DragCon LA kicked off Friday morning with a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by RuPaul and 30 dazzling queens from the now ubiquitous “RuPaul’s Drag Race” franchise. Cackling to himself that he didn’t immediately see a ribbon to cut at all, the Emmy-winning host and supermodel of the world was in good spirits, kicking off a weekend designed to uplift and celebrate drag.
The Los Angeles Convention Center, adorned with signs like “Sissy That Walkway” and “Slay Ave” that helped orient fans around the con’s many booths and vendors, offered itself up as a welcome space for fans of Ru and his legendary children. To walk around DragCon is to experience drag not just as entertainment but as a booming cottage industry in which merchandise, photo-ops and branded experiences are de rigueur.
For Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, who have helped shepherd the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” brand to its meteoric mainstream success as the show’s producers, the convention is but an extension of their desire to champion drag’s artistry and to avoid it from becoming an easily ignored fad. Keenly aware of a political climate that seeks to vilify drag queens, the entrepreneurial pair hope to continue to provide a platform for this most fabulous of art forms.
“At a time like this, just being visible is important,” Bailey tells me. “Drag is not threatening anyone. It just is; and it celebrates people in their infinite variety.”
Amid plenty of sequins, numerous and colorful wigs and many a feathered boa — not to mention a bevy of shirtless skirted boys hawking underwear on the pink carpet — the attendees at this year’s DragCon LA didn’t disappoint when it came to serving looks. Nor, as it happens, in their ability to remind us of the self-actualizing power drag can have on even its most casual fans. Here are some of the faces from DragCon.