October 3, 2022
Trending Tags

“It’s Here, Girl”: How Drag Became Big Business

Read Time:5 Minute, 31 Second


Before he became a household name, Justin Andrew Honard worked every odd job under the sun. “I waited tables. I sold clothing in a boutique. I worked at an adult book store. It never really lasted or worked out.” Now, he’s an internationally touring performer with a fourth studio album, Red 4 Filth; his book, My Name’s Yours. What’s Alaska?; and a musical, Drag the Musical, all available now. What changed Honard’s life? RuPaul’s Drag Race, of course. “I am merely a bumblebee in RuPaul’s beehive,” he tells me, Zooming in from his residence in Los Angeles.

Honard, better known as his drag persona Alaska Thunderfuck 5000, has a Cinderella story that’s not unique among the now hundreds of drag queens who have cycled through the many iterations of Drag Race, the Emmy-winning, groundbreaking, international reality-competition series hosted by RuPaul Charles. Since appearing on the show, drag performers like Peppermint, Katya, and Trixie Mattel have gone on to incredibly successful—and lucrative—careers, launching makeup lines, selling albums, starring in feature films, and selling out arenas on the strength of their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent, alone. While RuPaul may reign supreme as the drag superstar of the world, it’s become increasingly clear that you don’t have to be the queen bee to make a nice little honeypot of your own in the world of drag.

A lot of that is thanks to Producer Entertainment Group, a talent and management firm that represents the world’s top drag queen artists, LGBTQ+ talent, and influencers—including all the aforementioned queens. Like many queer origin stories, PEG begins with a funny lady.

“Back in 2010, I was a talent booker and producer for events. I was doing a show for Kathy Griffin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and I needed to book an opening act,” cofounder David Charpentier tells me over Zoom. “And I thought it’d be really cool to have a drag queen. So I went online, did a bunch of research and found a queen named Mimi Imfurst and emailed her.” The rest, as they say, is herstory. “We went from [David] doing this, like, in his kitchen to now having two office buildings and 30-ish full-time employees, and probably another 10 or 15 freelance part-timers that come and help us,” says cofounder Jacob Slane.

Pre–PEG, Slane was an eager assistant in VH1 and Logo’s publicity department. “There’s this new show with the drag queen RuPaul from the ’90s. And it’s really weird, but we need someone to work on it,” Slane remembers his former boss telling him. “So go ahead.” He ended up working on the series for seven seasons before leaving to help Charpentier build PEG, and give the queens he’d grown to know and love an off-ramp into the world of entertainment after the show. Big as the show’s platform is, he says, “It’s about what you do after that. What’s your five-year plan? Your 10-year plan? The hard work really begins after you are on the show.”

Leading up to Drag Race, Christopher Caldwell—a.k.a. Bob the Drag Queen—was doing just fine on her own, thank you very much. “I was kind of the toast of the town,” she tells me over Zoom. In a typical week, she would work around eight shows over the course of five nights. “I’ve worked at almost every gay bar there is in New York City. Some of the bars don’t even exist anymore.” She thinks for a bit. “Probably actually a few of them.”

Kevin Bertin, a.k.a. Monét X Change, can relate. “Before Drag Race, I was working six nights a week. Friday was my only day off.” Monét calls her pre–Drag Race schedule “completely crazy”: “I had to be at the bars by 11, which means I need to leave my house by ten o’clock. So I started getting in drag at eight o’clock, and then I would work until five o’clock in the morning, and get home, sleep until two o’clock in the afternoon,” she recalls. “It was that cycle every single day. And then you have to go down to the garment district to get fabric—it was crazy.”

That hard work was paying off, to some degree, for both queens. “I was making pretty decent money before Drag Race, especially for a local queen,” Bob says. “I wasn’t raking in millions or anything, but I made enough money to live by myself on the Upper West Side.” Both Bob and Monét recall making about $150 per gig—excluding tips. “If I worked really hard for tips, I could make anywhere between $100 and $300 in tips for the show,” says Bob. “On a great night, I’d make 500 bucks for turning the party, for doing my drag.”

Drag Race changed all of that. Bob remembers not knowing what would be next after winning season 8: “It wasn’t quite like it is now, where the girls come home with this two-year plan,” she says. “I was just trying to get back to working my gigs.” After meeting with Charpentier and requesting that he come to a Bob the Drag Queen Show to “really see what my thing is,” Bob ended up signing with PEG management. Now Bob hosts the official Drag Race recap series, The Pit Stop, cohosts the podcast Sibling Rivalry with Monét X Change, and is currently shooting the third season of her Emmy-nominated HBO series, We’re Here, with fellow Drag Race alums Eureka and Shangela.

After she won Miss Congeniality on season 10 of Drag Race, Monét initially signed with Neverland Entertainment before switching over to PEG. “In looking for other management, Alaska, Bob, Trixie, they were all with PEG,” Monét says. “And so I go, ‘You know what? These girls have some of the careers that I would want for myself.’” Now, with a popular online talk show called The X Change Rate; a podcast, Sibling Rivalry, with Bob; and currently competing on season 7 of Drag Race: All Stars, Monét has the kind of post–Drag Race career she dreamed of.

Charpentier and Slane used to sign several of the “top” queens after each season of Drag Race. In recent years, however, they’ve begun to “rethink” that strategy. “We don’t really sign anyone who’s brand new on the show anymore,” he says.





Source link

Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %
Previous post Shreveport entertainment headlines showcase kittens, festivals and more
Next post Converge Technology Solutions Makes Trio of Education Market Acquisitions