RuPaul says DragCon NYC is a debut, and a homecoming, for liberating art form

RuPaul’s DragCon, the convention for all things “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” drew more than 40,000 adoring fans to Los Angeles last spring. Now, the con is bringing nine seasons of fabulous contestants, plus some local hometown heroes, to NYC for panels, vendors, demonstrations and more.

The spectacular star at the center of the proceedings dishes to amNewYork about what we should expect when DragCon makes its Javits Center debut this weekend. Plus, Mama Ru explains his belief that drag is both America’s future and a return to the country’s core values.  

DragCon will hit Javits Center on Sept. 9 and 10. 

Upon announcing DragCon, the event immediately became overwhelmingly popular in NYC, just like in L.A.

What’s interesting about DragCon is this movement of people who have no shame when it comes to gender identity, whether they’re straight, gay, whatever. They are so open and so smart. Clearly, it’s a movement. It’s the continuation of the American dream, which is openness and equality and the sweetness. Because I think we Americans, at our core, are sweet people.

“Drag Race” has really achieved mainstream success in recent years. Do you think there’s a reason why drag as an art form is really speaking to audiences now?

Our show deals with people — contestants — who have won the hard fight, which is living their own dream and following their heart. Which is the most political thing you can do. I think the audience sees them as heroes. They’re incredible stories, for anybody watching the show. You don’t have to be a drag queen to understand the struggle is real and the struggle is fought within.

L.A.’s con took on a more political bent this year. Will that theme carry over to New York?

Drag inherently is political because it really challenges the ego-driven society which we live in, which sort of forces us to choose an identity at 14 years old and stick with it for the rest of our lives. Drag says, “No, I’m a shapeshifter. I’m going to do whatever I feel throughout the day.” Politically, that is outrageous.

Have you found that the show has liberated some older viewers to find drag or to challenge identity more?

I’m sure it has. But it’s so difficult to get people more fixed in their way to become flexible. Because it gets to a point in one’s life where if you have never moved that muscle, it ain’t never going to move [laughs]. But I would hope so!

Our show is really about the tenacity of the human spirit and how these different kids from all over the United States have prevailed and blossomed in their own light. They have found their own light. And that is sometimes up against not only society, but sometimes their own families — their mothers and fathers — but they have found a family in “Drag Race” and in our community of people who think similarly. This is not just gay, and not just drag, but people who follow the Bohemian creed, which is love and beauty and laughter and joy. And that was my experience coming up in New York. I wasn’t just around gay people, I was around Bohemian people who thought outside the box.

Do you find bringing Drag Con to New York as something of a homecoming?

Absolutely. I still live in New York, too. I spend most of my time out here in California, but a lot of the identity that made New York so beautiful, which is that tapestry of different cultures has kind of faded, because you have to be a millionaire to live in New York. So, we’re coming to New York to remind her who she really is.