How RuPaul brought drag to the masses

No T, no shade, no pink lemonade – RuPaul is slaying it right now! If you’re not familiar with this fernacular, it basically means Ru is killing it, no joke. RuPaul’s Drag Race has always had a cult following, but now it has entered the main stream. The irreverent show is in its ninth season, and recently won the MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Reality Show. 8 years after it was first launched by the eponymous RuPaul, the Queen of Drag Queens, the show is still growing it’s following and viewing figures are on the up.

The tv show, is essentially America’s Next Top Model meets Project Runway with a hint of The X Factor, exculsively for drag queens. The contestants compete is various challenges: photoshoots, acting, sewing their own outfits, and each episode culminates in all the Queens putting on their faces and frocks and sissying that walk down the runway in front of a panel of judges who assess their looks and how they did in the challenge before the bottom two lip sync for their life to a gay anthem.

RuPaul is looking for the queen with the most charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent (a cheeky acrostic) to be America’s next drag superstar. The show is fun, silly, not afraid to poke fun at itself, which is perhaps why it’s more popular now than ever. In a time of hate, uncertainty and sometimes misery, drag is all about having fun, laughing, creativity and most importantly, celebrating yourself.

  

The show had humble beginnings on Logo TV – the gay network in he US – with RuPaul as he tried to bring drag to the mainstream. He was a pop star in the 90s and the epitome of kooky cool, hanging out with everyone from the B52s (he starred in their Love Shack music video) to Nirvana to Naomi Campbell. Much of the show is built around Ru Paul’s music and style, with the catwalk parade segment of the show being called ‘Sissy that walk’ after his song, and the elimination of the bottom two candidates being revealed by declaring “Shanté you stay” to the safe contestant and “Sashé away” toolset of the challenge, referencing his song ‘Supermodel’.

The following is amazing, it’s become a cult favourite and the most talked about TV show on Social media. The show also has a mass of celebrity followers and has a killer roster of guests judges, from old school icons like Paula Abdul, La Toya Jackson and Debbie Harris, to the new it-girls like GiGi Hadid, Khloe Kardashian and Ariana Grande. This season saw Lady GaGa take to the panel for the premiere episode, where she entered the work room in one of her most decadent outfits, caked in make-up and wearing sunglasses. It wasn’t until she took off the glasses that the people in the room realised she wasn’t just another contestant and was in fact GaGa, an idol for many people in the room, and LGBT people everywhere.

But while the show is frivolous and run, it also has some important messages. One of RuPaul’s catchphrases is, “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love anybody else?!” The saying consistently gets an amen from everyone in the room. And it’s true – RuPaul has become something of a therapist as he gets contestants to open up as many of them have struggled in one way or another – from being bullied at school or outcast by religious families who didn’t accept their sexuality, to men who have been beaten up for being drag queens or lost loved ones to AIDS. Underneath all the hair and makeup, there are real people with real problems. But the show helps them to open up and talk about it. It’s an important message not just for LGBT communities, but for everyone. Self worth is so important.

The show can get catty, and one element of being a drag queen is being able to throw shade – witty insults. But as RuPaul points out, it’s easy to be a bitch, but you have to be clever to throw shade. After the girls are done insulting each other, there is real camaraderie that you don’t often see in other reality show competions. Yes, there is the occasional showgirl who wouldn’t hesitate to push a frenemy down the stairs, but there’s a real community that develops in the work room where they create their outfits and paint their faces. 

And the show isn’t afraid to get political either. One of the competitions in previous seasons saw the queens adopt politician personas and run for America’s Drag Presient as they spoke out about what mattered to them – more money on AIDS care and less money on wars – albeit with a tongue in cheek approach. 

RuPaul himself has even spoken out about how “we need America’s next drag queen now more than ever”. Under Trump, drag is being used as a form of political expression, even on SNL as The Atlantic highlighted in their article “Why Drag is the Ultimate Retort to Trump,” with Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Sean Spicer. And Trump himself is often compared to a drag queen thanks to his “technicolor tan, bouffant hair, love of insults, and exaggerated display of masculinity.” As a Drag Race contestant said of Trump, “Girl, look how orange you f*cking look, girl!” – an insult from one queen to another on a previous season.

The show has become such a success in recent years, and the political and social climate has helped that. While RuPaul may have been a pop star with the song Covergirl back in the early 90s, he was still seen as a fad to many (some people don’t recognise charisma, uniqueness nerve and talent when they see it). And while there isn’t a drag queen topping the charts at the moment (Conchita Wurst back a few years ago came close) more pop stars are celebrating drag by including queens in their performances – Miley Cyrus had several drag queens perform with her on her last tour and is a big fan of the show – she was in the audience of the season 7 finale. And now Katy a Perry is following suit after her recent SNL performance.

Some of the contestants themselves have become (minor) celebrities in their own rights, and it’s no surprise with their vibrant personalities and costumes. There’s Bianca Del Rio, season 6 winner – an insult comedian with quick wit who throws shade like a pro and always has flawless outfits and signature catch phrase, “Not today Satan!”

  

Sharon Needles, winner of season 4, is the alternative drag queen – more into goth and gore than the usual glamorous pageant look – but this, paired with her self deprecating humour makes her like a modern day Elvira. 

  

After Sharon won Season 4, her (now ex) partner Alaska took part in season 5 and went on to become a runner up and a fan favourite thanks to her whimsical nature and ability to turn a rubbish bag into a glamourous gown – literally; that was a challenge that she won, turning dumpster findings into couture.

  

My personal favourite is season 6 finalist Adore Delano – the former American Idol semi-finalist (he competed as Danny before taking up drag). She’s a fun time party girl, who was not as polished as other girls, but always turned it out on the runway, and (obviously) has a killer set of pipes, and pins, and despite only being 23 had no problem holding her own in a season of strong queens.

  

There’s too many spectacular queens to mention, really. Even their names are hilarious, some tongue-in-cheek faves include Farrah Moan, MiMi Imfurst, Ginger Minj and my favourite name – Penny Tration – shame her performance wasn’t as spectacular as her moniker. 
Drag will never be entirely mainstream, but will always have a cult following. The important part is that people accept it. Take comic books nerds – they will always be the butt of jokes, but they have a strong community with their own conventions and some people deem them to be cool, albeit in a quirky way – comic book-based films now regularly top the box office, yet the hard core Star Trek nerds are still sometimes pariahs. 

Drag also has its on conventions – notably RuPaul’s Drag Con in New York, and Drag World UK coming to London Kensington Olympia this Summer, but I feel we may be waiting a while longer for a box office smash. But to be fair, drag queens always do their best work live – part of their charm is the off the cuff retorts, jokes and insults thrown at audiences, and his still works on Drag Race when they have a panel and other queens to interact with, it loses its impact when scripted. But business is booming in drag bars from Brooklyn to Soho and pop stars never turn down a chance to take the stage at G-A-Y to perform their latest hit. Just yesterday I saw a man walking down the street wearing a Bianca Del Rio t-shirt.

With Drag Race about to start filming its 10th season, it shows no signs of slowing down. It’s a cult juggernaut and I can’t wait to see what next series brings. If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching the show before, it’s available on demand on Netflix and is binge worth, feel good, trash TV – go check it out.

What not to post on social media

LinkedIn is the ‘professional’ social network where you connect with colleagues, business acquaintances, former classmates and co-workers. There is a certain tone that is expected on LinkedIn. If I had seen this post on Twitter or Facebook, I may have winced, but otherwise would not have thought twice about it. Seeing it on LinkedIn however, I was rather taken aback.
 
This got me thinking about social media and the different personas that we adopt when using other platforms to present ourselves in the best way and the different content that we post on various networks, and indeed how businesses can consider this as well.
 
This is not the first instance of seeing posts on LinkedIn that would be better suited to another social platform. Inappropriate profile pictures are rife: alcoholic beverages in hand, photos obviously taken on a night out, girls pouting with their cleavage out, men brooding in vest tops. 
 
Your employers and potential employers will be looking at your LinkedIn profile and people often judge based on appearance, so you need to present yourself in a professional manner, even in your profile picture.
 
These days, most people have their profile more than one social media platform. In fact, research from 2014 found that more than 42% of adults use more than one social media sites. This is likely to be because different sites serve slightly different purposes.
 
 
LINKEDIN
It should go without saying that LinkedIn is where you should present the best, most professional version of yourself. Connecting and sharing information with your colleagues, bosses and potential future employers means that you should avoid anything that may cause offense or portray you in a bad light. That means don’t be rude, racist, sexist – even if it’s a joke that may seem ok to post on Facebook; that’s a social network with your friends, so it’s different.
 
LinkedIn is a place to demonstrate knowledge of your industry and show what a great employee you are – humble bragging is wholly encouraged as you are essentially advertising yourself as a valuable asset to your company. Use the new(ish) LinkedIn Pulse to publish your own insightful articles, you can even re-use articles you have written on your work or personal blog. Just bear in mind what you’re sharing – is it suitable and relevant to your professional network? If you work in accounting technology but keep a makeup blog in your spare time, LinkedIn Pulse is probably not the place to share your latest contouring tutorial.
 
Equally, when you’re representing your company and using your business page to promote your brand of product, don’t bombard the news feed with endless sales messages. And don’t make your company page just like a resume, as marketing expert Jeff Bullas advises – write a compelling summary and add your products and services with jobs and career info and connect with your employees. But don’t just post about your office goings-on and own work all the time: LinkedIn is a forum for industry discussion and nobody likes someone who talks about themselves all the time.
 
 
FACEBOOK
Facebook is one of the most popular social networks with around 1.65 billion monthly active users,[1] and is most commonly used to share photos and information with close friends. Many people choose to have their profiles as private and ‘friend requests’ and a newsfeed with a specific algorithm means that you only see posts from friends, brands or businesses you choose to, making it the most personal social media.
 
Facebook tends to be where people make big announcements, from passing their driving test to expecting a baby. It’s used for sharing amusing anecdotes and holiday photos and inviting people to events and parties. Just don’t add drunk or embarrassing photos that you may regret and don’t add your boss, especially if you tend to share personal content and if your settings aren’t set to ‘Friends only’ privacy!
 
Although Facebook use is declining among younger users, it has become a popular way to find out news and to share amusing videos. Companies such as LADBible and The Dodo rely heavily on users sharing their content on Facebook.
 
In business, Facebook is one of the more commercial social networks, so it’s an opportunity to keeps things light and entertaining – even for B2B brands. Facebook ads are also a great way to boost traffic and generate leads.
 
 
TWITTER
Twitter has become a popular platform for voicing your opinion to a wider audience and connecting with brands and even celebrities. Twitter is much more open than Facebook, so things shared on here tend to be less personal.
Twitter by its nature is fast, short and digestible: just 140 characters on a chronological real-time timeline. People tend to share images, GIFs, polls, headlines with links to news and blogs and even short videos. The hash sign has is now synonymous with hashtags rather than indicating a number as it used to a decade ago. It helps you to join in a discussion, which has lead Twitter to become something of an open forum.
 
The presence of brands also makes it a popular marketing tool for marketers, both B2C and B2B. They can join in discussions or jump on hashtags, but beware of using a hashtag that tenuously links to your business offering as it is transparent. Some companies now even have a dedicated customer support Twitter account as so many people now turn to Twitter to voice their complaints or praise about a brand or product.
 
The openness and accessibility of Twitter is one of the things that makes it great, but it also means you need to proceed with caution. Beware of trolls (and don’t become one yourself). If you’re joining in a discussion with someone you don’t know, try not to offend anyone.

INSTAGRAM

Instagram was THE social media platform of 2016. Full of filters, seflies and more pictures of food than you’ve had hot dinners. I heard on the radio that a girl’s new year’s resolution for 2017 was to only post one selfie a week. Instagram has turned people into narcissists, addicted to the likes and comments they get from their selfies. Yes, Instagram is the best platform for sharing your selfies but Avoid over-doing it unless you want to look narcissistic too.
 
Instagram is also becoming more and more sexually explicit: beauty and fitness photos have become increasingly explicit to sometimes verging on the brink of pornographic. Men in the gym want to show off their torsos and cut with the pants swung so low and girls show off their pert posteriors in bikini bottoms on the beach. If you’ve got it, flaunt it; but just don’t do it to the point where you’ll make people think, “Put it away!”
 
Businesses are beginning to get the hand of Instagram, especially now that adverts are incorporated in the feed. It can be hard for B2B businesses, especially those that offer services or software rather than physical, tangible products. But there are ways to get creative and show your brand’s personality: take pictures of what happens in the office and behind the scenes, share screengrabs or videos of reports or the software in action. Just use your imagination!
 
So heed the warnings… think before you post and consider whom you are sharing your posts with before you click publish on social media. 

[1] https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/the-difference-between-facebook-twitter-linkedin-google-youtube-pinterest

How not to do New Year’s resolutions

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Why do so many people think that the New Year equates to a new start? Everyone starts with good intentions: join a gym, start a diet, sign up to online dating.

But by February, most people have been to the gym twice, devoured left over mince pies along with that tub of Quality Street their auntie gave them for Christmas and not bothered to renew their dating site subscription when the initial free month was up.

New year’s resolutions are great if you can stick to them, but resolutions do not mean a revolution. Yes, after the festive season of indulgence, it is a good idea to lay off the grub and move off the sofa once you’ve finished your boxset binge. However, it’s unrealistic to set unattainable targets that you will inevitably give up on after a couple of months.

I know someone who once said they weren’t going to drink any alcohol for a whole year. This actually put me out a bit as I enjoyed sharing a nice bottle of wine with them. What’s wrong with doing things in moderation anyway? The only reason the resolution was made was because the person didn’t like how they behaved when they were really drunk and was trying to save money. They lasted until April and then went on a massive bender.

It is more attainable and more rewarding to set definitive goals. So, instead of declaring to simply ‘get fit’, why not sign up to an event like a 5k fun run in the Spring? Or really go for it and sign up for a half marathon in September and gradually build your fitness up to meet that target.

I am not against new year’s resolutions as such, in fact I am all for self-improvement; nobody wants to stagnate. My issue is: why do people feel they can only make these resolutions in the new year? Why not just make a new month resolution? You could choose to start doing things to benefit your life at any time. Monday is a new week, make a change then. Tomorrow is a new day, make a change then.

There are things I want to change in my life, but I’m implementing these changes at times that are good for me, not waiting until the new year rolls around. Although, I am putting off my running training until the weather gets a bit nicer. That can be my new month resolution for March. I am running a Tough Mudder obstacle course in May, so I have already started my strength training in preparation. Feel free to join me!

Struggles of a baby-faced 20-something

21 jump st college

“Can I see some ID, please?” Most people are familiar with this question from the age of fifteen or so when they start going to see rated films at the cinema and then when they start buying alcohol and [trying to] get into pubs and clubs.

I am (nearly) 25 years-old and I still get IDed all the time. Not just buying a drink or going into a bar, but for all manner of things. I was asked for ID going to see a certificate 15 film a few months ago; it was half term and apparently pesky kids were trying to sneak in. It’s so embarrassing.

The film was 22 Jump Street, not exactly Scarface, is it? I am older than the number on the poster, nearly a decade older than the age you need to be to see it. Do I really have to prove I’m not a 14 year-old trying to sneak into a film to perhaps catch a glimpse of some nudity and laugh and the F word? <sigh>

ID mclovinI understand that these people are just doing their job, but when you get asked for ID to buy ibuprofen when you are actually old enough to have a mortgage, it does get frustrating. It’s worse since the ‘Think 21’ scheme was upgraded to ‘Think 25’. I am going to be IDed until I’m 40 at this rate.

“You’ll appreciate it when you’re older,” everyone tells me. Well, they’ve been saying that since I was 18. It is six years later and it’s still more of a hindrance than a blessing. You would think that at least I could get student discount or a teenage ticket. But no, apparently you need ID for that too, which I sadly no longer possess. Bye bye 10% Topshop discount.

My baby-face is made even worse by the fact that my younger sister, age 19, not only looks her age, but actually looks older than me. Whenever we are out together, people always think she is the older sibling. I went out with her and my 18 year-old cousin this month and we asked two people who didn’t know us to rank us in age order. They said we all looked alike, good start. Then proceeded to guess the 18 year-old was the eldest, then the 19 year-old, then 24 year-old me. Here’s hoping they look older when we hit 40 and I still look 25!

It doesn’t help by the fact I have naturally light blonde hair, the hair that most people have until the age of about three, and I am quite petite so could probably still fit into the age 14-15 clothes if I so desired. But I have enough trouble looking like a teenager as it is without dressing like one.

fearne young

My idol Fearne Cotton suffers the same baby-face struggles as me. I remember her saying that she was still IDed when she was 30. And hey, she’s now 33 and looks bloody fantastic. I’m just looking forward to the time when someone asks me for ID and I take it as a compliment, not an insult.

From Tinder to timber: how to avoid falling for the wrong person on dating apps

tinder

As you get older dating becomes that bit more difficult – a minefield of questions: where do I meet people? When do I find the time to meet people around work and social commitments? What if all the good ones are taken? How do i put myself out there?

I, in my mid 20s, (yes, not THAT old) found myself single for the first time since I was 18 this year; a scary prospect for someone who is always used to having a boyfriend. But at around the same time I became a single lady (cue the Beyoncé music) a little dating app was suddenly becoming very popular: Tinder.

At first it’s something of a novelty, browsing through all these potential mates; and there’s something that makes you feel quite in control about being able to swipe left for ‘no’ with such ease and not be pestered by anyone you’re not interested in.

For those of you who haven’t ventured onto the app, you can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a person on seeing their first name, age, photo, any mutual Facebook friends or interests and anything they choose to disclose in their bio.

It’s a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. You feel like Tinderella, or the Prince, looking for that idea of the perfect person, but judging only for a few seconds, almost entirely on looks and making snap decisions (if you’re fussy, you can really get some speed up rejecting people) based on a glimpse of a stranger.

Even when you find someone you like, there’s still the awkward initial chats to get past, waiting for the shoe, or glass slipper, to drop. I have found the general conversation goes like this:

Him: “Hey. How are you?”
Me: “Not too bad thanks, how are you?”
Him: “Good. Long day at work.”
Me: “Oh what do you do.”
Him: “[insert job I usually know nothing about/am not interested in]
Me: “Ok. So you like [insert hobby based on Tinder pictures]
Him: “Yes, do you?”
Me: “Yes/no.”

If my answer is yes, maybe the conversation will continue. If it’s no, that’s when it generally grinds to a halt. I find the latter scenario is usually the case.

Of course, there are exceptions. I didn’t ever meet up with this person, but one of the most memorable openers I ever had was:

“I just wanted to say I find you very attractive. If I got to know you better, I would invite you over for a romantic dinner involving an expensive £5 bottle of wine and two of those microwaveable curry meals. Our dinner discussion would be most imminent, involving the difference between butter and margarine. Afterwards we would make our way to my polar bear carpet and begin adaptive role playing to those twilight movies.”

It’s pretty weird (that’s an understatement), but it caught my eye. I’d had a few G&Ts so was happy to reciprocate with some witty banter. Personally I thought it was far more interesting than ‘Hey, how are you?’ which is polite, but unoriginal and makes for a stilted opening conversation.

Then of course there’s the really weird ones. And the ones who are just looking for sex. You can usually spot these a mile off. Sometimes you’ll even be lucky enough to see a dick pick while you’re scrolling through the friendly, and not so friendly faces; scary stuff. What I want to know is:

A) Do these boys (no real man would do this) think this actually works?
B) If so, who are the girls who say ‘yes’ to a penis.
C) Are these pictures on their Facebook profile? Tinder is linked to Facebook so you can choose your photos from your Facebook albums. Facebook has a pretty strict policy on nudity – they recently banned a woman form posting a pic of her breast feeding because it showed a nipple. If they don’t allow that I doubt they will allow a picture of a prick holding his prick.

Occasionally you come across mutual friends or even people you know. I was lucky enough to find someone I went to university with, so while we didn’t know each other well, it was easy to get talking and that’s the hardest part: making small talk with strangers. Mutual friends is also a bonus, because not only is it a talking point (‘How do you know X?’) if you do get so far as going on a date in real life, you can check with your friends they’re not a total weirdo. It’s good to be a little weird though, better than being boring and ‘normal’.

I myself have now been on a few tinder dates, some successful, some not so successful, but I would recommend it. If anything, it’s a great way to put yourself out there and build up some self esteem and practice the art of small talk. It’s not as scary as signing up to online dating because it’s all very brief and casual; the app just connects to your Facebook. It’s also free!

My friend who is in a long term relationship thought Tinder was a revelation when I showed her. She thought it was such a fun ‘game’ which it kind of is;  it’s definitely a win when someone hot matches with you. But that’s the one problem I have found with Tinder – it is quite shallow. You judge based on looks and that’s about it. I did swipe yes to a guy who wasn’t necessarily my type because he had and amazing joke as his bio, and I think a sense of humour is important. But basically, if you’re hot you’re going to get a lot of hits. So choose your picture wisely.

It’s also worth putting up pictures that show you doing some sort of hobby. It has been proven that you’re more likely to get a match. According to The Tab, girls who have a picture in an outdoor setting, do running, yoga or go to the gym are more likely to get a match. Guys who gave a dog in their photo, are outside and claim to be ‘spontaneous’ and ‘ambitious’ are more likely to get a match. Prove you’re more than just a pretty face.

So, I would say: avoid the ones who seem horny, go instead for ones with pictures of them involved in sports/social activities, don’t judge too much based on looks, try to make a joke to break the ice and if in doubt, always swipe right: you never know, they might be the Prince Charming to your Tinderella. If not, you can always block them.

Shop local and save the British high street

shop-local

Just last month, I was filled with sadness at the news that Bohemian Days was closing. While this may not mean much to most of you, it was a beautiful gift and interiors shop in my local village, an independent, family-run business that had been trading for 18 years. It was my first, and one of my favourite, jobs. I was the Saturday girl from aged 16 and continued part-time work in between university terms and only gave up my retail manager position on Sundays last year.

It was one of those beautiful shops that was like an Aladdin’s cave: the stock was primarily made of one-off or unusual, but tasteful items which were sought out by the buyers from all over Europe. Dainty Danish jewellery, fabulous French furniture and decadent Dutch decor. So many people commented on how much they loved the shop and loved browsing the ever-changing displays. But this is where the problem laid: browsing, not buying.

Despite being featured in high profile magazines like Country Living and House to Home and even being named Independent Gift Retailer of the Year in 2013 for South England, this was not enough to keep this one-off store afloat.

This story is not a one-off: all over the country, shops are struggling to continue trading. High streets are rapidly emptying and being filled with charity shops and chain stores as these are the only people who can afford the steep rent charges of shop sites.

Charity shops receive a reduced rates for shop sites and large chains are the only ones who can afford the extortionate rents. It’s sad but high streets all over the country are gradually morphing into the same parade of shops: I would be willing to bet that your local high street has a Costa/Starbucks, a Tesco Express/Sainsburys local and a Boots/Superdrug.

Even clothes shops in shopping centre are just a repeat of the next city along. Everyone ends up wearing the same things and it takes the joy out of shopping. Another problem with shopping centres is that all the big brand names move into the flashy, expensive new sites, leaving all the independents struggling on the old highstreet, where nobody bothers to visit any more. Why brave the rain to go to that cute boutique store when you have Topshop, River Island and Zara all under one roof?

Don’t get me wrong, I love these shops and do shop at chain stores myself, but where possible I try to shop local and buy from independents. There is generally more a sense of community among the local shops, because the owners put their heart and soul into their shops, cafes and restaurants. It is their livelihood, they are not just a cog in a machine, they are the machine.

But perhaps an even better reason to spend money in locally is that it is actually better for the economy. According to Independent Retailer of the Month, “for every £1 spent locally around 50p – 70p of that money recirculates back into the local economy. For the same £1 spent out of town or online only 5p trickles back to the local community.”

Quite simply, it makes good sense to shop locally at independent retailers to keep the variety of the high street alive and stimulate the British economy. So next time you have a choice between picking up a loaf of bread or birthday card, why not take a look in a little one-off shop rather than a well-known chain store? You may be pleasantly surprised.