From Drag Queens to Kings: The Popularization of their Female Equivalent

By Lauren Hybels, guest writer.
We’ve all heard of drag queens. Men use cosmetics, wigs, acting, and more to personify female stereotypes in a performance. But how many people have heard of their female counterparts, drag kings?
A drag king is essentially the reverse of a drag queen, and even though the challenge remains to transform their appearance, voice, and body language, many people don’t know they exist, which isn’t right and needs to be changed.
The main reason for this lack of recognition resides in the amount of publicity. In the growing popular American television show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” drag queens compete against each other in different aspects of drag such as photography, costume making, and performance. The winner receives an abundance of prizes including $100 thousand in cash, but with 8 seasons and nearly 100 episodes, not one drag king has been featured.
It’s not as if there aren’t any kings to compete. There are plenty of male impersonators who are well known within the drag community and have proven their talents in the process. A couple names include Jamie Kalman, and Kristine Carr.
Another aspect to the lack of publicity for drag kings comes from the harsh opinions of the public- people lack appreciation for the art, believing that it takes less effort, and is therefore less impressive.
“This is a common misconception,” said Nicole Miyahara, a filmmaker who plans to release her current project, a documentary called ‘The Making of a King,’ in 2016. “The stigma comes from the perceived idea of what a drag king is,” she told “Advocate.” “A performer wearing a costume of jeans, a t-shirt and a pencil mustache — which isn’t very entertaining or stage worthy.”
As Nicole Miyahara states, this stereotype isn’t true. The amount of effort, creativity, and determination that goes into being a male impersonator is under appreciated by the public and drag queens alike.
It takes nearly two hours for most professional drag kings to get ready for a five minute show, and this prep time increases if the show incorporates open chest binding, which is difficult and painful to pull off. Not only do they have to create a blank canvas, they have to contour (exaggerating or diminishing features) to make their chest appear realistic. This is extremely difficult to accomplish on somebody else if you’re not a trained makeup artist, let alone on yourself. Learning how to do this application calls for creative, and practical new ideas.
Take for example, an idea by Kalman, in which she incorporates tribal designs into her costumes to further the illusion of masculinity, while adding personality and flair to the outfit. It’s ideas like these that show the skills one needs to possess to perform successfully in drag.
It’s not just costuming. It’s learning the movements, facial expressions, ways of speaking, and the overall outward appearance of a man. While most kings choose to create their own character, some, such as Kristine Carr, choose to impersonate celebrities and film characters. She’s famous for her Pitbull impression, where she has his signature movements down to a science. Shes sent in an audition tape to compete on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but has yet to hear a response. She has strong opinions on the lack of respect for drag kings, and when interviewed by Advocates, she shares her thoughts.
“I feel it’s the same, what I do,” she adds. [In reference to drag queens.] “The ton of work, and the ton of makeup, the ton of costuming, and the story that I tell in my drag is the same as queens. It’s the same level. It’s the same hard work,” said Carr.
At the end of the day, drag kings and queens face the same challenges and deserve the same amount of attention and respect. By publicizing the kings, I hope that people can learn to understand the hard work and determination of these professional gender-benders.