By: Noah Coby
Hi, my name is Noah and I am a drag queen, Phoenix a la Ball.
Recently, I was asked by someone “What is the weirdest overlap between drag and advertising?” This question started what I like to call “The inevitable crash of advertising ideas into my drag career.”
I have mentally gone over these ideas countless times at night lying in bed, wondering “What music would most generally appeal to the audience I am going to perform to?” and “Who even is my target audience in drag?“
I eventually found answers to my questions, elevating my drag, but I also noticed some things or even ideas that may be missed in your advertising class. Here is what I have learned being a “Dragvertising” professional.
So, what is drag anyway?
Two years ago, if you asked me what drag was, I would not have been able to give a concise answer. Now after being a drag performer for around one year, I have gained a better understanding of drag as art.
Drag is essentially an amalgamation of art media. It generally refers to performers that use their appearance, gender expression and performance to entertain an audience. Some mainstream drag artists include RuPaul, Trixie Mattel and Violet Chachki.
If you feel lost in a sea of words you don’t understand, more basic information on drag can be found in this Masterclass Article, which details exactly what drag is and how it came to be in today’s culture.
Where advertising and drag collide
The cosmetology skills, sewing and music are all art and are among the more obvious skills required to have drag be a career. The unassuming skills are ones that as an advertising student, seem obvious to me. Differentiation is one of the first techniques I realized could benefit me, and I began finding what seemed to be missing from the start. In the drag world, being similar is one of the dualistic aspects of drag. It can be helpful with inspiration and technique, but it also diminishes your identity. Drag is an art form and artists draw inspiration from one another.
So, in this world where no idea is completely original, how do you stand out? In advertising, the next step is called a SWOT analysis. It evaluates strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Within drag generally, you would begin by observing the environment you perform in. This is less of a formal process. It does however include many of the same thought processes. It involves evaluating much more loose and unresearched areas, and a certain degree of listening to your audience.
Personally, I noticed a lack of technology use within the Morgantown drag scene. I also noticed the lack of representation of the 2000s childhood experience. Taking these two ideas, I used my skills in audio editing, and created a performance number to music from many of the shows that filled my childhood. On the night of the show, after the performance, I was walking around speaking to people. Many of the comments were on the music choice and its editing, and how they felt nostalgia from it. I realized then I had made a step toward setting myself apart from my “competitors.” One of the main takeaways from this experience that I can now see being useful in advertising is the power of diversity. Someone without my experience could have never created something that resonated with those people, and so the power of having multiple viewpoints lies in the variety of stories you can tell.
The bottom line…
While differentiation is the only topic I spoke about, there are numerous more lessons and ideas I have garnered from working within both the advertising and drag spaces at once. Here are just a few more to consider that mean the most to me.
- Being able to design your own assets is invaluable. I create posters for my haus’ performances, as well as edit pictures we use in them. (Examples below)
- The creative process is the same, so once you grasp it, it is universal. Once you find your method, try applying it to all aspects of your life.
- You will never please everyone, just like you can’t target everyone in advertising. Some people will not enjoy your work, but as long as your technique and execution are good you are fine.