Monday morning started off on a good note -- I finally got myself to do laundry (which is a sentence I cringe at writing because I am one of those few blessed New Yorkers with a washer/dryer unit in my apartment and I STILL only do laundry when I run out of underwear -- date me!) and had SO many outfit choices.
I settled for a beige, semi-sheer, semi-midriff-cut sweater, high-waisted jeans, brown leather boots and a GIANT red and amber necklace I got for $2 ($2!!!) at one of those street fairs years ago. To top it all off? A generous slathering of Revlon lipstick in Va Va Violet (as introduced to me by Gabi in all her 90s glamness).
I got tons of compliments on the necklace and lipstick, and right before my second class, I got lunch and coffee with a friend who ended up asking the name of the lipstick and trying some on herself. (She looked incredible, by the way -- and together we totally embodied The Cure. It was a good moment.)
But, by the end of my Russian Grammar and Composition class, I was starting to have doubts. My professor, when handing back our homework, leaned over to me and said she'd like to meet with me after class, right before handing me back a sheet of paper with more red on it than I could stomach.
My first desire was to run to the bathroom and wipe off the lipstick and put on a reasonable sweater -- one with a crisp button-down underneath instead of a beat-up black lace bra from Target. Isn't that what smart women wear?
Elle Woods got into HARVARD LAW and was still ridiculed for having neatly curled locks and a penchant for pink. Cher Horowitz, despite channeling a Jane Austen heroine and having a lot of self-esteem for a high school queen bee, was also talked down to too many times, with her love of shopping as the main stone cast upon her. And many men out there are still the subject of immense harassment, because, like duh, acting in a way that resembles the gender roles assigned to women when you can just "be a man" is silly! Why would you want to do that?
I remember this. And I know that my look that day had nothing to do with my grade because one, getting fully dressed (makeup and all) took about 7 minutes and two, I was probably wearing a stained sweatshirt while shoveling Twizzlers into my mouth when I did that assignment. There is no remote correlation between my appearance and my intelligence.
Of course, it took me much longer than needed to understand this. And if I had to pinpoint the cause for this revelation, I would have to say "RuPaul's Drag Race."
About a year ago, I got an editorial internship with NewNowNext, a website owned by Logo TV. At first, I didn't have much to write about, because I knew little about pop culture and fashion and never saw any of RuPaul's TV shows, despite the fact that I had seen countless ads on buses and posters in the city.
Around the same time, a friend of mine who was an RA in my dorm talked about her love for the show. Before I knew it, I was in her room on a Monday night, watching season 4 of "Drag Race." It was the episode where the co-creator of "Will and Grace," Max Mutchnik, helped direct two teams of drag queens through a skit, and the ladies were then judged on their performances.
From the delightfully campy editing to the fierce runway shows, I fell in love with Latrice Royale's impeccable comedic timing and confidence, Chad Michael's iconic Cher impressions and amazing taste, and Sharon Needles's determination to be her unique, spooky self and ultimately win the crown as a total underdog.
My internship immediately got way cooler -- I was much more stoked meeting Milan now after seeing her KILL IT when lip-syncing for her life and, in a particularly great moment, I got to interview Madame LaQueer on her experiences being on the show (and, despite just being kicked off, she was eternally grateful and incredibly sweet).
But, most of all, I started to admire the contestants for how truly comfortable they were with themselves. Some of them had rough lives -- Latrice had been in prison, Phi Phi O'Hara's father still won't accept her for who she is -- and yet, unwaveringly, they put on their makeup and heels and embrace the way they look to the fullest extent I have ever seen.
The thing is, when you see men willing to tuck (not exactly the most comfortable process) and wear butt padding to get the same voluptuous rump you won't stop complaining about, you start to realize how good you have it. When someone as talented as Chad Michaels, the recently-crowned winner of "All Stars Drag Race," chooses to make a living doing impressions of Cher and Bette Davis instead of Robert De Niro or Christopher Walken, it shows that there is nothing wrong with being whoever the hell you want.
People will judge you for how you look. But, if I've learned anything, it's that you can either shamefully wipe off the eye shadow or be inspired to be even more of who you are, as Willam did in this brilliant Chik-Fil-A parody, where three queens strut their stuff while stuffing their mouths with the most politicized chicken on the face of the earth. Guess which one I want to be?
So, the next day, I came to my professor for extra help, wearing an oversized $5 flannel shirt and enough rings and bracelets to make Johnny Depp proud. We talked about the issues I had with double negatives, and then chatted a while about the new "Anna Karenina" movie. It was a good moment.
Are you a Drag Race fan? Tweet at me @jaypugz and let's be friends!