Bob the drag queen superstar
By: Sunny Liu
Bob the Drag Queen is at Spandex House, a fabric store in the Garment District of New York City, on a Tuesday afternoon. He admires the colorful and glittering bolts of fabric that line the walls.
This place holds sentimental value for him as it was where he began his drag career in 2009, influenced by the debut season of the TV competition RuPaul's Drag Race.
Bob's career took off seven years ago after he won Season 8 of the show. He has since created podcasts, TV shows, and an EP, and he has gained 2.8 million followers on TikTok. He was set to join Madonna on her "Celebration" tour, but it has been postponed due to her hospitalization from a bacterial infection.
Bob's career has gained increasing popularity as drag has become more mainstream in America. However, this rise in popularity has also brought about significant conservative pushback in recent years.
Drag performances in certain parts of America have become increasingly politicized. Bob, a seasoned drag queen who grew up in small southern towns and has toured the country multiple times, is familiar with the fear and hatred that some people express towards his existence. Despite this, he remains unapologetically himself wherever he goes, regardless of the political climate.
While touring Spandex House, they requested Bob to choose a fabric that he may have utilized in his performances from 2009. He selected a bolt of bright neon yellow fabric with black diamond crisscross patterns and dotted yellow spots.
Bob and ____ have different opinions about the pattern. While ____ think it resembles a mix of Scottish tartan and caution tape, Bob thinks it's more of a combination of checker and argyle. He argues that the pattern has diamond shapes instead of squares, which are typical of tartan.
Bob no longer creates looks as he feels that others are more capable than he is. Nowadays, most of his looks are designed by other people.
Learning how to sew is essential when starting drag. Experienced Bob recommends it, especially if you can't afford custom clothing. In his early days, he was a DIY queen who searched for deals in discount fabric stores all over the city. He would find fabrics priced at one dollar per yard and bags of mystery scraps to make his creations.
Even though Bob is a fan of the Drag Race recap show Pit Stop and loves black and white patterns, he can still put together an outfit if he needs to. During their visit, Bob showed them his favorite houndstooth fabrics and mentioned that he owns around 14 outfits in this style.
Later, they found a table to sit at in Bryant Park. Coincidentally, it was right by the corner where Bob was arrested years ago for protesting marriage equality in New York state. He was part of a group that was taken in by police for blocking traffic. After they were released, his drag daughter Honey La Bronx asked to keep the Polaroid authorities took of them on the street.
Bob revealed that he had concealed numerous foods in his outfit, which are not visible in the photo. He did so because he was uncertain about the time it would take to be released from jail after his apprehension. Therefore, he brought along snacks.
Bob's Drag is known for its mix of activism and humor, which is evident in the HBO show "We're Here." In the show, Bob co-hosts a one-night-only drag performance in small towns across America with fellow queens Eureka O'Hara and Shangela Laquifa Wadley.
He explains that when they visit certain towns, they are met with hostile stares, threats, aggressive behavior, and offensive language. This does not surprise Bob as he grew up in a small town and is accustomed to it. Unfortunately, he feels this is just a part of what it means to be queer in America.
Madonna's tour is planning to visit Tennessee. However, Tennessee had recently passed a law prohibiting drag performances, which was later declared unconstitutional by a federal judge. Regardless, Bob remains determined to perform drag in places where it has been politicized and won't let this law affect his decision.
“It's crucial for queer individuals in Nashville, particularly the younger ones or those who feel apprehensive, to know that it's acceptable to be visible and unafraid. Sadly, many laws discourage us from being in public or force us to suppress our identities. It's offensive to some people, but it's disappointing to me,” he said.
There are misconceptions about drag queens having a hidden agenda. However, the truth is that the only thing they prioritize is brunch on Sundays. There's no plot to influence or attract children. Most drag queens do not even want to be around kids. For instance, drag shows are typically held at places like Barracuda, not at kid-friendly locations like Gymboree.
Even though Madonna's tour has been postponed and its future is uncertain, Bob's entertainment and signature flair will persist on a stage or screen close to you, regardless of the tour's status.