Book Review: Alright Darling?
By Ashley Yu
You really don’t know how much drag culture has seeped into the mainstream until your friend compliments your outfit, fingers snapping, screaming “yAAAs queen!”; until Kylie Jenner “bakes” her face beyond belief with powder every day; until roughly 470,000 people tune in every week to watch the newest season of RuPaul's Drag Race. In collaboration with the eponymous zine, Greg Bailey’s newest book Alright Darling? is a behind-the-scenes look into the ferociously glamorous and brazenly ridiculous world of drag queens that has exploded in recent years, with all its glitter and glitz.
From Adore Delano to Raja Gemini to Laganja Estranja, Bailey captures the portraits of the celebrity names in the drag world in an unprecedented photographic collection. He captures these queens with all their beautiful, messy, wild personas; no longer is drag an underground subculture of the LGBTQ+ community. Queen Alaska Thunderfuck, in her foreword, describes drag “as a divine, sacred act” for a person to transform and transcend. But despite the glamour, it’s also painful, and we’re not just talking about the Queen’s who wear eight-inch heels every day. “It makes our roommates move out,” says Thunderfuck, “and our grandmothers shake their heads. Drag fucking hurts.”
One personally illuminating element of Bailey’s book is that not all drag queens want to “pass” as women in their avante-garde makeup and neon fur coats, something that is often glazed over in mass media. There exists a popular misconception that drag queens are the same thing as trans-people. Yet as you flip through portrait after portrait, that proves to be far from the truth and, as Bailey says, it “makes you question sexuality and gender.”
Looking at Arran Shurvinton’s alien glam goblin persona or Maxi More’s thick brown and orange beard that complements her skintight dress, Alright Darling? is not only created to incite awe at the amazing makeup techniques (how does Sasha Velour draw her eyebrows like that?), but to also celebrate the wild outrageousness and the inspiring attitude of “fuck it, why not?” that begs for our attention.
Greg Bailey’s photography in Alright Darling is the most raw and beautiful representation of the drag community today, as they finally enter our mainstream culture. The drag queens present and perform their personas in whatever way they desire--messy, sassy, fabulous--as they beckon us into their world with a wink and grin.