Dozens of America’s most fabulous, famous drag queens — and tens of thousands of adoring fans — will soon descend upon the Javits Center for New York’s first annual RuPaul’s DragCon this weekend.
The convention, which has had three previous editions in Los Angeles, promises panels, parties, plenty of vendors and appearances from the people who’ve worked and starred on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” plus some beloved local performers.
“Show up early,” advised season eight winner, and Washington Heights resident, Bob the Drag Queen. “A lot of your favorite queens will have their schedules posted on Instagram.”
Like Bob, who has appeared at the con twice in L.A., many former contestants will be signing autographs and taking photos with fans at booths that sell merch like t-shirts, posters and silly novelty items.
But the panels are the main attraction. Panel topics range from discussions on makeup and fashion or the history of drag, to queer pop culture or political issues facing the LGBTQ community.
“Our panels can have incredible depth,” explained Randy Barbato, co-director and producer of World of Wonder Entertainment, the production company behind the television series and convention. “That’s kind of the irony of drag. On the one hand, it’s fun and a real hoot, but on the other hand, it’s incredibly smart artists and activists.”
For Barbato and his World of Wonder co-founder Fenton Bailey, the decision to bring the massively popular L.A. convention to New York is a desire to return to their roots. In the 1980s, they met RuPaul in NYC and have been working with the icon ever since.
“It’s like coming home for a lot of us,” Barbato said. “Drag has such a rich tradition in New York. It’s been our inspiration for the past 20 years.”
RuPaul was quick to echo Barbato’s sentiment. “What made New York so fabulous was this incredible tapestry of different cultures, but the one thing we had in common was our openness and our open hearts,” Mamma Ru said, remembering the start of his career. “We’re coming to New York to remind her who she really is.”
If you attend, here are a few of the panels you won’t want to miss.
- “The Real Drag Queens of New York: Drag in the City”
Hometown heroes and “Drag Race” contestants Acid Betty and Peppermint, and Bushwig founder Horrochata discuss the life and hustle of performing in the city. Saturday, 11 a.m.
- “WOWPresents: Bobbin’ Around”
The aforementioned Bob the Drag Queen premieres her new show about her travels with assistant Luis Alvarez Schacht. Saturday, 4 p.m.
- “Judge Judies: Behind the Judging Bench”
The glamorous, hilarious judges of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” — Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and Todrick Hall — dish about their favorite moments. Saturday, 5 p.m.
- “Herstory of Downtown: Manhattan Nightlife Icons”
Learn about the legendary drag and cabaret performers that influenced today’s culture with panelists Amanda Lepore, James St. James, and John Simone. Saturday, 6 p.m.
- “Paris is Still Burning: Ballroom Takes the Floor”
The city’s best voguers from the early ‘90s and today discuss New York’s ball scene and how it’s changed since the revolutionary documentary was filmed. Michelle Visage leads the talk with Jack Mizrahi, Mariah Balenciaga, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, Tyra Allure Ross, and Vivacious. Sunday, 2 p.m.
- “Glitter and Be Gay: Broadway Queens”
Musical theater queens Ginger Minj and Alexis Michelle join Broadway stars J. Elaine Marcos and Sheryl Lee Ralph to talk about their influences and the connection between theater and drag. Sunday, 3 p.m.
RuPaul’s DragCon comes to the Jacob Javits Center Sept. 9 and 10. Visit rupaulsdragcon.com for more information. Badges range from $40 to $250.