More Fats, More Fems, More Asians

Curator's Note

RuPaul's Drag Race (RDR) nods to size diversity with at least one "big girl" every season, but they rarely make it far in the competition. In nine aired seasons, the first contestant ever eliminated was a fat queen, Victoria "Porkchop" Parker; only two have become finalists so far, season 7's Ginger Minj and season 8's Kim Chi; and none have been crowned America's Next Drag Superstar. The repeated marginalization of these fat queens reveals how, despite its ostensible celebration of non-mainstream identities, RDR sustains a hegemony of thinness in gay male culture.

Such marginalization is not limited to fatness; Asian and Latinx queens are treated similarly, represented by at least one queen every season but rarely making it to the finale. Kim Chi provides a useful example as the first fat Asian queen in the top three. RDR exoticizes Kim Chi through an intersection of size, race, and sexuality: her confessions reveal that she is a closeted virgin, partly because of her anxiety about her size and partly because of her Korean heritage. Such an experience is anomalous in the raunchy atmosphere of RDR. In episode 7, Kim ultimately celebrates her marginalized traits through a satirical political ad decrying the common online gay dating request "No Fats, No Fems, No Asians." This catalyzed the creation of her K-Pop-influenced finale song "Fat, Fem and Asian" by Lucian Piane. For the performance Kim honors her ethnicity by wearing drag based on traditional Korean garb and singing a verse in Korean. However, her back-up dancers undermine the challenge to hegemony in the song's verbal and visual signs. Buff and bare-chested, not all white but apparently not Asian either, these dancers represent the opposite of the intentions behind the song's message, upholding ideals Kim Chi has the potential to trouble. Though some meanings in the dancers' presence may be ambivalent, RDR's continued use of such classical bodies and crowning of slimmer queens maintains them as hegemonic. Just imagine how an actual chorus of more fats, more fems, and more Asians would have more strongly underscored the counterhegemonic message in Kim Chi's performance instead.


I liked your post, Jennifer! Kim Chi was one of my favorite queens and I'm a little sad that she wasn't on this season of All Stars (it could benefit from her presence!). I think your point about the classical bodies is an interesting one, especially as the more recent interview with RuPaul on the one hand frames drag as a punk rejection of masculinity while on the other wants to make sure it's not for trans people, by placing an inordinate amount of scrutiny on the status of their body, surgeries, hormones, etc. I wonder if there are some productive intersections with the way the show thinks about or frames fatness, as you've laid out? Or what of the gay cis male bodies we see in relation to these tensions around trans people being on Drag Race?

Thanks for your comments, Linde! These are thoughtful points. Considering both of your last questions, I think that intersections of size and gender identity could be productive on the show, particularly in relationship to fat and trans identities. Something striking to me about RuPaul's recent comments on trans contestants was his assumption that alteration of genitals and secondary sex characteristics like breasts would be "cheating," when really the main "signs" of fleshy femininity emphasized on the show are bumps and curves made through cinching and padding--or surgical interventions. In a way, manipulating body size through shape is *always* an important part of producing gendered transformations on the show, even though they don't necessarily fall into a fat/thin binary we conceive in relation to body size. However, thinness remains the preferred version of glamorous, desirable femininity on the show (despite often being criticized for "reading as boy") and proximity to its markers is seen to more closely index realness. Fat transness could definitely trouble those assumptions. I'm thinking particularly of Jiggly Caliente here, who came out as trans after her season. Some of her moments of insistent roundness on the main stage really stand out against the cinching the show trains us to look for, and to me seem to buck against the expectations for the "proper" signs of gender and size on the show.

Literally today played a video critiquing the gay dating scene for being so exclusionary and blatantly racist/sexist - this is so on point! In looking for the underlying narrative, it makes me think of an essential fear of the feminine, the overflowing, the uncontained, the abject, the different, the thing lacking clear normative criteria for mainstream appeal. Thank you

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