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‘Legends of Drag: Queens of a Certain Age’ Features Drag Elders

‘Legends of Drag: Queens of a Certain Age’ Features Drag Elders


The notion arrived to Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus whilst equally were attending “church” — their term to explain a drag display.

This certain efficiency took spot in December 2017, on the night of the winter solstice, at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, a beloved queer dive bar in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. The two, the two now 32, ended up struck that night by the performers’ ages, which they guessed averaged about 60.

Wisconsin natives and friends considering the fact that they met on Myspace when both equally were being 14, Mr. Antheus and Mx. Hanson, who utilizes a gender-neutral courtesy title and pronouns, “had a deficiency of queer elders increasing up,” Mx. Hanson claimed.

Viewing the queens perform at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge planted a seed in the minds of Mx. Hanson, a photographer, innovative director and drag artist in Brooklyn, and Mr. Antheus, a floral designer and writer in San Francisco: to characteristic drag elders in a publication that, as Mx. Hanson set it, “we wished we experienced as young adults.”

In March 2018, they photographed and interviewed 4 performers from the San Francisco scene — Phatima Rude, then 51 Carla Homosexual, then 54 Renita Valdez, then 59 and Mutha Chucka, then 56 — and later on pitched the project to Sasha Velour, the drag artist and winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 9, who at the time was placing with each other the fourth concern of Velour: The Drag Journal. But the concern never manufactured it to print.

Just after a year of sitting on the materials, Mx. Hanson pitched it to a friend at Vogue, which posted the photographs with an essay on its internet site in April 2019. Shortly immediately after, The San Francisco Chronicle ran an short article on Phatima Rude, citing the Vogue piece. “Once it ran on the Vogue web-site, we recognized there was a hunger for it,” Mr. Antheus mentioned, and the two made a decision to grow the venture into a e-book.

Both equally say they were compelled by an urgency to capture the tales of an older era in advance of it was much too late, as effectively as a motivation to provide a corrective to the significantly young and digital camera-completely ready variation of drag that has entered well known society by using tv reveals these types of as “Drag Race,” which lately concluded its 14th time.

“Some queens really feel slighted by the slender group of drag presented on Television set,” Mx. Hanson stated. The point that “there are adequate queens in The us to even populate that numerous seasons of ‘Drag Race,’” Mx. Hanson additional, “is mainly because of the a long time of regional drag communities ushering in new generations of queens.”

In June 2019, the duo embarked on a cross-state sojourn of 16 cities, photographing and interviewing 77 additional drag artists, the oldest of whom was 90 at the time. “We required to chat to the punks and the pageant girls and the artwork queens,” Mx. Hanson stated, “to seize that beautiful diversity within just so a lot of distinct communities.”

Those performers, together with the 4 whose portraits first appeared on Vogue.com, fill the internet pages of “Legends of Drag: Queens of a Specified Age,” out June 21 from Cernunnos, an imprint of Abrams Textbooks. Not only a catalog of 81 drag queens, it also consists of tales of activism and protest. Many of its topics were being at the entrance lines of the gay liberation movement, in the ’60s, and the AIDS epidemic, in the ’80s.

The book’s gumdrop-brilliant portraits by Mx. Hanson had been all shot outside in full daylight to differentiate them from conventional drag pictures, which is typically shot at bars or in studios. “For many of them, drag is not a daytime sport,” Mr. Antheus claimed. “It was intimidating, but they arrived all over.”

Every single performer, all of whom been given a product price for their time on established, was photographed with bouquets preferred by Mr. Antheus. Some are proven with varieties personally substantial to them, though others’ flowers ended up chosen based on the outfits they wore, or the area of their photo shoot. The notion was not just a visible ingredient for the illustrations or photos.

“We wanted to give the women their flowers,” Mr. Antheus explained, utilizing the expression that usually means appreciating beloved types when they are even now alive.

That sentiment proved prophetic. By the time of the closing sitting down for the reserve, in September, 4 of its topics experienced died: Phatima Rude, at 55 Lady Red Couture, at 43 the Goddess Bunny, at 61 and Tina Devore, at 67. “Losing queens via the course of action,” Mr. Antheus reported, “really solidified the value that these are stories we will need to get out.”

Mx. Hanson recalled Kelly Ray, 59, a drag queen from Durham, N.C., saying that collaborating in the project may possibly be the past essential factor the performer does. “That strike me suitable in the heart,” Mx. Hanson mentioned.

Though its creators noticed the ebook as an antidote to televised interpretations of drag, some contestants from the “Drag Race” franchise observed their way into its internet pages. Sasha Velour, 34, wrote the foreword. Chad Michaels, the winner of “Drag Race All Stars” Time 1, is outlined in an interview with Dolly Levi, 64, from Los Angeles. Shawnna Brooks, 54, from Atlanta, is photographed in the back yard of Nicole Paige Brooks, from “Drag Race” Year 2. According to Mr. Antheus, people connections display that today’s drag queens are component of a legacy that goes back again a long time.

He and Mx. Hanson see “Legends of Drag” as part of an evolving challenge. There are additional drag artists to take a look at, extra stories to explain to. “There is a queen in Barcelona who is 95 that I seriously want to meet,” Mx. Hanson stated. “I have a Google spreadsheet of 75 queens that I want to do the job with,” distribute across the world “from Tulsa to Honolulu to Argentina.”

The last performer showcased in the e-book is Simone, a transgender woman who does not use the expression “drag queen” and declined to give an age. (“We are not likely there.”) Given that the early ’90s, Simone has been acknowledged for undertaking throughout New York Town, which includes outdoors in the vicinity of the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, the web-site of a 1969 rebellion that proved to be a flash issue in the present-day L.G.B.T.Q. legal rights movement.

Simone, Mx. Hanson reported, “is really straight continuing in the tradition” of Marsha P. Johnson, the activist and drag performer who died in 1992 and is regarded as an early champion of transgender rights. “I do not think there are quite a few people today who essentially do warrant a comparison to” Johnson, Mx. Hanson mentioned.

As for remaining named a legend? “It’s such a compliment,” Simone stated. “Any lady would be surprised and enthusiastic about seeing her encounter in a ebook with these kinds of incredible divas.”



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