Drag 101: How To Become a Drag Performer

29.10.2021
Marissa Del Mistro

Drag is a delight, a dynamic, political, and cutting-edge artistic party. And the best part? Everyone is invited to this one. Yes, even you! 

Who, me?

When was the last time you did something that completely shocked you to your core? That made you feel like an absolute badass rock star, beaming with confidence and pride, like damn I did that!? 

We hear a lot about self-love these days, and one of the bravest acts of self-care is allowing ourselves to try something we want that also scares the crap out of us. It invites a sense of pride, confidence and knocks fear out the door. 

With drag, nothing is off-limits, so why not channel all that creative energy inside of you to being a one-of-a-kind drag performer!? Let that fear go and dive into the beauty of it all. 

But, how?

Personification

A great drag performer is someone memorable. Having a cute niche will help. Start with some inward reflection and decide what you want to bring to the table. If you love to make your friends laugh, perhaps you can focus on comedy routines. Since our planet is basically on fire 24/7, maybe you want to squeeze in a political moment? What makes your persona tick, and what inspires them? Perhaps you want to indulge in your masc side as a drag king? Well, go nuts! 

Seek out characters or drag performers you relate to. Seek inspiration from them and use it to fuel practicing in your safe space. Your stroke of genius will hit you when you least expect it, just like your one-of-a-kind stage name. 

Fabulousness  

The fun part will be transforming into your persona right before your eyes. 

Rule number one: don’t go breaking the bank. Stick to essential items that will last, and remember that things like brushes can be cleaned and reused repeatedly. DIY, dollar stores and discounts will be your best friend. Drag performers swear by ‘TV paint stick’ for full coverage! 

There are a silly number of handy makeup tutorials online to guide you on basics like contouring, eyebrow drawing, eyelash application, and more. 

For drag kings and queens, hair will be crucial. For kings, it will be creating realistic stubble, and for queens, a lush and possibly bouncy wig. In terms of fashion, go with absolutely whatever makes you beam with happiness. 

This is a chance to take risks and try something you could never imagine wearing day to day. Also, outfit repeating is not a crime. Do it. 

Body-ody-ody

You can use trade secrets to plump and push your body into the perfect proportions, if you wish. Some queens opt for hip and booty pads and breastplates, while kings may use binders to complete the gender illusion. But know that this is a personal preference and optional - you can absolutely come as you are. 

Playtime 

Practice your look, your act, and your persona before hitting the stage. 

Pick a space and ask your people to come to enjoy your show. Then go to town with them cheering you on. 

Dance the house down, sashay/strut across your stage and have fun. Experiment a lot and try new things and looks as you learn and grow. 

Queer-munity 

Your local scene will be your best Judy (and your best critic). Seriously, get out there: attend drag shows, drag brunches, volunteer in queer spaces, and get chatting to people. 

You never know who you will meet. You may encounter an incredible mentor or someone who will book you your first gig. In the drag community, having a “drag mother” or “drag father,” or a mentor is very common and has roots in the 1920s ball scene. A drag mother/father/mentor helps you to perfect your persona, supports you emotionally and with tips, tricks and behind the scene goodies you may not get from anyone else. They are usually already established in the scene so they can help introduce you to others and help book you gigs!

Always remember that a positive, helpful, and kind attitude goes a loooong way. 

Rain on your parade 

Ugh, yes, the inevitable: the negative haters. 

It can be challenging for some people to understand others’ sparkle and those living out of their notions of “normal” and “gender.” 

As much as you can, block this noise out (cause that’s what it is: noise) and focus on the joy your newfound passion brings into your life. For as many negative people, you will be pleasantly surprised by the doubly positive people cheering you on; keep those people close. 

Con-drag-ulations

On being unafraid to say a big F-you to the “socially acceptable” ideas of gender, beauty, and expectations. While persevering beyond the psychology of fear to pursue your passion, you’re offering a front-row seat for others to confront society’s binary boundaries. 

Drag performers are iconic. They bring the fun, keep you on your toes, and, importantly, they are incredibly inspiring. If you’d like, there’s no reason you can’t be one of them.

Written by:
Marissa Del Mistro

Marissa is a writer, editor, and passionate advocate. Marissa received her master’s degree in human rights and democratization and has had the privilege to work with vulnerable communities with a focus on immigration and rights realization in both Europe and Canada. She currently lives in the beautiful unceded Coast Salish Territory of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ nations.

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