Drag Race All Stars is over for another season and I am sad. I love Drag Race because it celebrates acceptance and loves all bodies. Men pad their thighs and their bottoms to make them rounder. This was never the message I had as I grew into my curves. I grew up at a time when Kate Moss had the ‘ideal’ body along with the accompanying motto “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Media representations of women showed me that my athletic thighs and round bottom were never going to be beautiful. Haven’t times changed?
All Stars courted controversy a few weeks ago when Shangela lip synched while wearing a fat suit. Fat people everywhere stood up in defence of their bodies. Their message was - my body is not funny. Shangela is a man who puts on a woman’s body for a living. He pads his body and cinches his waist to make it more feminine. His defence of his choice to wear a fat body for his challenge was that it was not meant to be cruel but to celebrate and show joy in a fat persona. Whatever anyone may think about Shangela’s artistic choices it is brilliant that we are having this conversation.
A conversation that Drag Race is not having is the one about our attitude to ageing. RuPaul and Michele Visage talk openly in their podcast about the natural place plastic surgery has in the lives of American celebrities. There seems to be no “should I or shouldn’t I?” in his opinion, just a “when?” and “how much can I get away with?” As someone who’s job is to transform their bodies for other’s entertainment this makes sense. I can’t imagine the constant scrutiny, exposure and judgement that performing artists live through in our social media saturated lives. I feel for RuPaul. He is one of my heroes. He lives acceptance and love, creativity and diversity. I understand his need to “not let himself go” Ru’s brand is his and her image. The thing about RuPaul though, is that not only is he stylish and funny it is his wisdom and insight that give his show such pathos. He changes people’s lives with his kindness. This is why I think that he is the perfect person to show us how to age disgracefully.
“It is time to wring the neck of the aesthetic decree that demands that ageing women transform their faces into expressionless masks in order to make themselves young and remain desirable.” I think Mirelle Guillano would agree that this goes for gay men and drag queens too. Wrinkles, grey hair and sagging skin are marks of life, they reflect our sorrows and our joys. Our face tells a story and our eyes hold onto our inner radiance. In her book French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, Guillano says
“I see myself in the mirror for what I am. I accept that, and I at peace with that; but I will do whatever is in my control to manage the message I send. And then I won’t worry what people think. I will take care of myself and cultivate an image that is me at my current best and stay engaged in the world.”
Instead of getting a facelift Guillano encourages readers to focus on their health and the usual things: moving daily, eating well, spending time with friends, spending time on your own, getting enough sleep, and living a life with purpose. Her focus is on controlling the things we can and on
getting perspective on our life span. We cannot freeze time. We get older with every breath we take, we may live until we are one hundred. I know that when I’m one hundred I want to be able to move with ease and think clearly. I still want to walk to the shops, live in my own home and be a part of my community.
In The Warmth of The Heart Prevents Your Body From Rusting Sister Emmanuelle who was almost one hundred at the time said:
“Old age is the most beautiful period of my life. I feel as though I am rich from all the encounters I have experienced. Thousands and thousands of people have enriched me, so I have an immense store of capital, and feel responsible for passing on what I have received.”
So Ru Paul, please don’t cut up your face, you are beautiful and will always be beautiful. in the words of your song ‘Can I get an Amen?’
All the dreams you had, all the things you wanted
Don't turn your back, it's not too late
You better love yourself, before you love somebody
Love somebody, love somebody!