Drag 101: How to figure out who you are and what your brand is
“Who is she!? Where did you find her!?”
Brand is a word thrown around quite a lot recently, especially since the era of RuPaul’s Drag Race. So what is a drag performer’s brand? And how do you figure it out?
Figuring out who you are as a performer isn’t as simple as being a Britney fan or a Gaga fan. In my own journey, I’ve spent most of the time figuring out who I am, and it’s a constant journey. I have friends who instantly found their brand and stuck to it, and other friends who are on an ever-changing journey of style and performance.
The first thing you need to do is to just go for it! If it’s going to be a risk, take it. Try things out. Figure out what you like and what you don’t like. What do you want to perform? What do you want your message to be? Are you approaching drag as a possible career, or are you just doing it for fun? At this stage, skill and talent is irrelevant – only do things that you want to do.
In my own drag, I realised I’m far better at singing live than at lipsync. Some performers are incredible at lipsync and I have a huge respect for them, but lipsync is not for me! Anyone who knows me personally will know that I am not shy about how awful I know my lipsync skills are!
Therefore my brand is completely based on that fact that I’m a live singing cabaret artist. This helped me begin to shape my brand into what it is today because I know that I’m not going to be throwing myself around pretending to be Britney.
Once you’ve decided your style of performance and started to think about some content, think about how you want to look. For many people, look is a huge aspect of performance and they spend hours getting ready to do a number and completely sweat it off. Besides getting a better setting spray (for long wear in hot environments I recommend Kryolan’s fixing spray) you have to weigh up the time you’re taking to get ready for a gig and what you’re doing at the gig. Most of my shows are hour long cabaret shows where it’s just me with a microphone entertaining the gays across the country, so I can wear things that are more elaborate such as styled wigs without fear of them completely coming apart within thirty seconds.
So, so far we’ve figured out what we want to do in drag and kind of where we want to go with look, take a look as the inspirations for your character. For lots of lipsync performers their main reference for their look is the contemporary pop princesses such as Ariana Grande, Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj, therefore if these were your references you would be wanting leotards, boots and hair that you could whip round. In my own drag I look at vintage Hollywood and the style icons from the golden age of cinema, such as Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, Mae West and most famously Marilyn Monroe. This is shown for me by wearing long evening gowns with scandalous slits to expose stockings, stiletto shoes that cost more than my rent and fingerwaved hair.
Obviously I didn’t begin my drag by walking out looking like Marilyn Monroe, places like Boohoo, Pretty Young Thing and Nasty Gal are really great retailers to start figuring out what you want to wear, these sites idolise current trends and have a huge range that’s made to fit all body shapes and gives plenty of room for self expression. Seeing how you look in drag with different things can be really polarising to what you want to do, you will look completely different in a leotard to how you do in a gown. Think about how you look and how it makes you feel, if I’m not feeling glamorous, there’s no point me going onstage!
The concept of a performers brand is so personal to the performer that sometimes we get caught up in it all, don’t be afraid to ask friends what they think of your look, or show them some of your performance and see what they think, at the end of the day you’re going to end up either putting your look out online for people to see, or you’re going to be performing for an audience, all of these people seeing you are going to need to respond to you, sometimes it might be bad, you might get absolutely nothing, remember, no reaction is a reaction. Every time you put yourself out into the world get opinions, notice how people react to the look or performance and think about that for next time.
So, to create yourself a brand, always remember to stick true to who you are, don’t be afraid to get it wrong and learn from your mistakes and look as who you want to be like, if you can’t think of 5 performers or queens that you love and want to be like you need to get scrolling on Instagram, or go to your local queer venue and look at the wealth of drag that’s out there!
Hopefully this has been a useful insight into how to figure out where you’re going with your style of performance and look! It’s always going to be a journey, I’m currently at a point that if I find a certain brand or style of outfit that I like, I completely stick to that, I have the same style dress in at least three different colours, because as I always say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
This post was written by MissChanelNo5. Go check her out!