Once upon a time drag queens were like rare birds, often only spotted in the dead of night at clubs or flocking together at pride parades a few times a year. Now, social media has given queens a global platform for their art.
And from the old school divas with feather boas, sky-high bouffant hairdos and sequin gowns to the more abstract queens who take inspiration from modern art and couture, an Instagram has become as much a staple for both part-time drag queens and those who make a living from it as thick false eyelashes. The rise and rise of the Emmy Award-winning Logo TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race, has also helped to raise the profile of drag.
Fashion photographer and Instagrammer Fernando Cysneiros, based in Recife, Brazil, is on a quest to capture every style of drag with his project The Drag Series. World renowned stars including Kim Chi, Tatianna, ChiChi Devayne have all posed for Cysneiros.
“Drag queens are walking pieces of art and I love it,” Cysneiros tells The Independent. “My interest began to grow in 2014, when I was living in Vancouver and used to go to a lot of drag performances. At the time I was still unaware of the reality show RuPaul's Drag Race.”
At first Cysneiros shot queens who were in his local area, but he soon used his project as an excuse to travel. Cysneiros takes his camera equipment to any city he visits, and tracks down local talent before he visits.
Over the course of his project, Cysneiros has learned that the saying “a drag queen is always late” is “right almost all of the time.”
“Also there are always mishaps, such as forgetting super glue."
Cysneiros admits that while he’s inspired by the queens in his images, he’s not tempted to don a wig just yet. “I'm more like the observer type,” he says.
The makeup skills - from blending to contouring - that help drag queens transform have led Cysneiros to revamp his style and he now sometimes wears make-up in the style of male artists like Manny MUA, who was recently launched an advertising campaign with Maybelline, and Jeffree Star.
Cysneiros’ photos may be a feast for the eyes, but he also hopes they will help to tackle misconceptions about drag and the LGBT community.
“A lot of people that are not really a part of the LGBT community think that drag queens are just gay boys that want to become women, which we know is not true. Some people also think it has some connection with prostitution. These are just some of the things that I've heard here in Brazil.
“In the drag community there are also a lot of misconceptions. Many people think that only gay guys can do drag, which is very wrong. Anyone can do drag - transgender, cisgender, gay, straight, bi. And people tend to not appreciate their work, unfortunately. There is also the misconception that a woman can only do drag king, which is not true. Women can be drag queens." In the future, he hopes to photograph more trans queens and drag kings, too.
Instagram has also created a new breed of queen, says Cyseneiros: one that doesn't perform in clubs. “Many of them thinks that you are only a ‘real drag queen’ if you attend night clubs and do some performance, but I know many queens that only do drag at home, using make-up and elaborated visual concepts to create their art.”
“It's amazing to have the opportunity to shock the mainstream world with these photos. It is also great to have some sort of catalogue with different looks and types of make-up, so other people can be inspired by it.”
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