Dragging up the night: exploring the changing dynamic of audiences at drag events in the UK

Daniel Baxter, Claire Leer*, Alannah Graham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Herek (2002) states that the LGBTQ+ community travel to LGBTQ+ events to celebrate with like-minded people, free of prejudice and violence. These events create safe spaces where people can escape the realities of everyday life (Pritchard et al., 2000). Drag events, a staple of the LGBTQ+ community, were once identified as underground, taboo, and perverse events attended mainly by gay males. However, this art form has exploded over the last decade and gained undeniable acceptance and popularity, mainly due to RuPaul and RuPaul's Drag Race (Jordan, 2018). RuPaul's Drag Race (RPDR) has been a catalyst that has 'proliferated' and 'professionalised' drag culture globally (LeMaster, 2015). With drag breaking boundaries, becoming a global phenomenon and being adopted by mainstream society, there has been an increase in live drag events across the UK. This paper explores this evolving audience dynamic from the perspective of drag performers, utilising a qualitative research approach through an online qualitative questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. The data was collected from drag artists who have performed at drag events in the UK. The findings suggest that whilst RPDR has propelled drag culture into mainstream society, it has also narrowed the public perception of what 'drag' is. Drag events reach new audiences, supporting the LGBTQ+ community by creating safe spaces to celebrate all things queer. Performers have varying perceptions on this changing audience and what this might mean for the future of drag artists and drag events.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events
Early online date8 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • drag events
  • drag performers
  • RuPauls Drag Race
  • drag culture
  • LGBTQ+
  • LGBTQ+ community

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