RuPaul’s Racialized Drag Race

For drag and drag race lovers alike, the past few weeks have been filled with a lot of dialogic and quite disastrously violent conversation between queens and fans in the LGBTQ community. Phi Phi O’Hara, a drag contestant who appeared on season four and now, All Stars 2 of drag race has come under huge fire by many fans for being negative, fiesty and “mean” on the show. The escalation of all this has resulted in Phi Phi receiving negative comments, insults and death threats thrown her way all because of how she was edited on the show. DEATH THREATS. People are stating they want to kill a drag queen because they did not like how she was portrayed on the show.

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I was so proud of a this episode because I finally got to be in the top 2 after being told every week you weren't good enough. I realized after filming All Stars……my place isn't on this show and in front of a camera where context of a simple thing can be twisted into such a vile way. I really sat back when they called me to be on All Stars and said, this time I am going to show the world the Phi Phi so many people who have met me love and support. I don't care anymore who sees this, I don't care anymore if people are mad that I told the truth, I don't care if people think I am handling this in the wrong way. There is no right way to handle this except stand your grounds and speak up for what is right. I am tired of the hurt, heartache, pain, death threats and threats of violence I have received because a few story producers felt it was okay to go to bed at night cozy with their paychecks from manipulated and twisting the context of my words. I went into All Stars with a gleam of hope that I was going to finally have this redemption I was promised since season 4. The people that hated me before….let's face it…they were never going to like me and that is okay, their loss not mine. But, I deserved a fair chance. From day 1 in the confessions I told my story producer I will not say XYandZ because I did that the first time and it got me in trouble. This time I watched myself and they still played and twisted when I am stating facts as I am playing mind games. I got in NUMEROUS arguments with her discussing how she would never understand why I am quiet or don't talk as much as I do because I have to 100% watch what I say because of the grave I dug in season 4. She contiued to say I was doing nothing but a disservice to myself by not giving them what they want. Unfortunately for her, my mom raised me that integrity and respect goes a lot farther in life than reaping joy off the misery of others. I am so grateful for the doors that RPDR has opened but I have learned now that "family" is just a word used to sugar coat and mask the demons of the machine. They have made it acceptable and normal for people to be okay breaking me down…that is not love or family.

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The above example is just one instance where Phi Phi has tried to speak out about the poorly constructed editing of the show, only to receive a flash flood of violent, and hateful messages. As much as I love the show and adore Phi Phi O’Hara, I could go on and on to argue the problematic issues with the show: the white-washing that occurs, the lack of diversity on the show, etc. However, I want to bring one issue to the forefront with Phi Phi. This hatred for Phi Phi O’Hara is completely racialized.

Before I go any further, I do have to say that, although I’m not sure how Phi Phi personally identifies, she is bi-/multi-racial and a person of colour. It is of no coincidence or surprise really that the queens who get targeted with this hatred the most happen to be people of colour. Jasmine Masters, RPDR season 7, went under huge fire after she was eliminated from the show. This escalated to the point where RuPaul posted a message on his social media telling his fans, to literally, leave her alone. Jasmine became the victim of racism where she was called the N word among many others, again, for her portrayal on the show.

To add to that number, Kennedy Davenport received similar treatment, as did CoCo Montrese. As an example, fans of the show have gone to mock Coco by associating her makeup to that of Doritos for its orange-esque glow. Again, this is anti-black because Coco explained that she was using orange as a highlight because many makeup brands do not support darker skin tones. However, this orange joke completely plays on the fact that makeup is harder for darked-skinned people. There is inherent privilege in being able to make fun of people who are not supported by make-up companiests. The fact of the matter is that predominantly white, gay fans of the show feel comfortable engaging in overt racism to these queens, and do so, using their edited pitfalls as justification for this behavior.

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Smile inside and out

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RuPaul’s Drag Race, as much as I love it, is problematic in that it allows whiteness to thrive during its production and post-production. There are many critiques of the show (which you can all find online) that have outlined the ways in which whiteness is upheld. Why is it that every time blackness is represented and performed on the show, it is a “ghettoified”, “banjee” form of blackness? Remember on season 5 of drag race when Monica Beverly Hills, a trans- BWoC, tried to denounce and battle these norms of blackness expected of her? She got eliminated that episode. On season 7, the queens had to perform a parody based on the black-centric show Empire with a predominantly NON-BLACK cast. Bob the Drag Queen, the winner of RPDR8 and that challenge, was commended not only on his performance of the character but as a “ratchet” queen. It is extremely problematic that the show is able to market off of a specific type of performed blackness while at the same time, exuding violent racism and anti-blackness to the queens when they leave.

We have to realize that 95% of the slang used on the show and in our queer communities such as “werk”, “slay”, “yas”, etc. were appropriated from black and latinx queer and transgender people of colour. I’m sorry white gays, they weren’t coined by you. SO ultimately, I’m not trying to generalize, but there is an issue when white gays use their whiteness and white supremacy to attack queens of colour like Phi Phi O’Hara when they leave the show. Under no circumstances is it acceptable to justify racism because you do not like how a person was portrayed on the show. Especially a person who been extremely outspoken about the poor treatment she received not only from her editing but the production management of Drag Race directly.

Why didn’t Alyssa Edwards receive the same treatment when she fought with Jade Jolie? Why didn’t Morgan McMchiaels receive that same treatment when she fought with Tatianna and Mystique Summers? The list goes on.

My final point here is that this negativity spurred towards these queens of colour is directly impacted by how they are racialized. Because we live in heteronormative, racist, patriarchal society, those in positions of power (and in this regard, I’m talking about white people in terms of race) have a sense of ease and comfortability directing racist comments to the queens they don’t like. However, they will have no problem screaming and shouting for queer rights when they feel they are the victims of homophobia. Even then, most of the time those LGBTQ rights leave out queer/trans- people of colour. Also, I’d like to include that I’m writing this as a bi-racial queer man of colour, one who has a white mother. And also, one who is a huge fan of RuPaul and all the queens of the show – just because I am critical of what I see on television doesn’t mean I don’t respect RuPaul or the work that goes into the show. (*I have to say this before someone tells me I don’t know anything because I haven’t lived the “white experience”.)

Moral of the story: leave Phi Phi O’Hara alone. She’s sick and talented and we love you for it.

Check out more of Phi Phi’s 365 days of drag project on Phi Phi’s IG!

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[ 195/366 ] #365DaysOfDrag

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About Two Brown Boys

The title says it all! We're a brown-queer couple from Toronto who are obsessed with Drag and travel frequently. Here's our story!
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