Saturday 26 August 2023

Vivienne in Drag!

For some time now I've been considering the subject of drag. I'm still not sure about the relationship between drag and trans. I've asked quite a lot of people, without coming to any firm conclusions.

One thing is certain. Drag, as a form of entertainment, has really hit the big time, and become much more mainstream lately. I'm certain it's due, more or less completely, to RuPaul (which, I just discovered, is actually his birth name) and his various shows, which have become popular all around the world (even here in New Zealand).

But my main discussion of drag will need to wait for another article (or twelve!). I'd been wondering for a while whether drag would have something useful to offer me, to improve my presentation. In particular, I have quite oily skin, and I find that, no matter how much primer and setting powder I use, my face starts to look shiny after only a couple of hours when I'm out--especially when it's warm! Meanwhile, drag queens do dance routines under hot stage lights, and they seem to still look fine. Secondly, I wanted to see if perhaps drag queen shapewear could improve my fem shape (that's for another time!).

So I was quite pleased when a NZ drag queen, Piper Blaster, was offering a Drag Makeup Workshop in a (very cold and draughty) local theatre, and I duly signed up and went along with a friend. Piper took us through the whole makeup routine, in a workshop lasting about three hours. And this is the result!

There were some makeup techniques that I already knew about, such as applying glue to your eyebrows to conceal the brow hairs completely against the skin, so that you can paint new brows in more dramatic places. But most of it was completely new to me, including the many, many layers of makeup you need to apply (I basically lost count of them!). The makeup was also heavy and theatrical--as Piper says, you're putting on a face which has to be seen from the back of the room. So the contouring is deliberately emphasised to maximise contrast.

I have to say the finished outcome wasn't quite what I expected. I'd hoped to find some tricks to look more feminine, more passable, but instead I found the look too overcooked. But what did I expect? I went to a Drag Makeup Workshop and came away looking like a drag queen! This isn't, in any way, a criticism of Piper--or her excellent workshop.

Miss Vivi Section?
Piper says that for her, the drag character emerges once the false eyelashes are in place. That's the moment when the look becomes real for her. I didn't really experience the emergence of my inner drag diva. Although I had fun striking poses with the other people there, I didn't feel dressed for the part (since I'd come in wearing a pair of jeans and a pullover!).

Would I do it again? I'm not sure I would. First, drag is about over-the-top, flamboyant performance. I'm definitely not the sort of person to strut into the centre of a room and greet friends and strangers alike with a shrill cry of "Eat it, bitches!" That persona, whether genuine, or merely a performance, just isn't me!

Secondly, I didn't especially like the look, although with time and practice, and learning new techniques, and a bit of costume, it could definitely be improved, and perhaps personalised--obviously the drag queens we see on television have spent years honing their appearance. From a personal point of view, I seem to have discovered that drag queen makeup stays put because there is just so damn much of it!

A little digital magic from FaceApp has let me polish up one of the pictures into something a bit nicer, but I don't think RuPaul is going to be beating down my door to get me to come on the show any time soon!