First of all, thank gawd for RuPaul's Drag Race because it’s done such an incredible job of bringing what was once a niche form of entertainment reserved for Fire Island and bingo nights closer to the mainstream. RuPaul is now Emmy award-winning, and it comes well deserved and overdue. The list of queens whose careers launched out of Drag Race is eternal: Jinks Monsoon, Sharon Needles, Violet Chachki, Detox, Katya Zamolodchikova, Bob the Drag Queen— and to them I tip my lace front wig. But none of them would be, had it not been for those who came before.
What follows is a list of drag queens you should know, from the vaults of her-story to now.
1. . Bianca Del Rio
I used to host a burlesque show before Bianca at a gay bar in New York, and I was convinced she hated me. Then I found out it wasn’t personal -- she’s an insult comic. Bianca is a comedian who has traveled the world with two world comedy tours: Rolodex of Hate, which ended up a comedy special on Vimeo and Not Today Satan, which has dates through the end of the year. Bianca also starred in a feature film, Hurricane Bianca which made its premiere last week in NYC. She also won Drag Race season five and has an iconic style of painting her face that resembles a clown or sassy novelty lamp.
2. . Lady Bunny
Lady Bunny has been in the drag business longer than anybody, because arguably, she invented it. RuPaul’s Drag U even dubbed her 'The Dean of Drag.' She’s sassy as sh*t and doesn’t give a f*ck about watching her mouth or what comes out of it. Plus, she claims she is “too old to understand any reality TV.” She left the street cred on the streets of the East Village for the rest of us to find, and we've been f*cking up her city ever since.
3. . Divine
If you’ve ever been privy to a John Waters deep cut, you’ve seen Divine. Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, Polyester, Female Trouble. She died in 1988 at the age of 42, but stands out in her-story as one of the founding members of neo-female impersonation. Divine is who you pray to when you grow up and want to be different.
4. . Pandora Boxx
Ms. Pandora Boxx is a triple threat in five inch heels. She released big break-out dance singles, she sold out shows off-Broadway, and she’s frequently featured as a comedian. Originally from Rochester, NY, in 2011 Entertainment Weekly named her "America's Next Drag Superstar.” Pandora competed on but did not win season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Her elimination was something everyone loves to hate, and most folks agree happened too soon.
5. . Jackie Beat
Jackie Beat is a comedy queen. She opened for Rosanne Barr on the road and wrote with her for her roast. She's also a prolific parody artist. She’s doing a Bea Arthur thing right now, and honestly, you should follow her on Instagram right now, because like L'oreal says, “you’re worth it.”
6. . Alaska 5000
AKA Alaska Thunderf*ck, Alaska 5000 is currently competing on Drag Race All Stars 2, and has her sophomore album about to drop like it’s hot. She’s one-part drum machine, one-part performance art, and all-parts collarbone. I think Alaska has huge potential to have a crossover hit. I loved her first album, Anus, and with hits like these who could blame me?
7. . Aja
Aja won Drag Queen of The Year at the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards this year, and calls her style of performance a powerpuff girl stripper. She was also named Mrs. Williamsburg in 2014, and yet, she is far from a typical pageant queen.
8. . Horrorchata
This Austin native describes her drag as "punk rock Mexican pretty girl" and is a staple in the world of Brooklyn drag. She is co-founder of Bushwig, a neo-manifestation of RuPaul and Lady Bunny's Wigstock, which strives to give back the drag community that has gained so much momentum over the last decade.
9. . The Boulet Brothers
My greatest regret in life is having only attended one of the famous Boulet Brothers' Dragula parties. These two throw baller events, mostly out of their homebase in L.A. Their two flagship parties, Dragula and Queen Kong spice up the gym-rat-as-go-go-boy queer scene of West Hollywood by offering something a little more... shall we say, extreme? Queen Kong is a party, and Dragula is anything goes. "It's seriously level 10," Dracmorda Boulet says. "The last time we did it, people walked out covered in blood, fish guts and confetti.” Throw in some cheap whiskey, and I'm in.