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May 15, 2018

RuPaul's DragCon LA Takes Over LA Convention Center's South Hall

LOS ANGELES—One doesn't have to be a fan of RuPaul's Drag Race on VH1 to want to be awed by the trans glam gals who were just everywhere in the L.A. Convention Center's 340,000-square-foot South Hall this past weekend, though clearly, most of the 50,000 attendees were fans, lining up in droves to see such Drag Race stars and contestants as Kim Chi, Bianca Del Rio, Aquaria, Shangela, Alyssa Edwards, Kameron Michaels and Sasha Velour, not to mention makeup gods such as Jeffree Star Cosmetics and Anastasia Beverly Hills. RuPaul's DragCon LA was put together with the help of Worlds of Wonder, the company founded by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, which XXX fans are likely familiar with as the producers/writers/directors of the acclaimed 2005 documentary, Inside Deep Throat. "As we wrap up another DragCon on Mother's Day, it is especially exciting to see all the families that come to share the experience," said Bailey after the event's conclusion. "DragCon is about life, love, laughter and inclusion. It’s about tearing down walls, not building them." "The overwhelming success of this year's DragCon is a testament to the talent and creative vision of the hundreds of drag artists who attended the convention," added Barbato. "Drag has become a cultural force that is here to stay." And what would a drag convention be without its own red, er, pink carpet? Among those strutting their stuff thereon included Drag Race and Drag Race All-Stars winners Trixie Mattel (who arrived at the con in her miniature "Barbie car"), Sasha Velour, Sharon Needles, Alaska 5000, Jinkx Monsoon and Bebe Zahara Benet. Of course, Ms. Drag Race herself RuPaul was all over the place, appearing on panels, attending parties, and even giving a keynote address where she touched on the current political climate—Trump wanting to ban transgenders from serving in the military—drag kings, and, of course, the apparently inevitable Miss Vanjie. "Here we are in a time when it seems like the world's gone backwards," Ms. Ru said. "Politically and everything, the pendulum has swung all the way ... In this time of chaos and lies, for three days tens of thousands of big-hearted, super-creative, and sensitive souls peacefully gathered to celebrate their truth at RuPaul’s DragCon. Seeing all the young people and families and queens has filled my heart with gratitude and hope. The future is going to be fierce." The future may be fierce, but DragCon was just fun for the vast majority of its attendees. Among other things, they got to stroll down "avenues" (actually, aisles) with names like Face Crack Court, Eleganza Lane, Silicone Valley Drive, Glamazon Boulevard, Tongue Pop Toll Road, Pork Chop Boulevard and Death Drop Alley, and check out myriad vendors selling wigs, costumes, makeup (even a couple of booths devoted just to eyelashes and one to glitter), soaps and scents. (One of the latter that caught our eye was Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, whose inventory of perfumes and other scents were sold under a sign saying they donate a portion of the proceeds to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other progressive organizations.) Other interestingly named booths were Drag Beat Makeup Academy, Fierce Queen (fronted by a queen decked out in faux human skulls), Bloodbath (selling soaps, scrubs and lotions, of course), Off-Kilter Kilts, and Dragskins—fake boobs for drag queens. There was even a full bar near the back of the hall, and a booth just across from it, Fireball Whiskey (whose motto is "Tastes Like Heaven, Burns Like Hell"), giving out free samples. Not far away from the bar was a gigantic (at least 100 feet across) video screen showing clips from Drag Race, some convention activities and other drag-themed footage, while at the far end of the hall was The Runway, where various scheduled acts would perform over the course of the day. When we arrived shortly after noon on Saturday, the Jessica Sutta Performance was on stage, and comedian Billy Eichner's "Glam Up The Midterm Pep Rally" was scheduled for 3 p.m. The day's first show had been Sissy That Walk, a runway contest hosted by Eureka O'Hara, but there were plenty to follow. DragCon saw its share of mainstream personalities, too. For example, Gillian Jacobs, late of Community (and a Drag Race fan), moderated a panel titled "Comedy Queens: Seriously Funny" featuring Darienne Lake, Love Connie and Nicole Byer. There was also the aforementioned Billy Eichner of the comedy video troupe Funny Or Die who brought their "Glam Up the Midterms" initiative to the convention, with volunteers on site to actually register voters! Eichner was joined on his "Glam Up the Vote" panel by queens Alaska 5000 and Peppermint. Another major mainstream "get" was Yeardley Smith, the voice of The Simpsons' Lisa Simpson and the star of the "Drag and The Simpsons" panel, there in part because an upcoming episode of the show will have RuPaul as a character playing himself. Finally, Unreal star Constance Zimmer brought her Drag Race fan daughter to the show, with the pair posing for a few photo ops. And believe it or not, all of the above just scratches the surface of things to do at this year's DragCon LA—and those of The Other Coast who are itching to attend one of these, RuPaul's DragCon NYC will be taking place Sept. 28-30, tickets for which just went on sale here.

 
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