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DragCon NYC Recap: The Good, The Bad and The Henny

RuPaul’s DragCon NYC is truly an exhausting day (or 3-day weekend) for all that inhabit Jacob Javitz Center. Whether you are a drag queen, exhibitor, member of the press or one of the thousands of fans who attend this annual get together, chances are you’ll be falling asleep in your cab on the way home shortly after you exit.

The level of tiredness one faces when attending this major event doesn’t necessarily equal them having a fabulous time. It’s a lot to take in, and isn’t for the weary or for those who go in with a jaded mindset. This was my second year going, and to be perfectly honest, might be my last.

I had several problems with how DragCon itself operates from many different levels. I’ll start with some plusses. For one, it’s a great place for all types of companies to show what they are offering to a diverse group of individuals who come with cash in hand and a credit card in their wallet. If you are a merch type of person, chances are you will find something here that will tickle your fancy one way or another.

There was also some really great panels (from what I saw on the packet that was provided) that went beyond the traditional Drag Race conversation that many of us have year round. I talked to a mother and son, who were dressed up as a queen and princess for the big weekend, that spoke at a panel regarding body positivity. It’s good to see that these things exist as it’s something that needs to be discussed on a much larger level than it already is.

I had a hard time wrapping my brain around a lot of things. For one, it was painful to see so many Drag Race fans line up for hours just to meet someone for 5 seconds. There should really be a capacity set for these sorts of things, like a lottery that participants can win, in order for this to run smoothly. The lines started early in the day and continued into the early evening. How some of these queens were able to function after a certain amount of time is baffling. I can understand how they all want to meet their favorite queen (more on that in a minute) but it makes the event and walking space that much more cluttered and less fun to enjoy.

Something that also became glaringly obvious (and this isn’t DragCon’s fault) was how popular certain queens were while others weren’t. One side of an aisle had a particular winner with a line that seemed to go to another country, yet on the other side two of the queens that had their own booths were just checking their phones. Not one person was waiting to chat with them. To me, this is frustrating because it means that the fan base qualifies a queen’s talent based on a 42-minute television show and not for how amazing they are outside of it. It sort of proves a point I’ve had with Drag Race in that a good portion of the fans don’t understand this industry and rely on a program to validate their opinions on it.

There was easily 50 Drag Race queens, plus notable ones who have a big following minus appearing on the show, who were in attendance this weekend. About 15-20 of them made it to the press room to do a brief chat. Two of them (season 10 queens) were extremely unprofessional and ones that I hope to never chat with again based on my experience with them.

I come to this as both a fan and a member of the media and can see both angles here. As a fan, I would hope that the queen that I wanted to see was at her booth when I got there and throughout the day. As a journalist, I would expect them to at least pop in to talk with us about what they have going on in their career. Both work, yet many of them didn’t show up when it came time for us to chat. I can understand the business this brings (see what I wrote about regarding lines), however this event happens TWICE A YEAR. Both can easily be done. Take for instance… if you have a show coming out that you should be promoting outside of talking about it on the DragCon floor. Just a thought.

The ones that did show up to be interviewed were nothing short of spectacular. Trixie MattelBebe Zahara BenetAjaCarmen Carrera and more were a blast to talk with. I was extremely impressed by each of them as they have an attitude that works well with their fame: they understand who they are in all of this but are still a regular human being at the end of the day.

I left DragCon on a bit of a high but feeling a bit meh about it all. There was nothing cohesive that I got out of it, just a lot of un-orchestrated chaos. But when I see a fan’s beaming smile while meeting their favorite drag queen, my negativity gets washed away as I then understand why this sort of thing exists

To many, these queens are a lot of kid’s superheroes. They’ve saved their lives, provided an outlet for them to feel like their authentic selves when the world is telling them not to be, and this sort of event gives many of them throughout the world the chance to actually meet them.

Perhaps I’ve become the old man on the stoop, but maybe this sort of thing isn’t for me as it seems designed for a younger audience. Then again, the sight of Hunter Harden in a mask like the one above can always entice this guy to come back so… you never know.

This post was created by one of our Contributing Writers and does not reflect the opinion of Instinct Magazine or the other Contributing Writers when it comes to this subject.

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I'm glad at the end of the article that the writer begins to understand why so many people love this event; access. For people like myself and other disabled drag queens, we don't get an opportunity to go to bars and clubs to see our favorite drag queens because those facilities are NOT handicap accessible.  By having all of the stars in one location that is accessible, we're willing to sacrifice hours in a line to meet them (although this year the DragCon orginizers provided special ADA access lines due to last year's extreme difficulty for the disabled attendees; making it safer for us). 

The best way to put it into perspective is an example from our point of view. Let's say you live in Overland Park, KS and have to stay quiet about your love of drag because you already recieve enough discrimanation for being in a wheelchair; but once a year, for just a weekend there's an event in New York that you can go to meet your fellow drag fans and the stars from Drag Race who inspire you to keep fighting and be proud of yourself. Wouldn't a few measly lines where you get to chat and meet other fans of of your hero in line, worth the trouble?  Then go shopping for all the supplies and merchandise you could never shop for at home all under one roof?

It's ok if DragCon isn't your thing. For the other 60,000 of us... It's our Disney world; and we patiently wait all year for it.

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