The Pride Issue
Drag's New Dawn in SA
Published: June 26, 2013
“I respect RuPaul’s Drag Race...they are allowing families to understand the heart that goes into becoming who we are,” she says. Tencha, who’s been listening intently, adds “they see us more as people.”
Many young audiences are unaware that the sexy, celebrity impersonation-driven drag they see today wasn’t always the par.
Seasoned queens like CoCo Yepes who received a lifetime achievement award from the Texas for Life Pageant system earlier this month is outspoken on the subject when she directly approaches me by the pool table at the pageant’s location at the SA Country Saloon.
“Old drag is about the transformation,” she says balancing a cyclopean crown on her head. “Today it’s about the stripping. It’s like barlesque.”
Andrews has a slightly different take. “Now people just want to be sexy and pretty. We forgot what drag was at one point, which was camp drag. We lost all that,” she says. “I can admit that I’ve gotten kind of lost trying to be sexy.”
In the late ’90s, I recall Shady Lady walking around the Saint collecting dollar bills. When she got the amount that satisfied her, she’d roll around on the floor. “She’s still doing it!” Tencha and Andrews say in unison.
“That’s what drag was!” Andrews says with a downward point of her finger. “Now we have to do Jennifer Lopez [songs]. We have to do Madonna. We have to do what those kids know.”
Tencha adds, “Back then...the queens had to make up their own big show,” says Tencha. In fact, the nearly ubiquitous practice of making one’s own costumes sprang simply from the fact that department stores wouldn’t allow the queens to try on their ladies’ wear. “And it was done,” Tencha adds. “They weren’t just coming to sell sex.”
But the current pop-culture focus does help create a common denominator for audiences, straight or gay. “The straight community appreciates what we’re doing more than the homosexual community,” says Andrews. “A lot of people come to our shows,” says Tencha of her weekly gig at the Saint. “You see a lot of regular people and you see a lot of straight people. Some of them would never have come here if it wasn’t for the RuPaul show.”
“And straight people...” He takes a deep breath and ponders for a moment. “I’m glad they’re there,” he says. “They get to see our world. We have to see their world all the time.” And then he takes a sip of his coffee with those famous lips. “I love that I get to be a part of that.”