As we near the end of the decade, there’s no denying that the past 10 years have brought along plenty of high points when it comes to arts and culture. But, if you ask me, the best thing about the 2010s has been the drag. Looking back to when RuPaul’s Drag Race had just started in 2009, it’s hard to believe the enormous strides both the show and drag as an art form have made since then. Indeed, for Drag Race, the days of smearing Vaseline on camera lenses and wearing Wet Seal on the runway are long gone. The show, which started out as a low-budget spoof of America’s Next Top Model, has become a well-produced, Emmy-winning franchise.
At the same time, drag has infiltrated every part of modern culture, proving that RuPaul’s Drag Race isn’t the only avenue to fame as a drag queen. That Drag Race isn’t the end all and be all of drag, becomes an increasingly important issue as the show becomes more and more exclusive, casting only queens that fit a particular political agenda and normative vision of drag. Luckily, every day there seems to be a new drag-related TV show, such as the fear-factor drag series, Dragula, which, unlike RuPaul’s show, allows performers of all genders to compete. Queens have even started appearing on shows that have nothing to do with the queer community, like when Courtney Act (RPDR season 6 runner-up) won Celebrity Big Brother UK last year.
Truly, drag queens are everywhere today. They’re in ad campaigns, at awards shows, on the runway, and between magazine pages. And yet, social media and local clubs are full of queens who seem to have slipped through the casting couch cracks. So, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten drag queens who should have been on TV in the 2010s. These are talented make-up artists, comedians, and dancers who bring a refreshing breath to drag and are challenging the boundaries of the art form altogether. If it were up to me, each of these queens would have been given their own show already, let alone a spot on a reality competition show.
It’s a shame there hasn’t been a Drag Race Australia yet because Art Simone would absolutely kill the competition. The Melbourne-based queen is well known by fans across the globe for her impeccable and zany drag transformations. Constantly serving vibrant and creative looks, Art Simone’s name says it all: She’s pure art. This is one queen you’ll definitely want to follow on Instagram. Add in her charmingly kooky personality, and Art Simone is the total package.
BibleGirl, or BibleGirl666 as she’s known online, is the peak millennial drag queen. She’s absolute pop-punk, MySpace trash brought to life and dragged up. Practically a parody of online culture and social media, BibleGirl is all about self-deprecating humor and channeling hate into success. There is a sense of irony to including BibleGirl on this list, as she’s a proud DIY drag queen, having built a platform for herself without Drag Race, and a vocal advocate for paths to drag stardom that don’t include the show. Still, her indulgent and outspoken persona feels so made for reality TV, that I couldn’t leave her out. But forget Drag Race, put her on Real Housewives or Keeping Up. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time BibleGirl has been hailed as “the Kim Kardashian West of drag.”
Oh, and did I mention she’s also CEO of her own company?
To be completely honest, Christeene might be too vulgar for television. I mean, she is just downright disgusting. Her wigs are always flat and stringy, her clothes are always torn and revealing, and her make-up is always smeared across her face. There’s absolutely nothing glamorous about Christeene, but no matter how vile she gets, you just can’t look away. A self-described “human pissoir of raw unabashed sexuality,” Christeene’s music video and live shows are highly sexual tributes to queer culture and gay sex. In “Butt Muscle,” which features designer Rick Owens, Christeene shoves Owen’s long hair straight into her ass. It’s all about destroying normalcy and challenging traditional, oppressive social structures while putting on a damn good punk show.
Creme Fatale brands herself as a “professional cupcake.” And that’s the perfect way to describe her delightfully sweet, colorful, poufy aesthetic. Another extremely talented make-up artist, when in drag, Creme Fatale transforms herself into a representation of femininity so extreme it’s almost more alien or fairy-like than human. And her performances are similarly whimsical with a distinct vintage flair that has gotten her booked on stages across the nation alongside none other than RPDR season 9 winner, Sasha Velour. Despite her massive following and renowned position in the drag world, as a cisgender woman, Creme Fatale cannot compete on Drag Race. Honestly, it just goes to show how much RuPaul is missing out by holding onto such narrow definitions of drag.
Lucy Stoole is bearded and beautiful. This legendary Chicago queen is one of the most artistic and radical performers in any drag scene. She boldly contrasts her hyper-feminine styling with a big, bushy beard for a wonderfully subversive effect. This shocking juxtaposition of glamour and filth is at the heart of Lucy’s political and unapologetic drag. And although she’s always dazzling in vintage ball-gowns and sexy lingerie, her name alone proves that she’s not one to shy away from being considered crass or kitschy. Between stripping down to nothing but a giant merkin during performances to selling dildos and butt-plugs in her merch store, Lucy Stoole is all about body-positivity, sex-positivity, and gender-fuckery. She’s charming and goofy and long overdue for her chance in the spotlight. Remind me why there hasn’t been a bearded queen on Drag Race yet?
Merrie Cherry is an absolute staple of the Brooklyn drag scene. She’s a producer and entertainer who has had worked long and hard to promote and support drag in Brooklyn. In 2013, she created the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards to honor prominent members keeping the borough’s nightlife scene alive. Whether its hosting late at night at one of Brooklyn’s many nightclubs or reading to kids during Drag Queen Story Hour, this bold and outlandish queen is a delight for all audiences. She’s a little messy, a little alternative, and a little campy in all the best ways.
View this post on Instagram
Rub me the wrong way, I may slap you. Rub me the right way, I'll still slap you and you will like it even more. 🤚🏾🍒💋 Shout out to the photographer @strekozanyc Outfit by @highwastedstudio – – #genieinabottle #aladdin #bluemangroup #instaphoto #merriecherry #brooklyndrag #photoshoot #mua #makeupartist #looks #specialeffectsmakeup
Miss Toto is a viral sensation with bulging muscles and a knack for turning memes into drag performances. She’s blown up on social media for lip-syncing Ariana Grande’s “Greedy” as Mr. Krabs (complete with thigh-high, patent leather, red boots), turning Netflix’s Bird Box into a blindfolded drag number, and bringing to life a jersey trap remix of Maya Rudolph’s Hormone Monstress character saying “bubble bath.” There are few entertainers who are as creative and playful on stage as Miss Toto. Between her brilliant comedy and the outrageous physical stunts she’s able to pull off as a professional bodybuilder, Miss Toto always finds new ways to leave her audience gagging.
Instead of dancing in clubs, Pattie Gonia makes the outdoors her stage as the “worlds first backpacking queen.” That’s right, Pattie Gonia hikes in heels. High heels. And wigs too! Sometimes even wearing tents as dresses, Pattie Gonia literally puts the ‘camp’ in campiness. Through group hikes, partnering with brands like REI, and educational social media posts Pattie Gonia aims to promote inclusivity in the outdoors industry as well as to be an advocate for LGBT and environmental justice issues. I for one am anxiously awaiting her television debut as host of an adventure travel show. It could be called Around the World in 80 Heels. National Geographic, make it happen!
Riley Knoxx is the number one Beyoncé impersonator. In the world. Period. She’s been impersonating Beyoncé for over 15 years, and her act has taken her to the Kennedy Center and earned her a place in Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” music video. Impersonating Beyoncé doesn’t just mean throwing on a bodysuit and learning the “Single Ladies” dance. Riley Knoxx has studied every minute detail about the way the pop diva talks, walks, expresses herself, and even the way she holds a microphone. And the work has certainly paid off, because the transgender performer’s resemblance to Beyoncé is uncanny. There’s nothing second-rate or derivative about Knoxx’s act, because when she performs the process of transformation and the art of imitation becomes the spectacle in and of itself. It’s like magic.
Sasha Colby is easily one of the most breathtaking performers I have ever encountered. In fact, her performance of YEBBA’s “My Mind” is so heartfelt that I’ve cried over it. She beautifully unravels herself on stage, expressing every emotion in striking movement work that feels almost like modern dance. 2012 winner of the prestigious Miss Continental pageant, Sasha Colby is a showgirl through and through. She oozes sex appeal and charms audiences with a simply hair-flip. And while her rendition of “My Mind” might be my favorite lip-sync performance of all time, Colby is a phenomenal dancer in any genre, and she knows how to turn out a high-energy pop medley just as well as an emotional ballad. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better dancer and actor than her on or off TV.