'Facebook Live' is a drag reality show for the rest of us
Getting “beat” in a drag makeup room doesn’t mean you call 911 and letting something “cook” doesn’t mean it’s going to burn.
These terms are used to describe what a drag performer does before going on stage. You might know this already if watch “Ru Paul’s Drag Race,” or spend any time hanging out backstage at a drag show before curtain.
Yet for those of you who don’t have Logo or VH-1, or never visit the local club for a show there’s a new way to learn a little about drag preparation and what the queens do backstage to become their alter-egos; Facebook Live.
Makeup application is a fascinating process
When I was a kid, I knew my mother was going out on a date because she would sit on the couch in front of the coffee table, tools of beauty within reach. She placed various makeup items around a standup mirror and began working on her “evening look” which included mascara, bobby pins, tweezers, eyeliner, and lipstick. That was it.
A natural beauty, she only applied the basics, no need for foundation or cover up. Her hair was the most important thing. The ritual would go as follows; Roll a strand of hair around her finger place it atop her head, dip the bobby pin in a glass of water and stick it where she was holding the curl in place.
She did this until her entire scalp was covered in curls suppressed by hairpins. When it dried she would take them all out, brush her hair into this full-bodied mane of auburn perfection.
I was fascinated. I watched her every move and handed her bobby pins that I had laid out in a sunburst pattern on the table. I don’t think she would ever let another male person other than myself watch her as she did it.
These are good memories of her which I was suddenly reminded of the other night as I watched drag icon Glen Alen preparing himself to perform at the VIP Club in Riverside.
Click on that "is live" pop-up alert
I got an alert that he was on Facebook Live and I quickly went to Glen's page. There he was, in the beginning stages of the prep ritual much like my mother used to do. But it wasn’t just me who was watching, there were several other people online with me.
Recently I’ve noticed that some other drag queens have taken to the app too, placed their phones in front of them and shown the world a live streaming before-and-after.
Locally Davina Kostiana Love goes live occasionally to give her face a beating before heading out to Gossip Grill. And internet superstar TS Madison has also gone live and let the world see her transform into a showgirl. TS is transgender, not a drag queen but her process is pretty much the same and she lets thousands of people witness her from “beating” to “cooking” before she performs.
Oh, cooking is when all the makeup is in place and your body heat naturally sets it into the skin. This can take about 10 minutes.
I wondered why these drag queen performers would want to show themselves from start to finish in front of thousands of people. Unlike my mother with only me in the room, I wondered why this is suddenly a popular option.
Glen Alen is a legend in his field. He is known the world over and on people’s bucket list of queens who want him to paint their face. Someone pointed out that he should charge for the live stream, and I kind of agree with them.
An inside look at the drama of a drag workroom
There was also another aspect to this service, perhaps a great asset to a journalist like myself; the performers not only concentrate on their artistry, but they also answer questions, talk about what’s going on in their lives and share personal anecdotes.
“You know what? I never thought I would like being older, but I love getting older,” said Glen smiling with a paintbrush in hand going over some shading.
Amid all of this show night craziness, they even do Romper Room-style shout outs to the people in their feed. It’s a multitasker's dream come true.
During the one-hour process, Glen even gave tips, endorsed his favorite products and self-criticized some of the things that weren’t working for him.
“I gotta get to this nose, this nose is freaking me out right now,” he said then gave a play-by-play of exactly how he was going to fix it.
If you're not on Drag Race, hit the "live" button
I asked Davina why she hits the “live” button on Facebook when she's preparing her first look for the evening. Her answer was simple:
“I’m not on Ru Paul’s Drag Race,” she said.
It appears that is the primary reason.
I talked to Glen Alen about it too and he agrees, but using the streaming service is also a strategic move for his career.
“Part of the process of casting,” he says, “is social media presence. Facebook Live, is what the casting agents are going to look at.”
Ironically, one of the motivations to go live is getting the attention of casting agents for Drag Race. Think of it as an audition tape stored in Facebook memories. It’s also a great way to promote a business.
“I've auditioned for RPDR 6 years in a row and have been rejected each time,” said Alen. “The struggle is real. So that's why I created Drag Makeup Academy. I can't merely want to get on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I use social media it to promote the classes I teach on Drag Makeup. And to maintain my personal success.”
After the Show
And the communication isn’t limited to drag prep.
San Diego’s own Comic-Con(tessa) Kickxy Vixen Styles has a tradition of letting her audience in on what she does when she gets home from a busy night on stage. That involves a bean and cheese burrito which she eats while giving a re-cap of her night.
Still in makeup Kicksxy unwraps, applies hot sauce to, and consumes the meal while giving shout outs to friends and fellow performers who are logged on.
It may seem odd to chow down on Mexican food in front of your laptop to those up at 11 pm, but in this age of booked schedules, daytime jobs, and high rent, finding time to eke out correspondence with friends on daily basis is impossible.
Hit that 'Live' button while Drag Race in on hiatus
With 8 Emmy noms and one of the most successful seasons ever, RuPaul's Drag Race is something on which a drag performer wants to appear unless of course they are Lady Bunny, Mama or any other legendary performer who had to come up through the ranks without a reality crew.
I would bet that more and more men are getting into the business because of Drag Race. Those reading this probably know someone who is pretty good at the craft and uttered these words of advice to them, "You should try out for Drag Race" to which they get the eye-rolling response, "I have."
One thing Facebook Live can do for those who want to broaden their brand, it gives them a medium in which to do it. And what used to be the undiscovered bag of drag, the dressing room, is now accessible to the public where watchers can not only interact with their favorite stars, they can also get tips, gossip, shade and backstage drama; things that already make Drag Race so popular.
So until you get a chance to get the "bitch edit" from network TV, use the 'live' button to cast yourself in a very personal reality show of your own because whether you think so or not, people will watch.
You can watch Glen Alen's Facebook Live broadcasts HERE
You can watch Kickxy Vixen Styles' videos HERE
You can watch Davina Kostina Love's videos HERE.