So, I'm not going to try and pull out a ton of meaning from this show, but here's the thing:
I find it hard to believe that I'm writing this, given my last post, there are other things to cry about rather than the scripted, confessional-driven, campy show about men who, for a living, perform their (our) interpretations of womanhood and femininity. Emphasis on perform, cause they werq that sh*t out. But, back to crying. This is the second time I've admitted publicly to crying over RuPaul's Drag Race. The first time was when Dida Ritz turned out the strongest lip sync for your life I have ever seen to Natalie Cole's "This Will Be." Part of it was that Ms. Cole was sitting right there and, I'm just gonna say it again, queen nailed the verse:
so long as i'm livin'/true love i'll be givin'
to you i'll be servin'/cause you're so deservin'
That fierceness, or "high drag at its finest" as Latrice Royale called it, drew the kind of call and response it deserved and is rarely seen on the show. Watching, as I often do, still pulls chills and tears from my body (I have it saved on my DVR, you should really watch it now from the tumblr page here, if you haven't seen it). It was, fierce. Both the fierceness of performing not only an incredibly famous, never to be well interpreted song in front of the woman who made and perfected it, but also the Black womanhood that we've come to associate with songs like it and in our everyday lives. As Madison Moore describes in his discussion of fierceness, "fierceness embodies several contradictions all at once...fierceness is both ownership and the loss of control, simultaneously deliberateness and spontaneity" (Moore 2012: 73)--I was just turned on to Moore yesterday, but I read his work with ferocity and you should too. When RuPaul says that the time has come for your to lip sync for your life, in the majority of cases, fierceness, that deliberateness is brought. But, the ownership of that fierceness for many of them, including Ru, is there all along. It is performed and reiterated, in every utterance, every step.
Look, I understand that this is a reality television show and they get to be on television, and they know they're on television so how much of this can we really take "seriously" (these are the critiques I get from my students who are currently reading Jenn Pozner's Reality Bites Back), I know, but I will contend that realness is forever served. Every time I watch it I am reminded of where these loves have come from. What they've been through. And I don't ever want to prioritize the brutality of queer boys lives over queer girls of color--which Aishah Shahidah Simmons is really leading us on and chronicling so beautifully over at The Feminist Wire--in each performance, in every application of caked makeup, in every tuck, and in every lip sync I see that brutality. And I become protective. That experience of being ridiculed, cast away, beaten (physically or not), and the attempts to destroy.
And they're not the only ones, I'm protective because it resonates somewhere with my own experience. And, to quote the fabulous post, Reflections of a Black Queer Suicide Survivor, by Darnell L. Moore that attempt to (literally) destroy us left many of us--even if we can't bear to admit it now--to come "to the wrong conclusion that I needed to sacrifice myself, to die, to at once be free." That's how deep that brutality goes. That death is a viable option. And this is why fierceness is such an important tool. Such an effective way to challenge the hegemony of race, gender, masculinity, femininity, and hetero (and sometimes homo) normativity. We bring it, every time. Because we have to. There is no choice about it. You see it in the glamor of Latrice Royale (I'm going to say her name over and over cause she should've been in the top three, not Phi Phi), the not only polishedness, but skill of Chad Micheals, and the often gruesome spectacle of Sharon Needles.
So, for the win, I have to give it to...Michelle Visage.
Just kidding, but really, why isn't her performance ever considered for the win? And, she's like 5 feet tall. Did y'all see that? When she was standing next to Santino--I'd never seen her stand up before--but she looked like she was standing in a trench, like they do for male actors who are shorter than their female counterparts in the movies.
Really, for me, it's always been Sharon Needles. I love her. I haven't really seen a Goth, scary queen serving realness in the way that she does, as others have pointed out. But, I also just love that she presents as, what we think of in popular discourse, 'poor, white, trash' out of drag. I have no idea what her class background is, but her (gap toothed) teeth are yellowed, her skin is sickly--not pasty--white, her bleached blond hair blends into said skin, and she has a body that exudes a long time emaciation. That could all be a performance that covers up a middle class upbringing that she discarded, but I feel it. Partly because I know it pretty well. Those were the boys that lived in the trailer park up the street from our house, that were my play boyfriends sometimes, and they were also the boys we avoided because they were too poor, poorer than those of us who lived in houses, for instance.
I have a soft spot for that.
Plus she gives sharp answers to questions like, "Where is Phi Phi?" Answer: "Disneying it up somewhere." Love. her. So, I give it up to Sharon Needles. But, really, I give it up to all of the queens. And to all of us. Because in the words of Natalie Cole, we're so deservin'. And this will be (or is) an everlasting love. Eternally.
From now on.