Rupaul’s dragcon returns to wow l.a. l.a. weekly o gosh

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At least 90 drag royals will be in attendance this year, according to World of Wonder, and all of them are connected in some way. Most have been on Drag Race (currently seen on Logo and VH1) but others are seen via WOW’s popular YouTube channel, which gave birth to the subscription TV service WOW Presents Plus last year. WOW also produces a TV show starring two of its most popular queens, Trixie & Katya, for the Vice channel.

The men behind World of Wonder, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, have been building their empire with longtime collaborator and friend RuPaul for decades, one size 13 stiletto at a time, starting with New York public-access TV, then with Ru’s talk show on VH1 during the "Supermodel" era, and finally Drag Race, which had obvious hit potential from the get-go. Still, nobody expected it to be the cultural phenomenon it’s become today, with branded merch sold in malls (there’s even a Drag Box, à la Birchbox, that fans can subscribe to) and massive conventions in both L.A. and New York.

Covering World of Wonder events over the years, freelance writing for their blog The WOW Report, and even leading live chats on Logo.com during Drag Race‘s early seasons kinda makes me (in my mind) an honorary drag queen. I’m sure I’m not the only female who watches the show for makeup ideas, either. But drag culture has, as Barbato notes, been a big part of gay gatherings and entertainment for quite some time, and in L.A., I’ve seen it inspire all nightlife as a whole, gay and straight — from fashion to music to lifestyle and attitude.

I’ll be conducting my own panel at DragCon this year, delving into the significance of drag, androgyny, dress-up and creative excess in Los Angeles after dark. Panelists include Paul V, from the legendary Silver Lake cross-dresser party Dragstrip 66; Danny Fuentes, who’s bringing back club-kid culture with a provocative twist at clubs like Sex Cells; and Mayhem Miller, a Drag Race fan favorite. “In the chaos we live in today, Drag Race and DragCon’s message of love and acceptance is more attractive than ever.” —RuPaul

Covering Los Angeles nightlife, I’ve gotten to know so many of the city’s most talented and creative queens over the years, and it seems like each season Drag Race features another L.A. “wo-man” on the show. Some local favorites over the years include Detoxx, Willam, Tammie Brown, Ongina, Alaska and Drag Race winner (Season 3) Raja, who used to go-go dance in all the clubs and later became a successful makeup artist, seen on America’s Next Top Model.

Raja, whose real name is Sutan Amrull, will be at DragCon, many years after his win, which led to a recording career and worldwide recognition. He’s seen drag and the perception of drag evolve more than anyone, and despite calling out the culture sometimes on his social media, his love for the form of expression and its biggest celebration is pure and unjaded. "DragCon is a monolithic monument to how far we’ve come along," Amrull says. "It’s now an industry. Mainstream drag brings an awareness to diversity. Drag is fun and provocative. Drag is beautiful, sometimes grotesque, but ultimately it promotes expression."

Indeed, the beauty of DragCon lies not with the exquisitely lined lips or perfectly coiffed wigs but rather the mixture of excess and self-expression, the individual interpretations of glamour, allure and vibrancy. You don’t have to be gay, a man, or even an adult to express yourself in this world of cartoony color, dazzling glitz and ominous characters and creatures. The boundaries have been broken and all are welcome.