Not Just Entertainment: Drag is Influence & Activism
By Ritika Jain
We’ve come a long way from the shameful comments and labels that were placed on those who simply didn’t identify as straight. Years and years have allowed for increased awareness and acceptance of those who defy gender norms. Today, top designers like Louis Vuitton and Marco Marco are casting trans and nonbinary models in their shows. Queer models like Cara Delevigne and Adwoa Aboah are walking runways donning bright, bold rainbow prints at shows dedicated to LBGTQ youth. The theme of last year’s Met Gala was Camp, which can be described as combining high art with pop culture and was highly inspired by Black drag queens. Fashion, which has long paraded cisgendered fair-skinned slim figures, is inherently a medium of diverse styles and expressions.
Androgynous clothing, which incorporates both feminine and masculine elements, dates back to the ’30s and ’40s, as Medium writer Lauren Sarah-jane explains. Women would wear masculine dresses, open shirts, suspenders and don piercings in underground gay clubs, all which have seeped into modern fashion. They would wear blazers and slacks, now an ever-present fashion trend for women to acclaim their power.
Drag has also been an influence in fashion for decades and is now honored in mainstream pop culture. Shows like “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” allow drag queens and kings to exhibit their personalities and cross-dress in extravagant outfits while strutting and lip syncing. This dismantles and challenges the gender restrictions in fashion, which has allowed for further experimentation on runways and photoshoots. According to The New York Times, winners of the show have gone on to walk New York Fashion Week, partner with beauty companies and even record albums and music videos. The increased visibility of drag in the fashion world has impressed designers such as Marc Jacobs. And the irony is this: most of the drag contestants don’t wear designer pieces. They either make or commission their own outfits, simultaneously mocking and commemorating high fashion.
Because of this, more LBTQ models have merged into the spotlight. Teddy Quinlivan, a model who came out as trasgender in 2017, has walked for Prada and scored a Chanel beauty campaign last fall. Hunter Schafer, breakout star on HBO’s “Euphoria,” has worked for designer names such as Mui Mui and Dior. There’s Indya Moore, a trans model who is a strong advocate for transgender rights and has landed features in Louis Vuitton and Calvin Klien campaigns. Add Noah Carlos to the list, an 18-year-old nonbinary model of color who has walked the runways of Dries Van Noten and Alexander Wang.
The fashion world is now expanding to represent the faces that have long impacted modern trends and shedding light on how there is no one way to be, look or identify. Now that it is trendy to be diverse and applaud representation, queer models are now high in demand which in some ways capitalizes their experience to garner attention or praise, as some models have expressed. However, being gay, trans, bisexual or queer isn’t a trend. These identities have long existed before they were recognized in fashion and shouldn’t be further exploited.
Now when you see androgynous clothing on magazine covers and stores, remember that it is the LGBTQ community that have paved for the way for those styles to exist and attain popularity. And remember to look out for LGBTQ models on the runway and covers because they deserve to be recognized.
Ritika Jain is an editorial writer who focuses on all things fashion, pop culture, and important social events. Follow her on Instagram.