Drag queens - deceptive illusions and creativity

Alex is Estee Longah

I'd never thought much about - or seen very many - drag performances. Alex, who performs as Estee Longah, describes the difference between two types of drag. Drag can be a deceptive illusion that fools people into believing that the men on stage are actually women, causing the audience to say "I can't believe that those are actually guys up there." But drag can also be non-illusory - a way for men to play at being women:
Alex decided to become a drag queen because he wanted a creative outlet for self expression, but also because he wanted to send the message to other gay Asian and Pacific Islander men that it's okay to be feminine. "In Asia, drag performances tend to focus more on gender illusion — pretty girls posing and being perfectly beautiful on stage. It can be very magical and appealing, especially for straight men who might not understand the difference. In the US, we tend to take the art of drag and create our own way of expressing ourselves, whether it's through spoken word, song, activism, or just being a hot mess on stage."
Drag queens are expert at the theatrics of being female. They start to transform into women by using makeup to disguise who they are so they can become someone else, someone who also happens to be of a different gender:
To witness the emergence of Estee is like watching a magic show. Alex has drawn a series of bold brown lines across his cheeks and forehead; between that and the orange chin, for the first hour of the transformation process, he looks more like a tiger than a woman. But when he starts to blend the colors into his face, Estee appears out of thin air. The only sound we hear is his fingers stroking the contours of his face and the soundtrack to Mommy Dearest — his number for the night — playing quietly out of his computer speakers. As he strokes the different colors briskly with his fingers, Alex's face fades out of view and a fair-skinned, exaggeratedly feminine visage emerges. It truly feels like I'm watching the birth of an adult woman out of thin air. Alex pops on an auburn wig and squeezes into a black fake-hip-hugging knee-lengthed dress. She has arrived. Estee Longah, a gorgeous, slightly androgynous Joan Fontaine-esque vintage pin-up girl straight out of a 1940s movie poster.
The birthing of Estee Longah, Boing Boing>>

For more on the distinctions between drag queens, transvestites, female impersonators and such, see Wikipedia>>

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