In the last decade, drag has gone from subversive art form to mainstream money maker. The beauty industry is – for obvious reasons – particularly hot on drag. But is it really a step forward for the LGBTQ+ community, or is it all just big business pinkwashing?
Irish drag queen, Annie Pics says “There’s nothing worse than seeing big brands slap a rainbow flag on their logo for Pride.” All too often, brands tap into trends without supporting the communities that made them “trendy”. And ‘dragvertising’ is no different.
RuPaul is an icon, The Race is vital content – but we can’t ignore the history behind the red wigs and silver dresses. Drag has had an important role in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights since day dot. Queens were at the heart of New York’s Stonewall riots in 1969. And involved in political activism for decades. They helped transform London’s nightlife and spurred on a new generation of gender-fluid icons. A one-off rainbow won’t cut it – Gen Z see through slacktivism. So, as the saying goes, don’t get bitter, just get better. Here’s how…
“There’s nothing worse than seeing big brands slap a rainbow flag on their logo for Pride.”
+ Take a minute to fix your wig
First things first – do not jump on that bandwagon. Without establishing room at the table and a real commitment to the LGBT+ community, your campaign will be inauthentic, and your motives questioned. So get your house in order. Are you lifting up queer talent in your own organisation? Stonewall’s LGBT+ in Britain – Work Report 2018 says more than a third of LGBT+ staff have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination. How can you help support your queer colleagues?
+ Impersonating Beyoncé is not your destiny, child!
With a huge number of brands “dragging up”, it can be difficult to stand out. But don’t be swayed by popularity or a high follower count when working with creators or artists. Instead, find someone who fits your brand archetypally from all corners of the drag community, including trans and disabled queens like @prinxchiyo and @dragsyndrome. Just sure your campaign is genuinely inclusive.
+ They wear crowns for a reason
They’re the pros – so collaborate with the queer community to create campaigns that aren’t just using drag as decoration – from identifying the right influencers to using the right terminology. If you’re a make-up brand, choose a look-queen. Tongue and cheek comms? Choose a comedy-queen (see Jaguar’s ‘Jag Race’ featuring Courtney Act and The Vivienne). Drag is a career, not a hobby – so leverage their talents!
To earn the respect of the community, you need to show that you’re not just a fan – you’re an ally, whose read their history books and knows what’s up. Where authenticity goes, engagement follows.
+ Dip your whole stiletto in the glitter
Drag is seductive – but shouldn’t be your endpoint. Show you’re in it for the long haul, not a quick cash grab, by telling authentic queer stories that will truly resonate with your audience.
A brand that got it so right? Starbucks. For trans people testing out their chosen name, the iconic Starbucks order – and cup – is a big deal. Its simple and moving ‘What’s your name?’ campaign celebrated this act and its significance with a campaign “inspired by real-life experiences of people who were transitioning.”
Its success was huge, and Starbucks were able to leverage their scale to help “expand the vital support services needed within the transgender community and their families.” They did this by partnering with queer charity Mermaids to raise at least £100,000.
Get to werq
If you’re looking to hook up with a Henny and you’re dedicated to making it truly authentic, drop us a line at email@example.com – we’d be happy to help. In the meantime, do yourself a favour by pressing that pink follow button and glamorising your newsfeed with these queens:
Halleloo! And sashay, away.