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How Drag Pageants Have Changed! The 1990’s to the Digital Now

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By Eddie Jen

The last time I competed in a drag pageant, it was in the nineteen hundreds. The very late nineteen hundreds. And on my third try, I won the tiara.

Afterward, one of the contestants stabbed me in the shoulder.

OK, she pricked me. But it was intentional. That’s the part still seared into my brain: that moment, where she paused with the needle in her hand — like I could see her mind at work: oh you’re just so perfect aren’t you — and then she stabbed me.

It was quick.

It was hurtful.

And it was intentional.

Later on, I found out from my friend Nikki that she was a notorious meth addict. She’s a mean bitch, Nikki warned me. I know.   Her mind was ravaged by drugs. She must have had a very difficult childhood. She was acting out from a place of pain. She needed our help.

Blah blah blah.

The bitch stabbed me!

I think the biggest misconception that RuPaul’s Drag Race has sent into the Universe is the Disney-fication of Drag.

Very few of us are warm and cuddly.  If you met the queen who stabbed me, you’d see: her mind wasn’t all there. Or it’s gone way deep into the dark side.

Meanwhile, a few of the other girls were outright weeping backstage. They thought it was a beauty pageant. And they were ugly now.

They didn’t get the memo.

Me in 2020, a California Gold Pageant contestant.   I go by ‘Criminal Law’

Now, twenty years later, I wonder if I still have that memo.

A few months ago, a drag performer asked me — out of the blue — to consider competing in a drag pageant.  I dismissed it at first. But then I looked at the categories for judging, and something stirred inside me. Because everything has changed.

There is now a social media component. The contestants would record their own intro videos and post them online. Per the rulebook, “You will be scored for your “reach” by an algorithm that calculates active interactions such as likes, shares, comments, engagement and active watching.”

Mark Zuckerberg was a freshman in high school when I won my crown. But I liked where this competition was headed.

Another component was a Project Runway/slash/Drag Race Dollar Store Challenge.  We had to model a “fashion forward clothing made from alternative materials.”  And it stirred something animalistic in me. Primal. My DNA was reactivated, after a long dormancy. I was like the drag version of The Bourne Identity.

I’ve decided to compete for Miss California Gold 2020 because I still want to have fun.  It reminds me of what it’s like being young, when I had all that extra, unspent energy bottled inside. It’s the essence of creativity.

I still want to compete.  I want to evolve, and change, with the times.  For my introductory video, I thought: what would really make people laugh?

And then it hit me.  A drag queen in Chinatown, walking up to strangers and saying the Cantonese phrase:

“No need to thank me.”

“mmmm sai mmmmm goi.”

Criminal Law

Criminal Law Contestant in the 2020 California Gold Pageant, Sun., Jan. 19, 5:30 to 8pm pm at Hamburger Mary's in the heart of the Castro

Posted by California Gold Pageant on Monday, January 13, 2020

The pageant is happening on Sunday, January 19th at Hamburger Mary’s on Castro Street.  The big question: should I hire my own bodyguard this time?

The contestant who sells the most tickets to the Pageant will be awarded a sash and named “Miss Congeniality.” Please get your tickets now via my link — & we will see you at Hamburger Mary’s in the Castro on Sunday!  Check out all the amazing contestant videos here.

The 11th Annual California Gold Pageant
1/19/2020 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Hamburger Mary’s San Francisco



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