‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ strut stuff on National Mall

The cast of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” took to a different kind of stage Monday morning, sashaying down Washington’s National Mall to promote the ninth season of the Emmy-nominated reality series.

The cast of eight “Drag Race” alumni arrived at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in appropriate style, serving looks inspired by the patriotic comic book superheroes Wonder Woman and Captain America in the colors of the American flag. They posed for photos in front of the reflecting pool, against the backdrop of the iconic Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol.

“It feels like progress,” said “Drag Race” Season 14 contestant Angeria Paris VanMicheals, reflecting on the significance of promoting the show in the nation’s capital.

“In this moment, I feel very proud of my country and just the fact that we’re able to do stuff like this now,” she said. “It kind of shows how far we are coming as a country — slowly but surely, we get there.”

Drag performances have become a political flashpoint in recent years and are increasingly targeted by threats, protests and violent action by opponents who say drag is inappropriate for children. Lawmakers in at least a dozen states this year filed legislation meant to curtail performances on public property or where they may be seen by a minor.

Most Americans oppose laws restricting drag, an NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll found.

Laws limiting where and how drag performances can take place passed in six Republican-led states last year, though four of them — in Florida, Montana, Texas and Tennessee — are currently unenforceable because of federal court orders. GOP leaders in Congress have also sought to crack down on drag shows, and top defense officials in June banned drag performances on military bases after pressure from House Republicans.

At least three provisions in federal funding bills passed by the House last year included bans or heavy restrictions on drag performances. Those provisions, and others that targeted access to gender-affirming health care and certain diversity initiatives, were not included in the final $1.2 trillion spending package signed by President Biden in March.

A 2022 bill introduced by now-House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) sought to prohibit federal funds from being used for “sexually oriented” events for children, which Johnson at the time said includes family-friendly drag shows and drag queen story hours.

Performers and LGBTQ advocates have defended drag as a form of self-expression that challenges societal norms and promotes inclusivity. They reject claims that drag is inherently sexual or inappropriate for young people.

“Our voices are still trying to be silenced in so many ways, and it’s important as a queen with a voice to be able to utilize it and be able to utilize it for the good, because people do listen,” said Shannel, who competed on the first season of “Drag Race” in 2009. “I think more than ever, especially with the election coming up, it is just vitally important to be able to use your voice and to spread the word.”

“Drag is so powerful,” said “Drag Race” Season 11 contestant Nina West. “We represent such a diverse community that is definitely a pivotal and important voice, especially in elections.”

LGBTQ people played a pivotal role in Biden’s win in 2020, a Washington Post analysis found, and both Biden and former President Trump have sought to attract LGBTQ voters ahead of the November election. The “Drag Race” cast will wrap up their visit to Washington with a meet-and-greet with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at a popular gay bar in Washington’s Logan Circle neighborhood and a screening of the new season at the Motion Picture Association.

“’Drag Race’ does kind of provide this massive platform and visibility, so to have us here is remarkable,” said West. “But I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that there are queens here doing the work every single day. There are drag queens all over this city who are standing in equality in this fight, and I hope that we are only able to amplify that message.”

This season’s queens will compete for charity for the first time, with the winner awarded a $200,000 donation to an organization of their choice. Season 9 of “All Stars” will premiere on May 17 on Paramount+.

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