From Paris is Burning to #dragrace: Social Media and the Celebrification of Drag Culture

Zeena Feldman, Jamie Hakim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

This article examines the celebrification of drag culture in the USA, and reflects on social media’s role therein. This transformation is contextualised historically by charting the evolution of drag media representation from the subversive drag collectives immortalised in arthouse documentaries like The Cockettes (2002) to the emergence of highly-polished, brand-conscious celebrity drag entrepreneurs propelled to fame by the reality television programme RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009–). The success of RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) has lent drag unprecedented levels of mainstream visibility. In so doing, we argue that RPDR has facilitated drag culture’s move from the fringes to the mainstream, and contributed to drag’s celebrification. In the second half of the article, we draw on celebrity studies and self-branding literatures to outline the central role that social media have played in the celebrification of drag culture. We also critique the politics this celebrification props up. Through analysis of queen-generated content on social media platforms, and of RPDR transcripts, we home in on the ethics of drag’s celebrification – specifically the ways it supports homonormative narratives of the ‘good queer’, and delimits the sorts of queer bodies and politics that are acceptable in the mainstream.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-401
Number of pages16
JournalCelebrity Studies
Volume11
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • RuPaul’s Drag Race
  • capitalism
  • digital culture
  • internet celebrity
  • reality television
  • social media

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