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  • Momma Ashley & Rose Jason DeShazo

Momma Knows Best: Drag is an Art

The art of drag has a long history. It is nothing new to society, dating back centuries when men often dressed as women for entertainment and other events. The term “drag” itself is thought to have originated in the theater world in the early 20th century, when male actors would wear women’s clothing to play female roles. For a time in history, it was illegal for women to perform on stage. 

While “art” is subjective and can vary from person to person, drag can certainly be considered an art form. Drag involves using costume, makeup, and performance to create a persona that is often exaggerated or larger-than-life. Drag performers often use their art to explore issues related to gender identity, sexuality, social norms, and beyond. Drag can consist of Kings, Queens, and anything in between. It can be an expression of gender, gender-bending, cosplay, and more. Whether you are a male dressing as a female, a female dressing as a male, or even expressing your own gender or none at all, this is one of the amazing parts of the art form.

Many drag performers also use their art to express themselves creatively and entertain audiences. Whether through lip-syncing, dance, comedy, singing live, playing musical instruments, or drama, drag performers often use their talents to create a memorable and impactful performance that leaves a lasting impression on their audience. Drag is a form of performance and visual art. As I stated before, the term “larger-than-life” is a good way to explain the look. Whether it’s a drag Queen, King, or anything in between, everyone has a chance to show off their art in a creative way. Utilizing makeup, wigs, costumes, and props, drag performers often spend time getting into character before a performance. This may involve practicing their mannerisms and movements to create a convincing and entertaining performance. Like any performance, drag requires a lot of practice and preparation. Drag performers may rehearse their lip-syncing, live singing, dance moves, comedy routines, and more to ensure their performance is polished and entertaining.

Drag can have the power to challenge societal norms and provoke thought about issues related to gender identity and expression. This can open up so much for people to understand and even provide a safe space for others. There can be so much inspiration and empowerment for others through art.

The drag transformation for me can be a lot of work – shaving my facial hair off to have a smooth face to create the look of a female and using stage makeup of all sorts. My base is a thick cream foundation used in many theaters and television shows, along with special effects makeup and large amounts of setting powder. Bright colors for my eyes and contour to change the look of the shape of my face. False lashes that are huge! Wearing a big-styled wig, large rhinestone jewelry, and elaborate dresses covered in rhinestones, it can take me up to two hours to become Momma.

Over the last 23 years, my makeup and costumes have evolved, as do many artists. I have had the chance to learn and grow in my skills. I have learned from other makeup artists, makeup classes, YouTube, and more. 

In my over two decades of doing drag, I have had the chance to watch so many lives change. I have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities. I have spread the message that everyone is loved, accepted, and wanted, no matter who they are. 

I have seen families come together to celebrate so many things, including the love they have for their children, family, and friends. To me, the power behind drag is and can be life changing. On days when I am tired or don’t feel like taking the time to “transform” into Momma, I look in the mirror and think of the lives we have helped change through this art. I think of the kids whose smiles light up the room when I walk out and sing or read them stories. I think of the families I see come together to celebrate each other. I think of the community we built by raising money and awareness for so many charities. That is the reason I do what I do. That is the reason I believe drag is an art and drag is life-changing and brings joy and love!

While not everyone may consider drag an art form, it certainly has many elements of traditional art forms. Executing successfully requires a great deal of skill, creativity, and talent. 

There has been a lot of talk about drag being harmful to people. There are no proven facts that drag has harmed anyone. In fact, history has shown drag performers have always created a safe space for people and helped raise money and awareness for many social and political issues. There are many types of drag, as there are different types of TV, music, and stage shows. You have adult TV, radio, and entertainment, and you have those that are safe for all ages. Drag is and can be the same. Not all drag is for adults only. As with any art form, the show and entertainer can adjust the content to make it safer for all ages. Drag is not a crime; Drag is NOT harmful; Drag is love; Drag is community; Drag is art, and we are not going anywhere.


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