Drag and female impersonation is a long standing art, but it’s become popularised in recent years. The mainstream acceptance of drag has largely been welcomed, as the art and lifestyle becomes more widely understood and accepted – as have representations of drag in the media, as in the hugely popular RuPaul’s Drag Race. Drag has long featured in numerous films and shows, including the 1978 La Cage Aux Folles and the 1994 The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It’s referenced as far back as Ancient Roman literature, and in the theatre female parts were traditionally performed by men in Shakespearian times. Drag is now generally associated with the LGBT lifestyle, although it is not exclusively restricted to this community.
There are some hugely popular and influential drag queens on the circuit today, all of whom excel in different fields and have their own particular brand of female alter ego, including high camp or low camp drag. The following are ten of the world’s very best and most renowned drag queens performing today.
10. Pandora Boxx
Kicking off the list is the delightfully-named Pandora Boxx, a.k.a. Michael Steck. Boxx appeared as a contestant on series 2 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and was the runaway star of the series, despite not winning. She was extolled by Entertainment Weekly, who protested her elimination from the series and named her “America’s next drag superstar”. Boxx’s works have been featured at a number of film festivals and she has performed both onscreen and onstage. Boxx had a very successful tour of the nation following her success on Rupaul’s Drag Race, and she also hosted the Dragtastic: NYC Stand Up Comedy Special to great acclaim.
At number nine is perhaps the best-known modern-day drag queen RuPaul. Born Rupaul Andre Charles in San Diego, RuPaul has become a worldwide sensation in recent years thanks to the TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race, which began in 2009 and which aims to find America’s next drag superstar. RuPaul has been performing in drag since the 1990s, and after struggling with poverty and drug addiction for some time landed several record deals which kick-started her career. Since then she has released numerous hit records, including a duet with Elton John in 1994, and has featured in many movies including the 1999 But I’m a Cheerleader. RuPaul is also a prominent gay rights activist.
8. Chad Michaels
Chad Michaels rose to fame as one of the world’s leading Cher impersonators. Michaels has been performing as Cher for two decades and has collaborated with and performed for some of the world’s most famous singers, including Christina Aguilera, Cyndi Lauper, and even Cher herself. Michaels’ acclaim is so great that he has featured as Cher in numerous Cher TV biographies. ‘Cher’ was a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race and claimed a spot in the top three, as well as earning the title of “Queen of Queens” in RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race. She also performs with the longest-running Californian Female Impersonator show, The Dreamgirls Revue.
7. Latrice Royale
The formidable Latrice Royale, a contestant in series 4 of Drag Race, is at number seven. Born in California in the 1970s, Royale has been a female impersonator for over twenty years, and did her first performance in drag as ‘a dare’. She does most of her work in Florida, but is hopeful that she’ll eventually perform in various locations around the world. She is also legally allowed to officiate at civil ceremonies and at weddings, which is set to prove an enormous asset to her career.
6. Jinkx Monsoon
Jinkx Monsoon first rose to fame on season five of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Monsoon was born Jerick Hoffer, who obtained a degree in theatrical performance in Seattle, and has ten years of experience on stage. According to her official website, Monsoon “combine[s] the sophistication of a southern belle with the crass sophistication of the working girl”, and this combination made for an interesting and noteworthy contestant on Drag Race. Monsoon lists amongst her influences the female villains of Disney films, showcasing the darker side of the female species. She has performed in numerous theatre shows, including as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and is one half of “The Vaudevillains”, a 1920s tribute act.
5. Bianca del Rio
Bianca del Rio is the winner of the 2014 RuPaul’s Drag Race. She is thirty-nine years old and was born in Louisiana, and works as a stage-and-screen actor, costume designer and comedian. Her love of acting began at school, during which time, as Roy Haylock, she began performing in and designing costumes for school plays. After leaving school Haylock worked in Bloomingdale’s in New York City, and has also designed costumes for the New Orleans Opera. Del Rio is of Cuban and Honduran descent.
4. William Belli
William Belli is at number four. Best-known for her role as transsexual Cherry Peck in Nip/Tuck, Belli is also notorious for being the only contestant to ever be fired from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Belli began acting aged twenty, and has a significant number of music credits under her belt. She has been a member of the band “Transkuntinental” which made its debut in 2009, and smoothly used the publicity which stemmed from her disqualification from Drag Race to release her parody single “Chow Down”. Belli also performed as a backing dancer in the video for Rihanna‘s “S&M”.
Detox has a drag daughter, Vicky Vox, and has featured in music videos for Rihanna and has collaborated with Ke$ha. She was also a contestant on the Drag Race, and is part of Chad Michaels’ Dreamgirls Revue. With an impressive career, Detox can afford to present herself as rude and foul mouthed – and she generally does.
2. Jackie Beat
Jackie Beat, drag queen singer extraordinaire, is currently around the second most well-known and iconic drag queens in the world. Famous for putting her own spin, if you will, on hits by the likes of Britney Spears, Madonna and Lady GaGa, Beat has been performing all over the U.S.A. and Europe for two decades. Her stand-up is also very popular in America and has been featured on Comedy Central and MTV. She’s been in several movies, including Flawless and Wigstock the Movie, and has also appeared on Sex and the City.
1. Dame Edna Everage
At number one is classic and quintessential drag queen Dame Edna Everage. A woman of many talents, Everage is amongst other things a social anthropologist, a talk show host, an investigative journalist and a children’s book illustrator. Born Barry Humphries, Everage is Australian, and is one of the best-known celebrity figures to emerge from the country. She has had shows in London on Broadway, and has performed numerous times for the royal family.
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