, “don’t necessarily see the comedy in a woman putting on a suit. Female masculinity is still scary to some people.”
We assemble a panel of drag kings from across the U.S. to discuss the politicization of their craft, their commercial challenges, and more.
“Dr. Wang” Newton is a Taiwanese-born American performance artist and producer specializing in the art of masculine drag. (Credit: Eric Jukelevics)
King Molasses is a non-binary drag king and performing artist based in Washington D.C. (Credit: King Molasses)
An 1830s photo of Madam Vestris, an English actress and performer in Drag.
Florence Hines was a pioneering Black drag performer in the late 19th century. Hines was featured in The Creole Show, a touring act of all Black performers.
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