Unlike Transgender people and Crossdressers, drag queens wear women's clothing only on special occasions. They are usually gay men who occasionally like to get that little bit more flamboyant by dressing up as a tornado that's just rushed through a mountain of candyfloss and glitter. They can get dolled up for a variety of reasons; perhaps they are paid entertainers and the drag is their act, perhaps they consider it an art form; or perhaps they just enjoy it. It differs from person to person.
Drag queens on TV are sometimes used for the old "straight man comes on to a girl in a bar... but she's not a girl!" joke. A popular variation on this will have the straight man remain completely oblivious to the fact that he's copping off with a man until the last possible moment. However, this joke usually uses Transgenders instead, since they tend to dress up a little more plausibly than drag queens, who are usually clad in a stylized and outlandish parody of feminine clothing. It's also common for women to comment on how much they wish they had the queen's legs.
Drag queens on TV are usually sharp-tongued and witty, matching the stage personas of real-life professional stage performers. They may provide the main character with world-weary advice or help put forward (ironically) a "just be yourself" Aesop.
There are many heterosexual men who "drag up" to play characters. One such man is Barry Humphries, who appears as TV presenter Dame Edna Everage in both the United Kingdom and Australia. They're generally included with drag queens if the character forms the basis of their act, though some might argue a distinction between those who perform for general audiences, and the ones who cater to LGBT culture.
Note that it's not universal for a drag queen to be campy and larger than life. In general, drag queens can be divided into three broad categories:
- Camp Queens are your stereotypical caricatures of female fashion. This is where you get the Uncanny Valley Makeup, outrageous costumes, Gag Boobs, etc. They tend to be more on the comedic side of things.
- Fishy Queens, also known as "Female Illusionists", are much more subdued in presentation and tend to be more serious, and are so named because of their ability to pass as a biological female. Fishy queens often compete in drag pageants, model high fashion, and/or work as celebrity impersonators. As for the origin of that term...we'll let you figure that out for yourself.
- Genderfuck Queens blend male and female elements to completely fuck what we know as gender. Bearded ladies, Bald Women, toplessness (since they're still men and can bare their nipples), masculine attire with feminine makeup, and so on. Androgyny is their game.
The Distaff (ahem) Counterpart is the Drag King — a woman dressed as a man performing masculinity with levels of exaggeration similar to a Drag Queen, but primarily for lesbian audiences. They'll bind their breasts (if necessary), pencil in or glue on a beard, and either keep their hair short or cover it under a hat. And then stuff a sock in their pants. Kings tend to go for either a dapper, thuggish, rocker, or biker persona.
A few drag performers also happen to be transgender, but one doesn't indicate the other. Those who are will still ham it up in their performances. Opinions vary as to whether or not trans women should count as drag queens (some drag pageants ban them if they've had hormone therapy or surgery), but as RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Monica Beverly Hillz put it, "Trans is who I am, drag is what I do." Also, many queens who aren't trans may still identify as genderqueer or agender, so one shouldn't assume it's either-or.
- The Arrancar Charlotte Chuhlhourne of Bleach, who faces off against resident pretty boy Shinigami Yumichika Ayasegawa. He also cranks the drag factor up to eleven with eye-searing results◊. He fires heart-shaped Ceros/Doom Blasts.
- One Piece:
- Mr. 2 Bon Clay of Baroque Works is a drag queen. He wears a ballerina outfit, doesn't have a female partner, and for Pete's sake, his style of karate is Okama Kenpo, which translates as Crossdresser Fist! Interestingly, he eventually proves himself to be roughly the manliest badass in the series.
- There's also the Kamabakka Kingdom (which translates almost literally as filled with Okama), where everyone has the heart of a maiden. Much to his despair Sanji lands here.
- Also, in the secret 5.5th level of Impel Down, former "Queen" of the Kamabakka Kingdom has created the New Kama Kingdom, filled with even more okama (including himself).
- Ouran High School Host Club:
- Haruhi's father Ryuuji works at a crossdresser bar, and is absolutely fabulous. Since his daughter also dresses up as a boy, one wonders if it's hereditary. He prefers to be called "Ranka", although he doesn't always crossdress.
- In another episode, the Host Club themselves dress in drag, in an attempt to keep Haruhi from transferring to the Lobelia Academy.
- In Pet Shop of Horrors, all of Count D's animals can be seen in human-like forms by their owners or by special people. The peacocks look like drag queens.
- Grell Sutcliffe in Black Butler has some of the traits of one, but is ultimately a subversion; that's what she's actually like.
- One of the episodes of Michiko & Hatchin has the two meeting a man who has an acting career dressing as women (though in a normal style instead of campy and exaggerated). His son crossdresses 24/7 in hopes that he can be a good actor like his dad when he grow up.
- City Hunter: A recurring character and owner of a gay pub is one and employs others. He often tries and fail to seduce straight men, including main character Ryo (who is the one who won't run, as they're friends).
- Jesús from Circles.
- The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Priscilla has Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp as a trio of drag queens traveling through Australia. However, Stamp's character is a transgender woman, not a gay man.
- The comic response to the above, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, starring Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo. Leguizamo is a comedy actor, but the other two are Playing Against Type so hard that the roles are arguably CMOAs. Also, the drag queen background characters in the two pageant scenes are played by actual drag queens, including Lady Bunny, Coco Peru, and obviously RuPaul.
- Captain Shakespeare in the film version of Stardust.
- The role of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray has always been played by a man, the original 80's version had Divine play the part, the stage version had Harvey Fierstein, and the new 2007 version has John Travoltanote . Divine was a regular in the works of John Waters until his death.
- Lola and the Angel Boys in Kinky Boots.
- Albert in The Birdcage.
- And in the film it's based on, Albin in La Cage Aux Folles.
- In Birdcage at least, Albert is not the only one; by the end of the movie, most of the main characters are dressed up as drag queens. Even the women.
- The Lady Chablis in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, notable in that the movie is based on a real murder case and Chablis plays herself.
- The title characters' friends in ''Connie and Carla." They eponymous girls themselves are more like Sweet Polly Olivers...kinda.
- Hana from Tokyo Godfathers was a successful drag performer in the backstory, and is still dressed as a woman living on the streets. In the subtitles, teen Miyuki calls her "Uncle Bag"; in the original Japanese it's "okamasan," a clever portmanteau of okaasan, "auntie/older woman," and okama, "effeminate gay man."
- Feodor Basmanov in Ivan the Terrible, doubling up as a Creepy Crossdresser.
- The titular character of Crocodile Dundee almost falls for one of these, until informed that the "girl" he was chatting up was really a guy.
- Harold Perrineau (Michael "WAAAAAALT!" Dawson) was that in two roles, Romeo + Juliet and Woman on Top.
- The Curiosity Of Chance has a group of catty drag queens that arouse the interest of the main character and awaken his inner queen. Perhaps more ostentatious than them though is how everyone in the movie fawns over them like a fourth of July parade.
- In Bent, the cabaret featured a crossdresser (played by Mick Jagger!), who ends up abandoning his lifestyle to run away and lie low from the Gestapo.
- Both Nick and Jane and Trick, among others, feature sizable supporting roles for a catty drag character named Miss Coco Peru, played by Clinton Leupp.
- Moulin Rouge! features Toulouse Latrec (unconvincingly) and a straighter example in Chocolat, one of the Moulin's dancers.
- Ignacio/Zahara in Bad Education (2004). His/her drag performance features this dress.
- In Victor/Victoria, Julie Andrews plays a woman who dresses as a man who dresses as a woman, making her a recursive drag king/queen.
- A group of them appear in Last Vegas and show up for the bachelor party.
- Flawless (1999) features a drag queen named Rusty who sees himself as more of an artist than a drag queen.
- Cabaret: "Even ze orchestra...is beautiful."
- In Disappearing Nightly, one of the performers whose assistant vanished is a drag queen of the Fishy Queen type. As some of the male protagonists are Really 700 Years Old, they get a crush on the man before realizing he's a he. The lead character, Esther, meanwhile privately laments over the fact "she" is better at looking good than her...than again Esther is a low-payed actress going through a lot of stress and adventure due to finding out about magic so doesn't have time to make herself look good.
- In the Discworld novel The Last Continent, Rincewind's wanderings across FourEcks lead him to the Galah, an obvious parade for homosexuals. He finds that his Luggage has been adopted by a troupe of drag queens (one of whom is actually a woman) but never clues in that most of the sequins, makeup, and high heels are being worn by men. For one thing, he's a wizard, and most of his experience with women is when they're trying to convince him to do something dangerous. For another, he's from Ankh-Morpork, where a lot of women get in fistfights. And win.
- In The Boy Who Followed Ripley, Tom Ripley (best known from The Talented Mr. Ripley) decides that the best way to rescue a friend from kidnappers is to disguise himself. In drag. He showed a knack for disguises in previous stories, but he seems incredibly amused to try drag for the first time. (He's not really gay. Or is he?)
- Adrian in Cherie Priest's Bloodshot is a drag queen with the stage name Sister Rose. He also happens to be an ex-Navy Seal. The main character talks about how attractive he is in and out of drag.
- The noir/crime anthology Drag Noir edited by KA Laity features numerous characters in drag, and deconstructs both noir and drag as subject matter.
- The Giddy Death of the Gays and the Strange Demise of Straights by Redfern Jon Barrett has the drag queen 'High Hopes', who teaches Rutti how to do drag.
- One episode of Absolutely Fabulous had a drag queen friend of a pimp tag along for a while (Liza Minnelli references included).
- Ru Pauls Drag Race, honey.
- Bramwell featured an episode about a 1890s transvestite Hackett, implied to be a performer and openly stated to be a male prostitute involved with sailors.
- The US version of the game show Dog Eat Dog featured a challenge involving drag queens and the invariably male contestant attempting to guess who wasn't in drag.
- Sunset Boulevard of The L Word was rare straight example of a drag queen.
- Noah's Arc: Alex, with Noah, Ricky and Chance as drag backup singers in one episode.
- One skit of Morecambe and Wise (in the 1975 Christmas Episode) involved Eric and Ernie dressed up as background dancers for Big Spender.
- In one episode of Teen Wolf, Scott and Stiles follow the kanima into a gay club, and Stiles is immediately surrounded by a group of drag queens. Three episodes later, he has apparently become friends with them and invites them to Lydia's birthday party.
- Parodied in Metrosexuality where the Local Hangout's bouncer is a tall, imposing and massively built Scary Black Man (DeObia Oparei) who speaks in a very deep baritone register, despite wearing incredibly flashy colours and feathers.
- In an episode of Bones, the victim turns out to have been a drag queen performing at a club called Madame's Apple. The proprietor clarifies that the victim was straight, but the distinction isn't made for any of the other performers.
- Hammer House of Horror: Tadek in the episode "The Carpathian Eagle".
- Project Runway US had a challenge to design an outfit for drag queens. Most of them had Punny Names like "Hedda Lettuce" and "Anita Greencard".
- Kim's Convenience: A drag queen named Therese visits the titular convenience store during Gay Pride Week and is offered the "gay discount" from Mr. Kim (who thinks Therese is a transwoman and that Trans Equals Gay). Mr. Kim is confused by the concept of drag queens but is sincere when he asks Therese about it and wholeheartedly accepts his answer. Mr. Kim still offers him the discount, which Therese scoffs at but accepts anyways.
Mr. Kim: Oh, you is man who dress like girl?
Therese: A woman. Yeah. Why?
Mr. Kim: Why you do like this?
Therese: Oh, um, I don't know. It feels like me. Feels like home. Always has.
- The Music Video for "Do it With Madonna" by The Androids has several drag queens dressed up as the performers mentioned in the lyrics, including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, P!nk, Kylie Minogue and, of course, Madonna.
- The "Dragapella" group The Kinsey Sicks consists of four men performing a capella in drag and bill themselves as "America's favorite beautyshop quartet."
- Divine recorded dance music and had several hits in Europe.
- Ru Paul. 'Nuff said.
- Courtney Act auditioned for Australian Idol as a boy and was rejected. She returned in drag and made the show.
- Many of the queens who appear on Ru Paul's Drag Race released singles either before or after the show.
- Pro wrestling has so many of these there are not one, not two but three different recurring gimmicks. In the USA, the famous one is Gorgeous George, a wrestler who acts like a stereotypical gay man without actually admitting to being gay. In Mexico, they typically come in the form of exoticos, wrestlers who are openly gay, straight, transgender or otherwise who aim to emasculate their opponents into submission. The third is one of many varieties of men who seek work at all women's events.
- At the unauthorized ROH A Night Of Hoopla, Truth Martini called in Lumber Jills to punish Silas Young for stalling during his match with Davey Richards, "Jills" who all turned about to be drag queens.
- John Mulaney had a bit on his special The Top Part questioning why so many drag queens go for the same "big & brassy" persona and deliberately tacky choice of costume, wondering if their ideal notion of a woman is a housewife from The Far Side. He also expresses his annoyance that a lot of them like to bully him and criticize his style:
Why are you so mean? Why is that part of it for you? You went to all the trouble of putting on a nice dress, and now you're going to be rude and bossy to people? Do you know what your version of a woman is a lot like? A guy. You could have stayed a guy, if you were going be an asshole about it!
- The Dame in traditional British Pantomime. ("Her" actual name and role depends on the story, but there's always one character played as a comedy drag queen.)
- In Torch Song Trilogy, the lead is a professional drag queen.
- In Chicago, the sentimental tabloid journalist Mary Sunshine is traditionally played by a man in drag singing falsetto. Whether this is a surprise reveal to the audience in "her" final scene or not depends on the production.
- Osomatsu-san Hesokuri Wars: Battle of the NEETs: A set features these, with all the male characters crossdressing. Their names are:
- Oso Madame Legend
- Kara Monroe Lamé Man
- Choro Princess Dewdrop
- Ichi Shiny Nekomata
- Jyushi Bases/Loaded the 14th
- Todo Lady Giuliana
- Hatabou Hatajounote
- Dekapan Whalefield Sperm
- Dayon Megalip Da Yon~
- Chibita Baby Testiclesnote
- Iyami Jeanne Darumi
- A Pokemon in Pokémon X and Y seems to be a parody of this, which is somewhat fitting for a game with the same name as the sex chromosomes. The pink Plague Doctor bird Pokemon Spritzee's evolved form, Aromatisse, resembles Divine, maybe as a Shout-Out to the John Waters film Pink Flamingos.
- Soul Hackers features Drag Queen as recruitable demons. Of note is that these drag queens were so devoted that they became zombies after dying.
- MOTHER 3 features the Magypsies, who are described by Alec as neither man nor woman, and usually look like very feminine men, act in a feminine manner, and are referred to by both male and female pronouns.
- Dead Rising 3 has Adam Daley, a man who impersonates singer Bibi Love and puts on performances in her name. The Zombie Apocalypse seems to have triggered a split-personality in him. He constantly switches between himself and Bibi.
- The eponymous hero of The Dragon Queen is a male who likes to dress up as a female superhero and got his start cross-dressing in a Drag Queen bar. The character seems to be tending toward identifying as completely female though.
- Yoshi of Jenny Haniver is a weekend drag queen, singing at the local drag bar.
- Sinfest supporting character Squigley dresses up as "Sarah Piglin" in a number of strips, usually for political satire.
- Darren in Girls with Slingshots
- A number of characters in Concession, most notably Zoe (real name "Franz") who wears a padded bra and skirt nearly all the time. Nicole (Aaron) drags it up a bit sometimes as well. And there was an arc where Zoe introduced Matt to crossdressing. And finally there's Joel's "Julia Chase" persona.
- Neve from Ignition Zero is a drag queen. Unlike most examples, they're also trans (more specifically, genderfluid).
- King of the Hill: Peggy Hill falls in with a group of drag queens and bond over their shared fashion sense. Notably, neither Peggy nor the other queens figure out the others' real gender for most of the episode.
- A Stealth Pun example of Getting Crap Past the Radar in Justice League Unlimited. During the "Epilogue" episode, as Amanda Waller is recounting the League's last tussle with the Royal Flush Gang, the new Queen, whose make up suspiciously resembled Divine's, turned out to be a man (who also resembled Divine in his clean-face, masculine look).
- Several episodes of Kaeloo have Stumpy dress as a girl, sometimes for no apparent reason,
- Paul O'Grady is a British comedian who made a living through the 1980s and 1990s as Lily Savage, his sharp-tongued drag queen alter ego. O'Grady has since dropped Savage and mostly appears as himself these days.
- Verka Serduchka, the Drag personality of Ukranian singer Andriy Mykhailovych Danylko finished second in the Eurovision 2007 contest. He is also a very popular singer in both Russia and Ukraine and successfully performed as a stand-up comedian. Note that he is heterosexual.
- Comedian Eddie Izzard has performed in drag for almost his entire stand-up career.
- Izzard even does a bit on the differences between being a drag queen and a transvestite (a transvestite being a "male tomboy.") He even identifies himself as the latter, rather than the former.
- Izzard does not only dress in female clothes for performances. It's a personal thing. He's not a drag queen. In Dress To Kill he claims to be "un travesti executif.. un travesti d'action!"
- A live trailer for a chat show once referred to Paul O'Grady as a "transvestite comedian." O'Grady could be heard yelling from backstage "Eddie Izzard's a tranny; I'm a drag artist!"
- Dame Edna and her (winkwink) manager Barry Humphries.
- Plus the performance of I'm Every Woman by Dame Edna and KD Lang.
- RuPaul Andre Charles is the most famous drag queen in North America. His RuPaul persona became famous in The '90s for being very approachable...if scarily tall, standing at 6'4 before factoring in the platform heels and big hair. She has released albums and hosted talk shows, and has lately been in the spotlight for the reality show RuPaul's Drag Race, essentially America's Next Top Model meets Project Runway meets American Idol with gender-bending.
- Queen's video for "I Want to Break Free" had the members dressing up in drag.
- And also The Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley music video Where's The Dress (Link goes to the actual music video).
- David Bowie famously wore a dress on the cover of 1970's The Man Who Sold the World, and later combined this with Acting for Two in the video "Boys Keep Swinging" (1979) — all three of his backup singers are him in drag, and the instrumental finish of the song is used to underscore a Fashion Show that gives each one a turn on the catwalk.
- Marilyn Manson has also done this...many, many times.
- The Lady Chablis was a transgender woman who also performed drag at Club One in Savannah, GA. She plays a major part in both the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and appears as herself in the film, as mentioned above.
- Bert Savoy was one of the earliest examples of the type, and a major influence on Mae West (several of whose plays included drag queens as characters).
- At the Carnival in Aalst, there are a lot of Voil Jeanetten note . These are men dressed in drag, but with a lot of beer and some rather weird attributes - like umbrellas with rubber chickens and dead fish tied to them. And for those three days in the year, everyone finds it normal.
- Seattle actors Jerick Hoffer (Jinkx Monsoon) and Marc Kenison (Waxie Moon).
- Actor Misha Collins renewed his wedding vows at a grocery store, in drag.
- Conchita Wurst, the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2014.
- Darcelle XV, a Portland drag Queen whose club, the Darcell XV Showplace, is the longest-running drag show on the West Coast.
- José Sarria, AKA Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, José I, The Widow Norton. San Francisco activist who became the world's first openly gay candidate for public office when he ran for San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961. He founded the Imperial Court System, an international charitable foundation.
- The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is an organization of drag queens with a nun motif that has chapters all over the world. Rather than performing, their main goals are charity, education, and outreach for the GLBT community. They elevate sacrilege to an artform with their genderfuck drag style and are guaranteed to turn heads wherever they appear.