Last week, three men were transformed into glamazons on the series premiere of RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race. And this Friday, it was ladies’ night, proving that drag can be for everyone and anyone. “Drag doesn’t change who you are. It actually reveals who you are,” proclaimed wise sage RuPaul at the start of the show. Can I get an amen up in here?
But while one of this week’s contestants was certainly no stranger to beating her face and sashaying down the runway, due to her beauty-pageant past, Secret Celebrity Drag Race was still an entirely new experience for her. After all, when Vanessa Williams “burst onto the scene” as the first black Miss America back in 1983, she probably didn’t have to impersonate LGBTQ icon Dolly Parton in a “Rusical” performance called Twerking 5 to 9.
“I do feel comfortable onstage, and I do perform all the time… but still, this is out of my comfort zone,” Williams said. She explained: “When I signed up for doing this, I was like, ‘OK, I always like to challenge myself.’ Because that’s how you continue to learn, continue to grow — especially as I’m aging. That’s what keeps you young. That’s what keeps the fire going. It’s that uncertainty that makes it special.”
“Oh my God… to know someone that has had her career for 30 years and is still seeking out new opportunities and finding new ways to fall in love with life, that’s very inspiring,” said Williams’s mentor for the episode, Season 10 Drag Race finalist Asia O’Hara.
Williams has of course faced tougher challenges than having put on a platinum-bouffant wig and prosthetic chest and say hello to her inner Dolly. (Or ripping out her own hair extensions, which she did without hesitation during Friday’s drag-king mini-challenge) In 1984, she faced what at the time seemed like an insurmountable career challenge, when she was forced to return her Miss America crown and resign after nude photographs of her leaked. But Williams triumphantly rebounded from that “scandal” and made herstory, launching a hugely successful career in pop music (ironically, one of her albums was titled The Comfort Zone). And this week, she applied that sense of resilience to the Drag Race stage.
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